Tuesday, 6 November 2007


If you want a clearly articulated synthesised view of my initial reaction to the Google Android announcement then I recommend you read up this article across on Mobhappy. There are two elements in particular which chime. First:

It would appear that Google’s trying to imply that anything written for Android will run on any Android device — but those of us who have been around a little while will remember how many times that’s been promised in the mobile world, only for different vendors’ implementations of various technologies to break the “write once, run anywhere” promise. One big question for Android is how it will avoid this.

I have been involved in alliances before. I have run alliances before. Trying to sustain progress and ensure that the common sense solution is reached is an enormous challenge and it is difficult to avoid compromises which subsequently leads to a diluting of first principles.

Either Google has worked on a governance to beat all others; has faith that its functionality will not suffer any fragmentation through flexibility or superiority; or, the reverse, that fragmentation will not matter because Android will be such a small base component of what is actually delivered. It will be fascinating to see which.

The second element which chimes with me is:

Looking at the list of OHA members further reinforces my previous assertion that handset vendors and operators are primarily interested in working with Google in this space because of its brand

This is perhaps stating the obvious but how much of the Open Handset Alliance is due to belief in the subject matter or belief that this is the right way to make it succeed? It would appear to me that the true value for companies is basking in the sheen of being associated with Google: hence, the roll call of CEOs at the event yesterday. Google and Apple certainly know how to corral a good story.

When the iPhone came out I think the single biggest impact was actually around bringing thought of mobile internet to end users again irrespective of their device. A secondary impact for the industry was to challenge existing views of user design and interaction which will also have a deep long term impact.

What will Android achieve? At this point, for the mass market it means nothing (aside from a disappointment to mild curiosity of what the Gphone might be). It will be fascinating to see how this unravels and what it catalyses generally within the industry. How do those not involved in the announcement react? Will this create a knee jerk reaction from the industry in general to greater openness?

For the latter, I think not. I must be becoming cynical. I suspect that many incumbents shall wait to see if Google succeeds in its Android ambitions and only then seek to join or respond through an alternative means in due course.

The one thing I have not really been able to fathom is: why announce it now? What was there really to talk about yesterday? Without the tools to get developing, nor the visibility of what devices will be developed or how many will be distributed, what was yesterday aside from a glorified roll call for buddies of Google?

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