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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Tablet wars

May 12, 2010 § 1 Comment

The iPad is about to have some serious competition. In the marketplace today, the iPad is numero uno when it comes to a must have tablet computer. That might soon change if Google, HP, Lenovo and a myriad of competitors have their way. It is public knowledge that Google is working on a tablet that runs one of its Chromium/Android OS. This much was revealed a few weeks back here. There is even a cool video with a mockup of a tablet running the OS. Fast forward to today where there is tremendous anticipation for an iPhone that runs on Verizon. For everyone complaining about ATT’s network being an impediment to using the iPhone, this was going to be the Holy Grail. Engadget dug up the ATT-iPhone contract details that confirmed that the exclusivity expired not in 2010 as many had predicted but in 2012. This implied that Verizon would have to wait to get the iPhone.

In the meantime, the Verizon – Google partnership on the Droid handsets is flourishing. All the Android devices on Verizon are selling extremely well and are proving to be a cash cow to Verizon. All of a sudden, for haters of ATT network, there is a lot of smartphone love with The Big Red. So it was no surprise when WSJ and Bloomberg leaked information yesterday of a collaboration between Verizon and Google to bring the Google tablet on their network. This makes sense in a lot of ways. Google gets to continue its oneupmanship battle with Apple. Verizon gets to call a tablet its own and the consumer has choice in the tablet segment.TechCrunch breaks this equation down here.

Eventually HP will get into the tablet business with a webOS based Hurricane tablet. Microsoft is already in the tablet business to retain its competitive edge in the OS segment. So a bevy of vendors will tote out Win7 tablets in the coming months. The Lenovo U1 IdeaPad met with good initial response when unveiled at CES. It remains to be seen if it ends up as a meaningful competitor. The iPad will now have to fight it out with multiple tablets featuring different OS’s each with its pros and cons. It will also have to keep upping the ante on the e-Reader front against the Kindle, Nook and the upcoming Kobo from Borders.

For the consumer, it is a win-win. Competition as always forces innovation and price wars. It also means there is an alternative. Bring on the tablets!

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┬átent-pole┬ádevices 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.

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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