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


Concerning Google – What An Idiot I’ve Been

What’s the biggest Internet success story? Google, right? And everyone, until recently myself included, thinks it’s because Google is so good at performing searches.

Tonight, I’ve changed my mind.

Before Google, there were some very good search engines. There were AltaVista and Metacrawler and others whose names are now lost to me. Yahoo!&#185 was more a directory than a search engine.

As a power Internet user in the late 90s, I was not unhappy. I was able to search and get the results I wanted with little trouble.

So why is Google such a big deal? It’s not the search as much as it’s, their search seems benevolent.

Google was very smart. They cleaned up the home page.

All the other site where you could find stuff were gravitating toward being portals. Their home pages were full of news and tips and links and they included display ads. It was obvious to their users, they were sales machines. Please click. Please buy.

Google was basically a box where you entered text and not much more. No ads.

But searching is not a one web page affair. The search page leads to the results page. No search ends on the home page. Google was satisfied making their money on that landing page.

After the home page, every subsequent page on Google does contain ads. And, they are contextually tied to what’s on that page. If it’s possible to say, they are good ads.

It’s genius. But I don’t think it would have worked had Google not been willing to treat their home page as a loss leader. No ads!

As time went on Google has been able to extend their brand. They have contextual ads on webpages, like this one (look to the right). The have a mail service, also with contextual ads. They have other services too, but the payoff (to them) is always the same, and you never see any sign of commerce when you begin to do what you want to do.

Even better, since each ‘lead’ is prequalified, they can charge a higher CPM.

It’s not like a movie on TBS, where the first block is 45 minutes long and by the end you’re stopping for spots every 120 seconds. Google works so well because they run commercials and no one minds!

In this TiVo world, where the publisher of the New York Times worries he won’t have a paper based paper in five years and where CBS has just announced they’re selling a handful of TV stations for a few million more than they paid for just one of them, Google has succeeded in making us forget they are running commercials.

It is the genius of what they do, and any other elegance in the performance of search is no more than an interesting footnote.

I doubt, when Larry Page and Sergey Brin were testing Google at Stanford, they had a clue what their success could be. They were lucky wise to give away the product they had worked so hard to develop.

Business is always better when you don’t worry if people will buy what you’re selling, but instead try to sell what they are dying to buy.

&#185 – I have been on the Internet long enough to have sent a comment to Yahoo! and gotten a personally written response that referred to “Jerry’s reaction” to what I’d suggested. “Jerry” was Yahoo! co-founder Jerry Yang. That ain’t happening today.

Second Thoughts At Google

More than nearly any other large company, Google has had a mostly good reputation. It’s a company made of smart people who revolutionized Internet search.

It’s no exaggeration to say Google has changed the Internet. They did it all through innovation. After all, they weren’t the first search engine, coming out of the blocks against already established players like Yahoo! and AltaVista.

Have I spread enough honey? My last few Google posts were more pointed and brutal. Like many others, I was quite upset by Google’s loosening their principles in order to operate in China.

Tonight I read this from Google co-founder Sergey Brin:

“Perhaps now the principled approach makes more sense.”

In other words, maybe we shouldn’t have done what we did. I would feel better if this change of heart came in the abstract, but it looks like China has been limiting or totally cutting off access to Google within China.

If that’s the case, selling out hasn’t produced any gains – just awful publicity. And, like the old joke, the argument is no longer whether they’re whores but just dickering over price.

Meeting with reporters near Capitol Hill, Brin said Google had agreed to the censorship demands only after Chinese authorities blocked its service in that country. Google’s rivals accommodated the same demands

You Go Google

It is tough to turn on a financial show, or look at the Business Section of the Times, without reading more and more about Google. They have announced their IPO, and the two geeky boys who came up with the idea will be wealthy beyond anyone’s imagination.

If PR were the arbiter of how company’s do financially (and often, it is not), Google would be high atop the pack. Microsoft would be down at the bottom.

Google built its reputation by doing what it does – searching – better and faster than anyone else. There were plenty of search engines before Google, but none as good. And they did it without cluttering up the landscape with intrusive commercial content.

Stop and think for a moment of what Google has to do to perform searches for you. It seems as if they have the entire Internet cached on their servers – every single byte! Recent educated rumors say they have somewhere near 100,000 servers scattered around the globe.

Did I mention, it’s free!

After years of court battles, commissions and hearings, Microsoft is often referred to (at least on hobbyist bulletin boards) as the “Evil Empire.” Until recently, I had never seen anyone ever say a bad word about Google. There are concerns about Google’s new Gmail and its privacy implications – but even then, Google is criticized for underestimating the worry, as opposed to being a bad company.

Maybe I’m oversimplifying, but it seems the traits one normally needs to make a lot of money are hardly ever benevolent. So, Google comes across as a breath of fresh air because their whole reason for being seems to be based upon benevolence. And, the numbers seem to say, benevolence can work.

Wouldn’t you want your boss to speak like this as a letter to potential Google shareholders from company founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin did? The letter is located in Google’s registration statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission:

Our employees, who have named themselves Googlers, are everything. Google is organized around the ability to attract and leverage the talent of exceptional technologists and business people. We have been lucky to recruit many creative, principled and hard working stars. We hope to recruit many more in the future. We will reward and treat them well.

We provide many unusual benefits for our employees, including meals free of charge, doctors and washing machines. We are careful to consider the long term advantages to the company of these benefits. Expect us to add benefits rather than pare them down over time. We believe it is easy to be penny wise and pound foolish with respect to benefits that can save employees considerable time and improve their health and productivity.

The significant employee ownership of Google has made us what we are today. Because of our employee talent, Google is doing exciting work in nearly every area of computer science. We are in a very competitive industry where the quality of our product is paramount. Talented people are attracted to Google because we empower them to change the world; Google has large computational resources and distribution that enables individuals to make a difference. Our main benefit is a workplace with important projects, where employees can contribute and grow. We are focused on providing an environment where talented, hard working people are rewarded for their contributions to Google and for making the world a better place.

Here’s a success story where the main characters get rich because of what they did and did well – not because they screwed the other guy or played hardball in business or did anything underhanded.

Wake me. I must be dreaming.