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Hugh Roberts of Patni on The Android G1

Remember when the iPhone 3G launched during the summer, we asked Patni Telecoms Consulting to give us a viewpoint? Well here’s some perspective from Hugh Roberts, Senior Strategies chap at Patni.

Hugh most certainly knows his stuff and will not be buying a G1 just yet… Have a read:

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What aspects of the G1 have caught your attention?
Nothing really; at this stage the idea is as important as the realisation. The hype has been around for nearly a year and it has always been clear that expectations – when matched against the hype – wouldn’t be met, certainly not until the product stream and its supporting applications environment have bedded down.

Most surprising is that they have launched without reaching a quorum of 3rd part apps in the apps store, and that it is even less exciting – at least to consumers and media – and ‘open’ than even cynics predicted. Compare this to the launch of the Google Chrome browser. Launched as a beta with a minimum of fuss and no 3rd party apps, it reached (best stats I can find – peaked at 3% after 4 days) a stable 1.52% penetration in about 2 weeks. If the G1 can match this globally then I think everyone involved will be ‘quite pleased with themselves’. However, it was never going to be possible to launch the G1 as a beta with the ‘minimum of fuss’ and Google (I suspect) are still learning about hardware product strategy – I suspect also that the launch timing was largely outside of their control. [FYI I already use Chrome as browser of choice, even without the availability of Firefox style applets for which it has been designed.]

Google is not by nature an innovator. Instead they look to learn from the developments and mistakes of others and to aggregate functionality within their core ‘search-aware’ methodology and positioning, which they are pretty good at. Clearly there are strong synergies between mobility, location and search – which bodes well for Google in this environment in the medium to long term.

How do you think the mobile industry will react to the G1?

It already has, but in true mobile industry fashion most of the debate hasn’t been about reality. MNOs have, however, been looking to the G1 to demonstrate to them:
(a) that there might be a life (other than a nightmare) for them after the demise of the walled garden
(b) help me monetise (I don’t care too much how) 3rd party apps
(c) show me what an Apple-killer looks like! (but don’t charge me too much for it…)
(d) until we’ve got our own fingers in the pie, lets all have a good laugh at yet another security-flawed operating environment [Tech note: unlike, Microsoft, Apple, and most ‘telco’ software, the architecture of android’s apps platform is naturally robust against cross-function hacking, and as such represents a clear way forward for open network architectures. Hopefully the industry will acknowledge and adopt this approach, but I am not holding my breath…]

Is the UK consumer ready for the G1?
More pertinently, is the G1 ready for the UK consumer? It would appear that from Google’s point of view the launch is a bit of a compromise: Some apps, but not very many; some openness, but not very much (so early adopter technophiles will not be best pleased, and the media has plenty to aim at). Early success will most likely depend – rather like Chrome – on whether the basics of mobile comms have been met with enough style and grace for the middle market to treat it as on ‘OK’ handset, even without the bells and whistles.

Undoubtedly, the UK consumer is ready for the death of the ‘mobile internet’ and the move towards greater continuity between fixed and mobile browsing experiences, but the industry itself is woefully lacking in this regard.

Will you be purchasing one?
No, not yet, but I am keeping my eyes open… But then I am not a fan of mobile handsets at all. Apart from the basic voice/text functions (and the requisite support applications) they do not (yet) provide me with a ‘life enriching experience’ (although for many people they do provide a socially defining lifestyle enhancement statement!)

Some of the (personal) reasons for this are:
– appalling HMI (Apple and Google now driving the evolution in much more positive directions)
– poor integration with other comms mechanisms/channels (noting in passing that I hate Outlook and have no wish to use Microsoft inspired synchronisation!)
– undeveloped media translation facilities
– lack of established etiquette for mobile related comms (I think this will become increasingly important)
Some of the areas which have been addressed and are improving are:
– better coverage (although I have just spent 4 days in not-too-rural Devon where 3 of the 5 networks don’t provide coverage)
– ubiquitous global roaming for the basics
– falling and controllable costs (especially all-you-can-eat)
Consequently, I am happy to stay with my annoying handset that is reasonably robust and does the basics without too much fuss until I see something that for my needs is compelling. It is entirely likely that the threshold will be crossed and I will be ‘converted’ not by the handset manufacturer, but by a 3rd party application provider delivering something I really want – which is a reality that both Apple and Google have embraced (but many others are still scared of…)

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Hugh, brilliant! Thanks for taking the time.

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

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