Last year, Google was at the center of much speculation that it would be making a gallant entry into the mobile devices space with a device tailored towards openness and flexibility of use. The rumors were confirmed to some extent when Google announced that they were working on a mobile operating system (Android) that would finally bring openness in its true meaning to all mobile users. For once it seemed that a truly open device focused on the requirements of the user would be available. But that vision has got a bit hampered in recent developments that have seen Apple making huge strides with its iPhone 3G and Nokia wooing for more developer attention with open sourcing the Symbian OS. And added to these are the few steps taking by Google that has invited the ire of several Android developers.
Open as in “Open”
First of the hits that has come to Android concerns the recent uproar in the blogosphere about Google making available the recent versions of the Android SDK to a select few of the developers community (winners of the Android Developer Challenge). The action has invited the ire of several developers who are miffed about Google not considering all developers of Android on an equal footing.
Google’s grand vision of an open OS that gives independence to mobile users on several fronts is a big move against the closed garden that telecom space has always been. Low cost handsets with a multitude of applications supported by local ads could make communication more accessible to many. But for that vision to carry through, Google needs the support of the developer community and they cannot afford to draw lines of separation among them.
Apple’s second act
While Google continues parry questions on the delay of Android handsets, Apple has completed the second phase of its mobile act with near perfection. Folks were lining the streets outside Apple stores days before the release of the iPhone 3G. The new devices, faster and less costly than the previous version is also the first time that Apple will support third party applications via the App Store. A million plus sales and 10 million plus downloads via the App Store signify a great success. And all this should add to Android’s chagrin. But Google would be taking measures to hedge its bets and there is no doubt that its vision to dominate in mobile search is no way limited by Android.
Nokia’s bid for openness
And lastly the news that Symbian, the smart phone OS that currently leads in market share, is going to be made open once Nokia acquires full ownership may represent a direct jab at Android. There are several advantages that Nokia could gain here – a readily available developer base, a real market share – both of which are essential differentiators that Android lacks.
The Mobile Developer’s Quandary
Its great opportunity and great fragmentation out there. There are several developers who have taken to the Apple App Store since the model seems pretty sound and viable. Google Android does have several important issues that need to be addressed if the interest of the developer community is to be maintained. I was initially interested in working on Android but could not continue owing to inability to commit sufficient time. But considering that Google is not all that eager to roll out updates to the larger community, perhaps, it was not much of a loss after all.
Lastly, there are still more rumors that Google was after all working on a Google branded mobile device. Not much of a surprise considering what Apple has achieved in this area. Google would be looking to gain some market share in the mobile space, if not to be an outright leader. But perfectly blending hardware and software is a very esoteric art.