The Android Revolution is being televised

May 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

Yes, this is one of the million articles on Android following a great Google IO Conference with a bunch of cool announcements. But no, I am not a opportunist to cash in on the android hype machine. I truly believe the OS is out to change the handheld device spectrum and this post is all about that. We will go over some of the cool IO announcements, but the trigger point for this post is not that but this and this. Pandigital, an also ran in the low price digital frame industry with questionable support (I know!) and even more questionable features just announced a competitor to the iPad. Yep, you read that right. A few years ago, this might be almost foolhardy. David of unknown origin going against a really big Goliath. But Pandigital now has something up its arsenal that gives it legitimacy, Android. And herein lies the revolution.

With the support of a behemoth like Google, Android is enabling manufacturers all and sundry to now be able to compete in the smartphone industry and also the ancillary industries such as e-book readers, tablets, netbooks and what not. This coupled with the surging popularity of Android based smartphones (thanks also to the lack of iPhone with any other carrier but ATT), there is a groundswell movement of all things Android.

Google TV is another Android foray into realms unknown and unconquered. How popular it gets remains to be seen but it is undeniable that Google is putting its best foot forward with an interesting array of partners. Oh, and did I mention the Google TV ads?

The “Do no evil” mantra of Google coupled with the inherent openness of the platform is enabling device vendors to pick and choose their variant of the OS- be it the core with their own skin [htc sense][motoblur] or the entire experience [nexusone]. It is so flexible, that Moto could pack in a different LBS provider on its Android device and it was fine. Imagine that with Apple or Microsoft. Remember how long it took before the first legitimate browser outside of Safari made its way into the iPhone. Apple has its reasons to be closed and rightfully so. But in the same vein, it helps Google to continue its perceived altruistic (time will tell the real motivation – mobile ads and control of the mobile eco-system)foray into the mobile space.

For now, anyone looking to get into the mobile eco-system, look no further than the Android.

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The Life and Times of Google Nexus One

May 11, 2010 § 1 Comment

In late December of last year, the Internet was abuzz with information about a new phone from Google- a superphone that had any and every feature that man had ever dreamed of. The iPhone competitor from Mountain View. Soon after, the Nexus One debuted in the hands of Google’s employees. Sneaky photos and videos of the uberphone debuted all over the Internet. Everyone was curious to know if this was the iPhone killer?. Once the hype was on overdrive, Google unveiled it officially in a very simple affair at their Mountain View HQ.

Thanks to a friend whose wife worked at Google, I had a chance to play with the device in early January after the official launch. I liked the touch and feel of it not to mention how fast it was. But that was that. I didnt see it as an iPhone killer- atleast not in the Nexus One version. The Android software, while extremely flexible and developer friendly was not yet the business minded developer’s platform of choice. Until that happened, the real cool apps would not make an appearance on the platform and hence prevent a very large uptick in sales of the device. That said, Google was attempting to change the carrier lockin system tied to handsets by offering it on its own website based on the carrier of choice. This would be a revolutionary way of selling handsets and one that had the potential to change the landscape, if it worked. If it worked.

Over the last four months, a lot has happened on the Android front. Today (May 10, 2010) NPD revealed that the Android platform was the #2 largest selling mobile platform in the US ahead of the iPhone. This has been made possible thanks to the proliferation of Android devices on all four carriers not to mention great promotions and some really cool hardware. Added to all this is the fact that the iPhone is exclusive to ATT which makes it hard to match a platform selling across 30+ devices on 4 different carriers.

But things havent really been all that great for the Nexus One. What was once viewed as a superphone and the best of the best from the Android stables is now almost an also ran. A few weeks ago, Verizon which was supposed to get the Nexus One in Spring said that it was skipping the device in favor of HTC Incredible. Two days ago, Sprint joined Verizon in politely declining the Nexus One in favor of the HTC EVO. It is hard to blame the carriers. The cost of marketing and promoting the tent-pole devices is so high that one cannot afford to have multiple such devices. One or maybe two superphones is all a marketing team can focus on. Not to mention trying to cannibalize one phone over the other in one’s own portfolio.

To be fair to Google, they went for broke and failed. But they did make an attempt to change the status quo in an industry that hasnt changed by much in a very long time. The only downside to all of this is that we wont see Google put up a big effort on the mobile handset front for a while, if not ever. They will continue to spend their resources and effort on the Android which is bearing fruit as we speak. So Android as a platform will be Google’s contribution to the cellular industry. The Nexus One will be a footnote. An uber one at that.

Disclaimer: After I finished writing up the post, I noticed in my Google Reader that Fast Company has an article very similar to this one titled “The Rise and Fall of the Nexus One”. It is a very nice article worth reading here. Soon after, I saw the Motley Fool article along the same lines here.

Revisiting the future of palm

April 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

A week ago, I had written about Palm’s woes and the future of a good mobile OS. Couple of days ago, it was announced that HP stepped up to scoop the mobile device company for 1.2 billion dollars. Considering that the valuation of Palm was more than twice the sale price less than a year ago, it seems like HP has got itself a bargain. Only time will tell if this is as good a deal for HP as we think it is today. Synergies can be challenging as HP knows very well- for years now the Compaq-HP wedding has been questioned. What is undeniable is that HP has landed itself a good mobile OS backed by a great developer team.

After my initial draft of this post, I read this morning that HP was considering dropping Windows 7 for its tablet offerings. Whether this is due to fears that the Slate wouldn’t stand up to the iPad in its current form or the hope that a better tablet can be made with webOS is unknown. What is known that HP wants to use webOS in as many ways as possible and considering HP’s past, current and future ambitions, this could be big.

This indicates that the mobile OS wars will now have a muscled up fourth competitor to RIM, Apple and Google. This makes for a very interesting battle ahead and for the consumer, this is just a great time to buy a nice smartphone.

Dell’s smartphone push

April 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

Last year when Dell announced a couple of handsets for the Latin Americas and China, the bloggers heaved a collective “meh!” [1][2]. The phones looked pedestrian and did nothing to make a case for Dell in the new business. When news came out that Dell was going to be on ATT, there were critics questioning the value of the move for ATT. How much things have changed since then…

Yesterday, Engadget unveiled a bunch of Dell prototypes destined for the North American market over the next few quarters. While their actual performance remains to be seen, the specs are worth dying for. 4.1 inch AMOLED screens, HD displays, hulu apps, Android 2.1 or Windows Phone 7 and more.

Dell has not been a purveyor of great design but they have managed to be a solid performer in the PC industry. How they make an impact on the smartphone market where the iPhone towers over all is going to be interesting to watch.

Android is cool too…

April 16, 2010 § Leave a comment

I am an iPhone user and for all the call drops I experience in the Bay Area (and I get a lot of the Call Failed messages) I love my phone for the kind of apps it offers. I have professionally had to learn writing code for android devices and also learn work with the G1 dev phone as part of my work. I have in this process developed a geek’s love for the OS that I dont have for the iPhone.

To me the iPhone is an end user’s paradise. Everything done so well with just the right kind of apps and app downloading experience I love not to mention the integration with iTunes. But what the iPhone isn’t is a developer/gadget geek’s friend. It is closed and unfriendly to one wanting to do more with it. Contrast this with the Android experience which is definitely not as sophisticated as the iPhone and the Marketplace is not as much fun to use. But the sheer volume of geekdom on the Android is worth all the pain. Everything from rooting the OS to being able to do a lot of things one can do on a Linux OS, the Android screams of developer love.

With the announcement of the HTC EVO, I am truly excited for a cutting edge Android device. If it lives up to the hype, count me in when my contract gets over.

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