August 19, 2010 | by Ed Clark
Several months ago, I put on my fortune-telling hat and reassured Android fans that OS fragmentation would not doom the system. My points back then were: 1) Android 2.1 would be made available to a wide variety of phones, not just to the Nexus One, and 2) The fragmentation we were seeing was not like Linux, but much more like the rise of Microsoft in the early days of the PC.
On this latter point, I explained that Android’s openness would have dozens of manufacturers clamoring to make hardware to run it, and there would be many, many models to choose from (unlike the “one product” model from Apple).
In a later post, I also forecasted that Android would continue to grow well past the iPhone because of its affordability and more open ecosystem. So how did I do?
- It seems the fragmentation worry has largely disappeared, as 2.1+ versions of Android have become the default, and Google itself has promised to slow down the propagation of new versions. (Note: This is not to minimize the plight of folks stuck with old OS versions. People with 1.5/1.6, get out your pitchforks and march on your carriers!) There are so many models of Android phones now that it’s hard to give a straight answer when I am asked to make a purchase recommendation. (These conversations always end up with me asking questions in return: “Which carrier do you like the best? How much do you have to spend? How important are games to you? How much do you use the camera?”)
- U.S. sales of Android-based phones have officially surpassed those of Apple’s iPhone (and pretty much everyone else, for that matter). It is only a matter of time–perhaps months–before Android outsells RIM.
- Of course, Android remains extremely affordable in comparison to other smartphone platforms. For example, at the time of this writing Amazon has the Vibrant (T-Mobile’s Samsung Galaxy S)—an extremely capable phone with most of the latest Android goodies—on sale for $.01 for new 2-year contracts. The price difference between iPhone apps and equivalent Android apps is starting to fade away, but it is still much cheaper to use the Android Market.
Beyond the fact that I enjoy flaunting my Nostradamus-like skills, I am starting to wonder what could spell the end of the line for the Android train. After all, Nostradamus was really known as the doomsday guy, and many of us enjoy running through worst-case scenarios (I think it makes us feel better). But I have to admit that things get hazy for me here and my old fortune-telling hat does me no good.
Here are my wild guesses for things that could possibly kill Android. Feel free to laugh, criticize, or add your own doomsday items:
- Google Chrome: What the heck is it? Google promised to roll this thing out for tablet devices a while back, and then nothing happened. Now it is going to come out this year, in just a few months, after a bunch of Android tablets have already been released. Confusing, huh? Let me quote from the Wikipedia entry for “Google Chrome OS”:
- Lawsuits: Ah, Oracle. And Apple. And whoever else wants to get on the gravy train. Could Android get sued out of existence? As most of you know, Oracle recently sued Android for “knowingly, willfully, and deliberately” infringing on Java intellectual property. Taylor Buley of Forbes magazine thinks that Oracle really just wants to get married to Android in order to get into mobile devices and stay competitive with SAP. Maybe. But maybe it is just willing to drag down anything that floats in order to float a little bit higher.
- Nuclear War and/or Zombie Apocalypse: Well, isn’t that how all doomsday scenarios end up? A few humans survive, Mad Max-style. They cobble together lawnmowers and motorcycles and attack the bad guys (and each other) with strange weapons. Eventually, someone figures out how to get a computer running and the human race starts over.
“The successive introduction of Android and the arrival of Google Chrome OS, both open source, client-based operating systems, have created some market confusion, especially with Android’s growing success. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer accused Google of not being able to make up its mind. Google has downplayed this conflict, suggesting that the two operating systems address different markets, mobile and personal computing, which remain distinct despite the growing convergence of the devices. Co-founder Sergey Brin suggested that the two systems “will likely converge over time.”
Would Google backstab itself? Sure it would, given the right circumstances. What if other companies somehow tied down Android, for example? (Which leads me to…)
I wonder, what OS would one use to start anew?