I’ve said on many occasions before that while I often find Google’s products underwhelming, I really do admire their ambition. What Project Glass amounts to is the next natural step in creating a cloud of data around the physical world.
Google released Android 4.0 in October. Samsung released the global variant of Galaxy Nexus with Android 4.0 on board in November, followed by the U.S. Verizon version in December. Other OEMs didn’t gain access to the Ice Cream Sandwich source code until November, about a month after Samsung got its hands on it.
Samsung has had the source code to Ice Cream Sandwich for five months. So far, it has not released a single ICS upgrade for its tablets, and has continued to release products with older versions of Android.
With “partners” like that, no wonder Google ended up buying Motorola.
Harry McCracken takes a look at the New iPad:
“Even a year after its release, the iPad 2 is superior overall to any of its Android competition, including some contenders that sell for more.”
I’d love for there to be some serious competition for the iPad. But at the moment, it’s just not there. And the gap is getting wider, not narrower.
Speaking to Computerworld, Hiroshi Lockheimer, vice president of engineering for mobile at Google, suggested Android 5.0 will launch in the fall. He stated “In general, the Android release cadence is one major release a year with some maintenance releases that are substantial still.”
Since its launch, Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) has got just one percent of the overall Android market. It’s currently shipping on a handful of phones, with a few tablets also announced. Few existing phones or tablets have got upgrades, beyond the “Pure Google” Nexus devices (and if you have the Nexus One, you’re out of luck).
Andy Rubin on the “firewall” between Motorola and Google.
Rubin said he was “painfully aware” of concerns, but stressed that Google has “literally built a firewall” between the Android team and Motorola. “I don’t even know anything about their products, I haven’t seen anything,” he said.
Given that Motorola needed Google’s explicit permission to launch its patent attack on Apple, that’s some leaky firewall, Andy.
Andy Rubin of Google on the issues facing Android tablets:
Of course, one of Android’s biggest challenges in the tablet market is the lack of high-quality apps designed for the larger screen, but Rubin was somewhat dismissive of those concerns. “Android’s unique in that it’s a single platform that spans device types,” including tablets and TVs, Rubin told me. “Fundamentally you shouldn’t have to have a third-party developer build his app twice.” Pushed about the different interface requirements for tablet apps versus phone apps, Rubin admitted that “there has to be an education process and developers have to do the work” of making their apps tablet-aware on Android. “They’re already doing that work for other platforms.
I’m not sure if Rubin is bluffing, and just trying to gloss over one of the biggest weaknesses in the Android tablet eco-system (the lack of proper tablet-dedicated apps), or he’s simply blind to the problem. I suspect that it has to be the former, because to assume the latter would mean Rubin is dumb, and that’s something I’m pretty sure he’s not.
Of course, the other problem Android faces related to tablet apps is that even when a developer puts the effort into creating a tablet-optimised interface, there’s a plethora of size screens to deal with, and what works well on a 10.1 inch screen won’t work on an 8.9in. And, as long as Android vendors like Samsung keep adopting the “throw enough stuff at the wall and see what sticks” approach to creating hardware, developers are going to have a nasty moving target for their interface designs.
Chrome for Android’s been updated: full details available here. There’s a couple of nice features introduced (including the ability to use Android’s Beam feature on NFC-equipped devices to send URLs) but otherwise this is mostly a bug-fix release.
I’ve been using Chrome for Android since its release on my Galaxy Tab, and it’s a massive improvement over the stock Android browser. I would say that if you have an Android device, you should upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich just to get it – but unfortunately, most Android device manufacturers haven’t released ICS, and some of them just won’t.
Nick Bilton of the NYT on Google to Sell Heads-Up Display Glasses by Year’s End – NYTimes.com:
Everyone I spoke with who was familiar with the project repeatedly said that Google was not thinking about potential business models with the new glasses. Instead, they said, Google sees the project as an experiment that anyone will be able to join. If consumers take to the glasses when they are released later this year, then Google will explore possible revenue streams.
If they’re not thinking of the revenue streams, they must be extremely dense. This is the advertising industry’s wet dream: a billboard on every building, an offer from every restaurant you walk past – all direct into your eyes. This is the ultimate advertising channel, and advertisers will pay massive amounts of money to get right into it.
One of the most often-repeated statements about the competition between iOS and Android in mobile phones is that Android is bound to win because it’s following the same model as Windows did in “winning” the PC market. An operating system, licensed to all-comers, with a range of hardware makers all competing should (the theory goes) drive down costs and increase innovation, just as happened in the PC market.
There’s only one problem: The way the Android ecosystem works is nothing like the Windows market.
In the PC market, Dell didn’t get to build its own customised version of Windows, then make its customers wait to get an update – if it supplied one at all.
When a new version of Windows came out, you didn’t have to rely on Dell to get it – you just bought it, direct from Microsoft. You might have to download some drivers, if they weren’t included (for generic PCs, they often were). But that was often from the maker of the particular affected components, not Dell.
In the Android world, if you have (say) an HTC phone you can’t get an update from Google. You have to wait for HTC to provide it – and they have little incentive to create it in a timely manner. Neither do they have the resources: they’re operating on slimmer margins than Google, and don’t have the software chops. They didn’t make Android, they just tinkered with it. And working out what breaks their tinkering in a stock Android update isn’t always trivial.
What Google has created is in danger of ending up far more like the world of Linux: disparate, fractured “distributions” which are semi-compatible as long as a volunteer geek has taken the time and trouble to port, test and package whatever software you want.
It’s not too late to change this, but Google has to take more responsibility if it wants Android to be a long-term success.
Sundar Pichai, speaking to Cnet:
Third, there have been some questions about Flash [Adobe Systems' browser plug-in]. Following their road map, they clearly said they’ll not support Flash for mobile in the future. They’re investing a lot in HTML5. I don’t expect that to be a major issue, but we will address full-screen and the ability to see desktop versions [of Web sites]. And we’ll definitely bring it to many countries.
Translation: Forget it. Flash for Mobile is dead.