I pretty frequently monitor what people are saying about Android on Twitter, and something I've seen recently is people lamenting the imminent death of Android now that Google's apparently shifted their interest over to a newer, shinier platform that might directly take on the behemoths in more oft-used hardware platforms, namely 'netbooks.' I've got a few thoughts.
1) Android is not under any threat of extinction as a result of this. One of the common things people are saying is variations on the theme of "Android hasn't had a chance to become successful, and now they're replacing it." That's just silly.
Android is, by practically every metric, a rousing success for the little time that it's been on the market. Worldwide, there's like 3 different phones available running it, most available for fewer than 3 months to date. The oldest Android phone is like 6 months old. Already a variety of carriers have committed to 18 different Android devices on the market before the end of 2009.
Has there EVER been a year that 18 different handsets have been released running Blackberry, Windows Mobile, MacOSX, or ANY other 'smartphone' operating system? Even if you combine all those operating systems together?
The relative clunkiness of HTC's first Android phone (the HTC Dream, which T-Mobile sells in the US as the 'G1') hasn't stopped it from being amazingly successful, outselling any other T-Mobile device. (I know, faint praise...) The HTC Magic (or T-Mobile 'myTouch 3G') is poised to more directly compete with the likes of iPhone in form-factor, sexiness and speed, and it comes out in like a month. It's already been successful on other carriers outside the US. Also, HTC's been making waves with it's new 'Hero' device, featuring a significantly sexier new 'Sense' UI [youtube] atop Android, and Sony Ericsson just released a peek at their new 'Rachel' UI [youtube], also running atop Android. Both of these UIs are eliciting squees of praise on Twitter, many people declaring that they'll ditch their iPhone for them in a second. (Check out those linked videos, maybe you'll see why.)
The Android world is just beginning to heat up, but it's already pretty hard to say that it's not a success, and that there aren't people dying to get their hands on devices.
The preponderance of dedicated apps to read the content from popular sites like Digg, Reddit, MetaFilter, etc., in both Android and iPhone's application stores, is testament to this. It's simply faster to pull down a limited feed containing only the data and render it using a native applicaton than to try to let a web browser display the whole page. Even iPhone specific pages are often slower and more cumbersome to use than a native iPhone application dedicated to the same purpose. That's just the way things are now.
3) In even the best case scenario, adoption of ChromeOS is going to be extremely slow, at least to start. I mean, how many people do you know that have even installed Google's Chrome Browser, let alone an entire new operating system? I just don't see the average Google user -- fanboy or not -- completely switching to a OS that only runs all the web apps they're already happily using on Windows. It's just not going to happen.
4) Where ChromeOS stands to make waves, however, is preloaded on hardware. Low-cost netbooks and laptops that are already installed, already configured, without having to include the cost of a windows license, or worry about viruses or any nonsense like that will benefit greatly from having Google's name attached.
There's been much talk of netbooks pre-loaded with Android, but at the current state of things, that's just not really feasable. Most of the Android applications in existence are designed for use on small, touchscreen devices without keyboards. The web browser is a RELATIVELY capable browser for a MOBILE browser, but you're not going to want to run Google Docs in it.
My netbook currently runs Linux, I'm using Chrome right now, and I do all my work in Google web apps. It works fantastically well. Except for one little thing:
5) The Linux version of the Chrome browser is a LONG-ways from ready for general use. It's very fast, does many things very well, but can't do most of the things you'd expect from a browser. You know, like bookmarks, printing, stuff like that. Looking at the state of things now, there's simply no way they're going to parlay the Linux version of Chrome into a full fledged operating system any time soon, let alone tackling the other things people are going to want to do, be it printing, scanning, etc.
Android is a full-fledged operating system RIGHT NOW, and there will likely be 20+ devices -- not even limited to phones -- on the market by the time ChromeOS even begins to be seen by the public. So don't go abandoning your Android development any time soon; there will be plenty of need for your apps for a long while to come.
The author lives in Vancouver, Washington, USA with his girlfriend and a menagerie of cats, rats, fish, birds, guinea pigs and robots.
Among other inanities, he strives to use investigative techniques to work young starlet breasts into every aspect of rational discourse -- focusing on the discourse, thus making it not perverted. Also, has recently begun a career as "Internet hairstylist."
He can be contacted via email and Jabber IM at 'email@example.com'. He likes to be contacted.
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