If everyone bets on Android does anyone get an advantage?

If everyone bets on Android does anyone get an advantage?

Summary: Motorola---along with a bevy of other wireless carriers---has gone gaga for Android, the mobile operating system hatched by Google. For Motorola, a big Android bet boils down to saving the company's handset business.

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Motorola---along with a bevy of other wireless carriers---has gone gaga for Android, the mobile operating system hatched by Google. For Motorola, a big Android bet boils down to saving the company's handset business. The nagging question: If everyone---Samsung, LG, HTC, Sony Ericsson and Motorola---go Android happy does anyone really have an advantage?

As Forbes reports, Motorola has been courting Android developers aggressively in hopes that they can differentiate their handsets from the rest of the field. Indeed, one stop at the MotoDev blog tells the tale. You can find information on meetups for developers, scripting tips and a bunch of other developer information.

Simply put, MotoDev is worth a stop and has plenty of this:

The Motorola effort makes a lot of sense. Motorola brings global distribution to the table and is hellbent on fixing its handset business. The company is likely to launch two U.S. Android devices---on EVDO version at Verizon or Sprint---and an HSPA version on T-Mobile and international carriers.

Verizon Wireless has already confirmed that Motorola will be bringing an Android-powered Motorola handset to the market. Meanwhile, J.P. Morgan analyst Ehud A. Gelblum reckons that these Motorola handsets will hit the market in October and be completely scaled up for the holiday rush.

Also see: Verizon, T-Mobile plan Android phones by year's end; boost for Motorola

Gelblum a few weeks ago recapped a meeting with Sanjay Jha, chief of Motorola's mobile unit and co-CEO of the company.

The takeaways from Gelblum from his research note:

"We came away feeling more confident about the company’s ability to produce competitive Android-based smartphone devices well in time for volume shipments for the 2009 holidays.

Jha strongly implied that the timing of the new Android product launches would be well before Thanksgiving and we believe likely as early as October, putting the devices well in time for volume shipments before the holidays.

Jha seemed confident that Motorola’s new Android products would be differentiated from other smartphones and other Android smartphones primarily through a stronger link to social networking and messaging. He also believes Motorola's singular focus on Android was an advantage vs. other vendors planning to launch Android products such as Samsung, LG, and HTC, which also support multiple other operating systems, a point we conceptually agree with but the actual merit of which is only proven in the field once the phones actually launch.

All the new Android phones should be touch and capacitive touch at that.

Although Jha wouldn’t comment on whether the devices would be multitouch, we suspect they likely are. Jha is planning to use ODMs to fill out a full portfolio of products below the Android smartphone tier, especially into Europe where carriers expect vendors to go to market with a complete product offering rather than just a point solution."

It does appear the Motorola has the advantage of Android focus right now. However, that focus doesn't necessarily mean Motorola will have runaway hits in a crowded field. The good news for Motorola: Expectations are low and if Jha can use Android to just create positive profit margins for the handset unit it'll be a victory. All Jha really has to do is resuscitate Motorola's handset business enough to be spun off.

Also see: All Android posts

Topics: Hardware, Mobility, Smartphones

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17 comments
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  • The ones who will have the best advantage

    will be the ones who contribute the most and the best software. You reap what you sow in the F/OSS world.

    HTC already has a pretty big head start, and has already has learned a bit and taken things to another level with its Sense UI on Hero. And unless others would rather start their own phone OS from scratch which would put them behind by years rather than months, their best bet is to jump on now and hope they can catch up the way the US caught up with the Russians in the space race.
    Michael Kelly
    • Users, Android and Google win

      User have more options
      Google has penetration
      Android becomes a standard

      Uralbas
  • RE: If everyone bets on Android does anyone get an advantage?

    I believe Motorola will be most interesting due to their Push to Talk (PTT) chirp system them revolutionized. If they can get they Chirp to work on android then....well that seems to only boost Sprint and Nextel due to them being the only ones who support it. Hmm... does anyone think chirping will be available on other networks soon>
    Brooklyn2VA
  • The ones that commit early and have the best Android phones will be the

    winners. The same problems for OEMs selling Windows on their hardware, they get no advantage, but, you would not want to be the one not offering Windows. But, the situation with Android is a lot better for OEMs, since it is open source, royalty free, and there is no vendor to raise the prices to the point of pain and suck all the profits out of the business.
    DonnieBoy
  • This is an advantage?

    Having the ability to open a script window to run a talking clock is an advantage how?

    Please tell me you are kidding...
    serpentmage
    • the point is, you can run scripts - that looks like a countdown timer

      if you look at the code, it asks for a number of mins then launches the talking clock.

      Yes I know, writing scripts is too complex for the "average user"

      lol
      ~doolittle~
  • RE: If everyone bets on Android does anyone get an advantage?

    No company can now compete with the scale of iPhone apps.
    Users want apps, but don't want to be tied to inferior
    phones and o/s's, a universal o/s would allow the phone
    companies focus on what they do best (the device), not
    yet another os.
    bhavik_vyas
    • Focus

      Exactly, they don't need to be competing (putting in
      lots of effort) on two fronts to distinguish their
      product from others. If there is a generic OS that is
      first rate in functionality and usability, (and has lots
      of apps) then they can focus on making slick
      hardware, which is their core business. And they
      don't want MS to get a hold on them by the short and
      curlies either, otherwise they won't be able to
      compete on price.
      bigpicture
  • Easy choice

    Android is a no brainer to adopt:

    1. Android is open source, so vendors can create their own unique "user experience", to differentiate their products, while still maintaining app compatibility (like what HTC has done with the Hero & Lenovo is doing with the OPhone). Vendors can even replace Google's services with their own services, if they want to.

    2. Android is built on a Linux kernel which is stable, fast, scalable & likely to have drivers for current & future hardware components.

    3. Android is being prep'd for smartbooks/netbooks/MIDs/etc., so vendors will be able to offer these products, as well.

    4. Android allows vendors to focus on great devices, apps & services (real revenue), while the OHA members & the Android community share the development & support costs of the base platform.
    linuser
  • Android ARM smartbooks, too

    A lot of telcos are interested in Android ARM smartbooks. A telco could save itself a lot of work by also developing an Android smart phone and coordinating the code.
    Eduardo_z
  • RE: If everyone bets on Android does anyone get an advantage?

    Only if it runs on a Zune!
    BallmerFan1
  • Fractured Android Market Plays into Apple's hands.

    Android fragmentation plays to Apple's advantage:

    -- Android market is divided among many players means
    that revenue is divided as well. Unlikely that one Android
    manufacturer will earn enough to compete with Apple in
    R&D or marketing. Or make enough units to get Apple's
    huge advantages in bulk purchasing (i.e Apple profit
    margins higher). It's just like iPod competitors, Apple is
    better off with numerous competitors especially if they're
    selling basically the same product m(Android) fighting each
    other rather than one big one as the single big competitor
    will have significant scale.

    -- The iPhone's huge advantage are the 50,000 apps.
    Android fragmentation makes apps harder to write.

    If Android handsets are differentiated , some with one
    button, some with many buttons, some with touch, some
    with multi touch, some with included keyboard, some with
    no keyboard, some with a lot of ram, some less, some with
    fast processors some with slow (perhaps completely
    different types of processors from different
    manufacturers!) etc. and if the OS is differentiated into
    many different flavors of Android like Sense UI (an Android
    variant) what's going to happen to the developers?

    How are they going to write apps for all kinds of hardware
    specs and many different variants of Android? Like one
    developer said he wasn't going to debug an app for half a
    dozen different Android phones with different hardware
    specs and UI's each with a small market segment (much
    hyped G1 only sold a million in 6 months vs. 1 million
    iPhones in 3 days)

    Android is going to suffer the Linux open source 'Problem'.
    Different variants and poorly supported. At one point Linux
    was used in many net-books now a short while later 95%
    or more use Win XP. (I'm not dissing Linux as a tech
    marvel, many geeky types love Linux, but it just doesn't
    seem to gain traction in the consumer market).

    I don't think Apple is particularly concerned with Android
    as can be seen that Google CEO is still on Apple's board. I
    think Android was designed more to counter Microsoft,
    Google didn't want Microsoft with its search engine
    ambitions to dominate the smart phone market. Goggle
    seems to quite happy supporting the iPhone with apps.
    Davewrite
    • Wrong wrong wrong.

      Well not totally.

      However, the more manufacturers developing and pushing Android handsets certainly hurts Apple. Right now every major player has a killer phone- Sprint with the Pre, Verizon with the Storm, ATT with the iPhone, T-Mobile with the G1.

      What happens when killer Android phones hit EVERY carrier?

      Also, the apps generally work on every phone without issue. Your issues with cross compatibility are unfounded. There are several Android handsets currently on the market that share the same apps with no issues at all.

      Android will eventually overtake the iPhone and Apple will have to be comfortable in 2nd place, but still profitable just like they are in computers.

      With every major carrier distributing multiple Android handsets- it's inevitable.
      trance2tec
      • hmmm...even Java creator Gosling seems to agree with me...

        You don't have much on the profit part of it so I'll leave that out here.
        On the compatibility issue I might be mistaken because I don't have
        specialized knowledge but only basing on what I read, here are some
        of it"

        Eweek interview of Java creator Gosling:

        "But everybody I've talked to who is building an Android phone or
        whatever, they're all going in and they're just hacking on it. And so all
        these Android phones are going to be incompatible"

        Gosling Again:

        "And all these handset manufacturers are doing whatever they damn
        well please. Which means that it's just going to be randomness. It
        could be "let a thousand flowers bloom" - but it also could be a dog's
        breakfast. And I guess having been around the track a few times, it
        feels like it's going to be more of a dog's breakfast."
        ------

        Another article:

        "The big question is in what ways will the phones be incompatible. If
        the OEMs are changing the OS so as to change the public APIs then
        this will indeed be unfortunate. However, the OEMs have an incentive
        not to do this. Doing so would make the OS potentially incompatible
        with 3rd party applications.
        -----
        note article says things fine if OEMS cooperate but thats a big IF

        -----

        Article from Roughly drafted (a pro Apple site but interesting
        nevertheless):

        "Android developers will also have a series of other problems to
        manage. Like Windows Mobile, Android is intended to support
        everything, from BlackBerry-style keypad phones with a small
        touchscreen to the simple Windows Mobile Smartphone form factor
        lacking a touch screen to iPhone-like full size touch screens. Also like
        Windows Mobile, Android phone makers will have the option to leave
        off Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS location services, graphics hardware
        acceleration, and so on.

        "Each Android phone will also have unique camera hardware, support
        for different video and audio codecs, and varied support for other
        differentiating proprietary services demanded by mobile operators.
        This will force developers to to make complex decisions regarding the
        lowest common denominator they choose to support.

        So while the iPhone will have a cohesive feature set, a managed
        software environment, and a functional market, Android will be a
        loose federation of hardware makers selling the same random
        features found on Windows Mobile today, with a chaotic development
        environment that lacks any central market for users or developers.
        And it will be run as an experiment by a company with no experience
        in consumer hardware or platform development."
        ----


        Some Android phones actually CANCELLED due to compatibility
        problems like Kogan's Agora phone:

        ""The Agora reached a very late stage of development, manufacturing
        had commenced and we were within days of shipping the product to
        customers. But it now seems certain the current Agora specifications
        will limit its compatibility or interoperability in the near future,"
        Kogan, 25, said.

        "One potential issue is that developers may create applications for the
        Android operating system at a higher resolution and screen size than
        the Agora provides in its current form."."

        ---
        Wired:

        "They?re doomed from the start by companies that care more about
        their own requirements than those of their customers.

        That's why I predict that Android will soon have as many different
        flavors as there are carriers. Some carriers will customize it so that
        their phones can't install any applications other than the ones they
        authorize. Some will modify the operating system to work with one of
        their custom services or another. Some will no doubt cripple it,
        removing features that they consider threatening to their own
        businesses (like the ability to run VoIP apps)."

        Then wired suggests some remedies to the compatibility issue,
        whether OEMS and Google have taken them I don't know but if they
        don't wired predicts:

        "If Google doesn't do that, Android will quickly disappear into the
        morass of poorly-branded smartphone operating systems that
        consumers don't give a damn about, alongside Symbian, Windows
        Mobile and the Palm OS. And Google will have lost the mobile game"

        ----
        another article:
        "IMS Research analyst Chris Schreck said that the fragmentation that
        could arise from the widespread adoption could end up being its
        biggest threat. "

        "Specifically, Shreck said that one of Android's features that appeals to
        handset makers and mobile network operators is that its license
        agreement from the Open Handset Alliance (OHA) doesn't require
        changes made to the code to be contributed back to the open source
        community. This was done to allow companies to incorporate their
        own intellectual property into their Android phones'and thereby
        differentiate their products from their rivals without forcing them to
        share their IP with other OHA members.

        The flip side of that coin, said Shreck, is that it also allows for
        multiple versions of the platform to exist independently of each
        other. As more handset makers strive to build differentiated
        cellphones, more ?platform variants emerge."

        "Schreck added that a fragmented Android platform would result in
        compatibility problems for Android applications and would ultimately
        push the cost of continued development of the platform to individual
        handset vendors and mobile network operators, rather than the OHA
        as a whole. Said Schreck, Such increased development costs and a
        fragmented application portfolio would make competing with other
        open source platforms an uphill battle for Android.


        ----
        I can probably go on and on with clippings.

        But perhaps I'm wrong? (but I'll be in good company like Java creator
        Gosling) .I base what i say on what I read but I don't
        have specialized enough knowledge and inside knowledge of the
        OEMS to know absolutely. Perhaps you're right? Time will tell.
        Davewrite
        • I think you are probably right...

          while all Android phones will be compatible in the most basic sense in
          that they will run generic apps such as shopping lists, twitter
          applications across all manufacturers, the issue is that the developers
          for more sophisticated apps will face serious challenges when trying
          to decide on the amount of work they spend to cover the most
          devices.

          Games for instance will require specific hard ware. Many Android
          phones will be in the low and mid tier market and will not be able to
          support the kind of processor intensive games that are now entering
          the AppStore.

          Add to that the fragmentation that is caused by different screen
          solutions, touch/multi-touch/buttons interfaces, also the carriers are
          usually interfering in what the phones are allowed to do.

          This will make development of such apps more expensive for the
          developers, or will reduce their prospective target audience.

          Now Apple is also preparing to offer the ability to add external
          controllers. Again this can will eventually be achievable with Android,
          but then the fragmentation will be even worse.

          Basically the fragmentation will work something like this (just a few
          examples):

          basic phone functions: more or less the same for all handsets
          interface: split into touch/multi touch/buttons/trackball etc
          screen: different sizes, resolution, capacitive, haptic feedback etc
          processors: different speeds, makes, graphics capabilities etc
          carriers: different application stores, different policies
          multitasking: varies according to memory available, OS restrictions

          Any developer will have to calculate exactly how these factors will
          affect their applications and will have to either compromise on
          features to maximise target audience or go all out for a few top of the
          line handsets.

          Again, in the best case scenario this will only affect a few applications,
          however, however those will be many cutting edge apps, and in any
          case it will add some costs for developers.

          Apple also will have those problems, in fact they already are splitting
          the base with the new graphic chips, however they will always be less
          significant than for an OS that has 3/4 different manufacturers with
          their own hardware and software implementations.

          Add to that that Apple already has 40 million iPhones/iPod touches
          out there...
          Ken Fegore
  • Yes, they've never competed via OS

    What has sold phones after they became popular has been
    features (hardware and software, mostly hardware), not the
    particulars of the OS. The cell companies have regarded phone
    OSes as a detail of supreme annoyance that they HAVE to build in
    order to put feature x on the packaging.

    All of them using Android is a great thing for them because they
    don't have to spend all that time and money re-inventing each
    other's wheels in software land - they let Google do it so they can
    focus even more on the features that sell cells.
    Htalk
  • RE: If everyone bets on Android does anyone get an advantage?

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