The elephant in the room: Have Google missed the mark with Android so far?
Now Mobile World Congress is over the flood of news is slowing enough to step back and assess what we’ve seen. S60 got a pretty consistent ‘C-‘ grade for their Touch demo, but I’m a bit surprised no-one has taken Google to task for their poor Android showing… OK, we saw a few prototypes and even a demo running on some production hardware, but aside from some gripes about the interface the reviewers singularly failed to call Google out on the biggest issue… Android at the moment is looking like ‘just another mobile platform’.
This C|Net piece hints at the problem, asking if we really need 4 mobile platforms: Windows Mobile, Symbian, Mobile Linux (not sure I’d include that one yet) and now Android? But the question should be “What innovation are Google offering over the competition?” I’ve no doubt it will be a great open platform, making it easy for new hardware to come to market and encouraging a whole raft of applications, but that really should be a given… With the hind-site of watching Symbian’s development alone over the last few years it should be possible for a half-competent organisation to produce something more elegant and Google has the brains to do a cracking job. But I was hoping for so much more. Where’s the support in ‘the cloud’ that Google excels at that would make an Android phone more appealing than the alternatives?
Take a look here. It’s the ‘Google APIs and Services’ section of the Android site. What do you see? A Google Maps interface and (effectively) a Google Talk interface… and that’s it. Where’s the advertising, calendar, contacts, online storage or YouTube interfaces? Certainly all of those things will be available via the browser for the consumer, probably customised like the current iPhone ones, but that’s not new. Android could have really shaken things up by providing interfaces so that application developers could utilise these services right from the start.
I appreciate Android phones purely tied to Google services would lack appeal, but there’s no reason for any of this to be either mandatory or exclusive to them. Google just need to capitalise on what has already made them world-leaders in so many other areas. Still, here we are – Google are giving away $10 million for the best applications developed for Android and they seem determined to do this with one hand tied behind the development community’s collective backs for no apparent good reason…
I wouldn’t go so far as to say Android is dead, but someone needs to shift it up a gear.