If analyst predictions are to be believed, Android is set to have a good 12 months. But the OS is far from being a perfect mobile platform, especially where the average consumer is concerned. Will Microsoft's new Windows Phone 7 platform help Google focus on making Android better?
So, what's the problem with Android? Well, Brian X. Chen says it all really:
By contrast, Google doesn't subject manufacturers to similar testing criteria. And we're seeing the consequences: Some touchscreens work better than others, some apps don't work on one version of Android while they do on another, and some manufacturers are even cramming bloatware onto Android devices.
Most importantly, a consistent user experience will help customers understand what they're getting when they're shopping for a Windows phone.
The OS is going to be the same with identical features on every handset, so as a consumer, your decision-making will boil down to the hardware's look, weight and size. Compare that to the experience of buying an Android phone, which could be running a different version depending on the handset you buy: Donut, Eclair, Froyo, blueberry pie, Neapolitan or whatever Google chooses to call it eventually. You won't have to ask yourself, "Am I going to get X on this phone or do I have to get another one?" because they're all running the same OS with a few variations in hardware.
See, the problem with Android is that it betrays its Linux heritage. An aggressive development cycle, combined with the open source nature of the platform has resulted in a confusing hellstew of hardware and OSes. Geeks like nothing better than to tinker and play with stuff and tweak. The idea of different OS versions gets them excited. But geeks don't land themselves with a dud purchase because they've done all the research in advance, and a new handset running an old OS is just a challenge for them. For geeks, that kind of thing is fun.
But consumers don't think like this. In fact, most consumers don't really think at all. Apple took the decision making process out of buying and gave users a small, specific choice selection. Microsoft is trying to make all WP7 handsets operate in much the same way, again, so consumers don't have to think. That leaves Android as the thinking person's OS. Does that leave the platform vulnerable?
Question is, can Google wrestle any control over hardware and crapware loaded into the OS away from OEMs? Or is Android destined to become more confused and messier? Are OEMs and carriers abusing the open source nature of Android? Does it matter?