Android: It's not about Sex, Excitement, or Cool

Android: It's not about Sex, Excitement, or Cool

Summary: This week, Google and T-Mobile launched the G1 "Dream", the first of the Android devices to hit the market. The initial reaction by some of my colleagues and industry peers was whether or not it had enough sex appeal,  excitement or the coolness factor to be able to compete with the iPhone.

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This week, Google and T-Mobile launched the G1 "Dream", the first of the Android devices to hit the market. The initial reaction by some of my colleagues and industry peers was whether or not it had enough sex appealexcitement or the coolness factor to be able to compete with the iPhone.

Click on the "Read the rest of this entry" link below for more.

Sex? Excitement? Cool? We are talking about digital convergence devices, not a week on tour in  Amsterdam with Gene Simmons and his roadie crew. That this industry is so preoccupied with how "cool" or "sexy" a piece of electronics is rather than its value-added features or its price and performance ratio when compared to other devices is insane.

I will hand it to Apple that right now, they have the best handheld device on the market. That is, of course, if you can excuse the fact that their Infineon 3G chipset has more bugs in it than a taco stand in downtown Tijuana and because of a number of problems with the firmware and the iPhone 2.0 software you'll still be defaulting to the slower EDGE network in some of most 3G dense areas in the country. But I digress  -- their application store is second to none, if you can excuse Apple's capriciousness of what applications they allow to be sold in their online store and desire for total control.

Currently, the iPhone doesn't fulfill my criterion for a "dream" handheld, and neither does the T-Mobile G1.  However, the Android platform potentially has the capability to do a lot of what I want, and here's why.

The iPhone will always be constrained to hardware that is completely under Apple's control. At best, there will be as many iPhone models as there are iPod models at any given time, should the company decide to expand into different form factors such as keyboard or flip-phone designs.  And at least in the United States, we have a good four years left of an AT&T exclusive on the device.  While the Android platform is currently limited to T-Mobile, any carrier or device manufacturer can get potentially get into the Android game and make software additions and improvements as well as competing hardware designs that use the Android OS.

Sure, as an overall competitive offering, the G1 is weak when compared with iPhone (we'll have to see how well it's 3G wireless data works and its phone call quality is before we pass total judgment, however.) It's lacking a library of apps and games, like any brand new platform would. But I wouldn't expect Google and their army of dedicated software developers in house and all over the world to sit idle for long. ISV's like QuickOffice have already committed to porting their apps to the platform and you can bet with recurring Google sponsored programs such as The Summer of Code and The Android Developer Challenge that we'll see a lot more developments in terms of sticky downloadable 'Droid porn. And remember, since Android is largely Open Source, that alone gives it a tremendous advantage over the iPhone's totally proprietary and controlled environment, particularly as more and more devices emerge.

In addition to apps, lets not play down something that Google does better than Apple -- It's Google. And it understands how to leverage its own internet assets, which are vast. If you compare what Apple's MobileMe has with Google's own portfolio of sites and services, it's a complete joke -- and if you've been watching Apple's stumbles with its service over the last few months, it hardly seems to have the infrastructure or the know-how to keep it a large volume email service running reliably. Enterprise-class mobile E-Mail? Puhleeeze. Unlike Apple, Google also has the perfect opportunity and the real capability to compete with Research In Motion and the Blackberry, since it has the datacenters to back it up -- all it needs to do is purchase a company such as Open-Xchange or leverage any number of Open Source projects that can emulate Exchange Server and integrate it with Android's GMail client as a paid hosted platform service for devices and PCs.  The only missing link would be to create the software which would allow it to integrate with existing corporate email systems, a la RIM's Blackberry Enterprise Server.

Do you want Sex and Excitement on your mobile device or do you just want the damn thing to work as promised and provide you with ubiquitous access to your important mobile data and services? Talk Back and let me know. 

Topics: Apple, Google, Hardware, iPhone, Mobility, Networking, Wi-Fi

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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121 comments
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  • No compromise between features and design

    Why would users have to choose between great features
    and beautiful, sex-appealing devices ?

    It's up to Google and its partners to ensure that
    their customers never have to face this kind of
    choices.

    Like you said, they might have killer-apps, but they
    still lack of killer-devices.
    MohamedAttahri
    • That isn't up to Google...

      Thats up to the handset makers. Google is releasing the OS open source. Any handset maker can take the OS and put it on any phone. Google has nothing to do with the sex appeal outside of what is on the screen. So rest assured you will probably see everything from sexy to business class.
      storm14k
      • How can Google be discharged of responsibility ?

        I don't agree.

        The OS provides developers with UI elements, so the
        quality of the user experience while using the phone
        is Google's responsibility. Apple has done a
        tremendous job making their UI elements beautiful,
        simple to use, and easy to integrate for its
        developers.

        From a user's perspective, it's a Google Android
        mobile phone. He sees and judges the product as a
        hole.

        You can't just release an OS and pray to have people
        using it the right way.
        MohamedAttahri
        • Its open source OS!

          Its open source so anyone could modify it and release it with sexy UI.
          ZDNET_guest666
          • This is the theory, the facts are different

            Have you ever seen a linux dist. with a sexy UI ?
            MohamedAttahri
          • Have you ever seen a linux dist. with a sexy UI?

            The problem with this "sexy" argument is, it's
            COMPLETELY STUPID.

            Some people think Angelina Jolie is sexy. Some people think Elvis Presley was sexy. Some people think sheep are sexy.

            Does your desktop look more like Elvis or Angelina? Or perhaps a sheep?
            bmerc
          • UBUNTU

            Sex sells... No sex appeal, no sale.
            tonkica
          • Yes I have...

            DreamLinux
            20kwfence
          • Just like HTC and Samsung did with WinMo.

            {NT}
            Sleeper Service
        • I'm not talking about the UI...

          ...I like the way it is right now. I'm talking about the sexyness of the hardware. The UI will probably have a crap load of skins available anyway.
          storm14k
        • If you look at the "Mojave" ads....

          ...you will quickly see that "Sexy" is not selling Vista on machines that can run XP... Sexy is not everything.
          ReadWryt (error)
        • Hmmm

          Your reading skills are subpar. Please reread, and if neccessary, brush up on your technical skills so you can *understand* what is written. You just made yourself look like an ass.
          Spiritusindomit@...
        • Makes sense

          Although I am not currently a smart phone customer, I
          have enough years in marketing roles to sense a market
          change, for sure, and there is much to look forward to.

          First, competition is good for users. Second, the "open
          source community" that will provide apps for any Android
          device will certainly have lots to offer. The Apple Apps
          Store showed there is demand--100 million free and fee
          apps downloaded in the first 60 days for a handset with
          such a small market share is nothing short of stunning. It
          is also a formidable head start for Apple and App Store
          developers, who obviously will not sit idle, either.

          Either way, users will have more choice and pricing will be
          contained by robust competition. Once again, Apple has
          taken something useful and familiar, and made it fun and
          easy to use, while significantly broadening a market. It IS a
          phenomenon--and it will be very interesting to see how
          the smart phone market evolves in the next couple of
          years. I suggest laptop computers will be increasingly in a
          secondary role to the handheld computers that the iPhone
          and similar systems have become. Can't wait to see what's
          next!
          frabjous
    • It's all in Your Perspective View! ;)

      The basis of nearly every mobile device on market
      today is OpenGL ES (whether it's v1.0, 1.1 or these
      new v2.0 devices). Right now Mobile devices out number
      computer desktops 10 to 1 and OpenGL has become the
      most widely distributed API ever!

      So Open Source already controls the Mobile Market
      Place and spells the eventual death of proprietary
      systems and devices. Because the overwhelming
      potential of it's market dominance has finally been
      realized and an alliance of Corporations have realized
      that the battle between the few and the many will
      always be won by the MANY!

      That alliance is called Khronos Group and is comprised
      of IBM, Intel, AMD/ATI, Google, Nokia, IMG,
      Freescale/Motorolla, Nvidia and many many more mainly
      hardware manufacturers. Now we have this new Alliance
      called the Open Handset Alliance with an Open Source
      Operating System (Android) to run on the hardware
      manufacturers Open Source API with wider adoption
      capabilities for the future, than any one closed
      source proprietary system (like Apple's iPhone), could
      ever Dream of!

      ....And it all begins appropriately enough, with T-
      Mobile and Google's Android Dream Launch next month.
      Where the "Dream" and an Android are only the first of
      many sure to come from an Alliance that has only just
      begun!!!

      So in the end "Sexy or Sleek" or "Geeky and Lean" have
      nothing to do with it. The writing is right there on
      the wall, but only a few companies seem to be getting
      the message at this point! That is, that what made
      Open Source OpenGL ES the Dominant API force in the
      World, so quickly is all in the numbers of the Khronos
      Group Alliance of Companies. That make for the widest
      possible distribution vs the proprietary Elitist
      mentality of an Apple!!!

      BTW Ap Store? hehe selling controlled aps that never
      threaten or interfere with Apple's own limited
      tethered control scheme of 3rd party aps. After all
      Microsoft has just so aptly demonstrated with their
      own lack of proprietary penetration into the Mobile
      Market. Now predominately controlled by Open
      Unix/Clone Kernel derived products like Symbian, Palm,
      RIM Blackberry and Apple's own iPhone kernel (BSD)!
      i2fun@...
  • RE: Android: It's not about Sex, Excitement, or Cool

    "all it needs to do is purchase a company such as Open-Xchange or leverage any number of Open Source projects that can emulate Exchange Server"

    Laugh?! I nearly p*ssed myself. I guess all those Enterprises are just going to throw out the massive investment they have made in Exchange/Blackberry hardware/software and technical staff that is needed to make a large Enterprise email system run smoothly not to mention the resources needed to support thousands of users and replace it with......gmail?!

    LOL!
    smidge@...
    • Read the writing on the wall!

      Having been involved in enterprise messaging for over 15 years I can assure you we are going in that direction. If corporations can find a way to cut costs by outsourcing to a reliable secure email provider it is only a matter of time.

      While I agree that gmail is not there YET! they are clearly targeting that market. Those massive investments are not something any company enjoys paying. If Google and Android provide a viable alternative a year from now (when it's time to upgrade those massive investments) you can bet the alternative will be carefully considered.

      Change you pants and get a clue.
      brianconnelly
      • umm....no

        Yeah, I have also been in enterprise messaging for about 8 years. Things are not moving in that direction, they are moving in the opposite direction. With the advent of Exchange 2007 and unified messaging, more and more companies are moving to hosting their own email, and loving it.

        The only ones still outsourcing their email are small companies that cant afford to build the infrastructure or buy the hardware necessary for a quality exchange deployment.
        trivtrav
        • umm....yes and no?

          "The only ones still outsourcing their email are small companies that cant afford to build the infrastructure or buy the hardware necessary for a quality exchange deployment."

          Well there you have it...you both win!
          skatersev
      • I have changed my pants...

        You're right, Hosted solutions are becoming much more popular. I am a messaging architect for a large hosting organization.

        The difference is that we offer bespoke hosting solutions, tailoring hosted email to an enterprises needs. The amount of security and regulatory policy based decisions that need to be made (sarbanes oxley for example, or mobile device security)for a deployment of say 40,000 users is far beyond anything Gmail could offer out of the box and simply saying Google should buy Open Xchange and instantly compete with Microsoft is absolutely absurd, not only is it an inferior product but Google simply dont have the enterprise credentials to compete.

        Sure small 1 or 2 man band businesses MAY find benefit from ditching their Small Business Servers and going down the Gmail route, but i would like to see you convince someone like HSBC or Bank of America to out-source their email infrastructure to someone like Google.

        I think it is you who needs to get a clue my friend.
        smidge@...
        • im pretty sure ur the one that needs the clue

          umm yaa, if ud just check ur statistics (http://www.census.gov/epcd/www/smallbus.html) youd notice that 78% of all employer firms have less then 10 employees. and 99.9% of all businesses (http://www.smallbusinessnotes.com/aboutsb/sbfacts/sbnumber.html) have under 500 employees, so why would google even want big corporations like bank of america?
          Wes321