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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Do Androids dream of Electric Sheep...

Do Androids dream of Electric Sheep was the Title of Philip K. Dick's book which was the basis for the cultfilm Blade Runner. The plot, where Harrison Ford playing Android hunter Dackart, is trying to spot  Androids among people. Faxes from real. I do not know why I woke up with this thought and thinking of Google's play in the mobile phone operating system market. It this is serious effort or a fake one?

I am generally pleased to see that more players are moving into this space as competition stimulates innovation, which benefits the end users. Mobile phone operating systems are one the one hand extremly sophisticated and on the other hand very primitive. With primitive I means as they are such gigant SW efforts of hundreds of people they evolve slowly, looking like they are stuck in the past. Remember that Nokia makes 10000 permutations of their phones. See this interesting piece at Business Week.

Linux will change the game, in the way that it will replace the core part of the SW, and shift the innovation to a higher level. When it in the past took 4-5 years to build an mobile operating system it now could take much less, maybe 2 years or so. The effort is probably also reduced from several hundreds of people to maybe a hundred to make a phone, less if you do not want the differentiation. Again in that time one does not make a customisable platform only a phone. If one wants to sell it to lots of players it needs enless amount of customisation and I wonder is Google going to do that? Maybe they can hire some Androids to code these boring customisation features making them run in the 800+ mobile networks, all wanting to have differentiated handsets one way or another.

The big question for me is: who will control the user experience? It seems to me that the operators now get SW assets that will allow them to control it further, hence possible everyone looses, as they will promote their own device and  having even more control than when these SW assets were not controlled by them. Quoting the Open Handset Alliance Q&A"Why is an open platform good for mobile operators? The overall cost of handsets will be lower and mobile operators will have complete flexibility to customize and differentiate their product lines. Furthermore, they will see much more rapid innovation in handsets and in services." This is a dangerous thing for the end users, it gives more power to the operators. If the UI is controlled by Google, and they dictate the reference UI then things get interesting. They can do that, by controlling the tools and by controlling the licensing agreement under which this is open sourced.  If Qualcomm would take this asset, add it on top of their chipsets, add UI One, you suddenly can get the whole thing from Qualcomm, hmmm. pretty interesting.   

It will be interesting to see how the open source community reacts, one of the lessons from the MobileCamp London where the creators of the OpenMoko phone platform was present, was that Linux will enable increased fragmentation in the mobile application market. This is one place where Google can add some value, they can provide the reference and maybe have the momentum to see it prevail. But then it is the GPhone. My qestion is who will raise to become the champion of the open mobile UI, as that is the real next battle ground. Google just made that a battle of more players not less. In democracy a leader is still needed.

Another thing which is really interesting is monetisation. It is not free to have several hundred of SW engineers working on something. The Google guys are not dumb, once there is 'Google' software in thousands of phone models and millions of phones, it could in a magical way turn itself very Google friendly and 'whopsee' very Yahoo unfriendly, it could auto update with new Google apps, it could feed Google profile information, now polling at system level rather than from an app silo in Java or Symbian as present.

What Google gets is a client server architecture deployed, which is crucial when dealing with mobility, as good data coverage is never as good as good voice coverage. For example the phonebook needs to be native on the device or the sim card rather than in the sky. Yes, it also needs to be in the sky for auto updating etc.

So in the end I ask myself, can one trust an Android, atleast I need to consult my open source friends and some lawyers to help me read their TOS, before I resort to retina scans, like Dackard in Blade Runner...back to sleep, back to dreaming...

05:20 AM in Technology | Permalink


>Remember that Nokia makes 10000 permutations of their phones.

Christian, are you trying to say that Nokia no longer use designers and enginers to create next versions of their product line, but rather rely on chaos and genetic ? Interesting...

Posted by: Pavel at Nov 7, 2007 12:11:51 PM

Interesting article, I absolutely love the name and the tie in to Philip K. Dick . I think that the community building on an open platform will lead to much more diversity and innovation in the mobile market as we have seen in the desktop market with linux getting more popular with Ubuntu. Thats what I am staking the success of my blog on haha

Posted by: Alex Hortin at Nov 12, 2007 5:53:18 AM


Posted by: Tomota at Apr 10, 2008 10:38:30 AM

Technology has gone so far. Nokia was the first to have its cool innovation on such mobile phones. Talking about androids used by many to operate some task are somewhat not safe and cannot deploy the actions of human. They cannot give the assurance and safety brought by human services at all times.

Posted by: international call rates at Feb 16, 2011 11:40:00 AM

I usually play Linux games, and I am entertained by it. There are different apps now available on various mobile phones and probably many are getting in to download different versions.

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