The Excitement Of Android

I read a lot last week about Google’s new mobile phone initiative – Android. It’s not an actual phone, that much is perfectly clear. Instead, phones will be built on Android.

Android is a software stack for mobile devices that includes an operating system, middleware and key applications.

My current Samsung Blackjack runs on Windows Mobile 5. Android would perform that same function. There are many similar, though different, phones using WM5. I expect the same thing with Android.

Does the world need another mobile platform? Maybe not. But what makes Android so exciting and different is, it’s open source. That puts it in the same category as Linux, MySQL and Apache&#185.

In a video (see below), Google co-founder Sergey Brin makes it perfectly clear he wants Android to be supported by the same type of free software tools he used to get Google going! This time, in his role as super rich guy, he gets to be the one who pays to have them developed, then set free.

To that end, the Android SDK (Software Developers Kit) is open and free. The SDK is the tool with which Android applications will be developed. SDKs for platforms are pretty commonplace. Having them be open and free is not.

Finally, Google has offered a $10,000,000 bounty for Android software developers. That might not be enough to excite Microsoft or Motorola, but it will spark many propeller head geeks into action. That’s big money if you can write a killer app all by yourself, or in a small partnership.

This open source phone talk can’t be pleasing my cell carrier, at&t, or any of the other incumbent carriers. Their business model is predicated on control of both the network and the hardware you buy. Right now, they decide what you phone can do, not you.

Understand, this isn’t a perfect solution. Free and open software can lead to ‘crashed’ cellphones, with no one to take responsibility. Still, it’s a very exciting concept.

My limited time with the Blackjack has shown me the potential in the mobile platform. We’re barely out of the stone age. My hope is, Android takes it to the next step.

For someone like me, who still fancies himself a bit of a hacker, it’s pretty exciting. There’s a lot of upside potential here. This is actually better than if Google had just gone ahead and announced a phone!

&#185 – Even if Linux, MySQL and Apache mean nothing to you, understand that much of the Internet would stop running immediately without them! That includes Google, EBay, and a gaziilion other sites… including geofffox.com


iPhone Hit Or Miss?

I can’t remember the last time a piece of high tech equipment got this kind of hype. Of course, I’m talking about Apple’s iPhone which goes on sale within the hour.

It’s pretty neat. As is normally the case with Apple, the software is elegantly simple and intuitive. The TV commercials are tantalizing. I haven’t seen it yet, but there’s surely one where it’s slicing bread!

Unfortunately, the iPhone also suffers from some designed-in weaknesses.

It seems pretty odd the phone won’t use AT&T’s fast G3 network and instead sticks with an older implementation. That’s huge, if web surfing is going to be a large part of the iPhone experience.

The iPhone also doesn’t record video nor will it operate properly with corporate email servers. That’s not good and there’s more. Its battery is not replaceable and its SIM card isn’t removable.

There’s also the question whether a non-tactile keyboard is a good idea. I’ve never seen a successful one before.

I have been considering a ‘smartphone.’ It probably won’t be an iPhone.

Right now the (as yet unreleased) Motorola Q9 looks likely. I’m not 100% it will be sold by AT&T, my cell carrier.

The Q9 operates on the higher speed G3 network, takes video, uses Windows Mobile 6 and has a real QWERTY keyboard. It looks like an updated, better performing “Q,”. A co-worker has that phone, which I like.

The online consensus is, I can buy a ‘smartphone’ like the Q9 or the Samsung Blackjack and a $19.99/month data plan from AT&T and be done with it. I’m not sure this is AT&T’s preferred combo, but people are consistently doing it and I sense AT&T isn’t sending their money away.

My guess is, the iPhone will not be the unmitigated success this level of hype implies. It’s possible. I’m not a mobile computing analyst with lots of background info and insight. This is a seat-of-the-pants call. There are just so many strikes against it.

Working against my prediction is Steve Jobs, who has a Svengali-like ability to mobilize the Apple faithful.

What the iPhone does do is increase the profile of mobile computing and the competition between carriers and between hardware manufacturers. I don’t see a downside to that… at least I don’t yet.