Hey Internet. Sorry to disturb you, but it's been quite a while, hasn't it. Sorry I haven't written, but there's been a lot keeping me busy.
How about a recap by way of quick reviews of a few of the gadgets I've acquired since last we spoke?
HTC EVO: Pretty nice Android phone, but too darn big for my tastes. The 4.3-inch display made for a device that was just too cumbersome to use as a phone, but not quite large enough to be a tablet. If you have big pockets, it's a nice choice.
Samsung Galaxy S Captivate: really nice hardware, but it's a shame that Samsung screwed up the software so badly. Android 2.3 is just about out and Samsung still hasn't managed to release Android 2.2 for it yet. (It's a good thing some nice Samsung engineer leaked an early build of 2.2 about 3 months ago, or I'd be having serious 'behind-the-curve' withdrawals.) The 4.0-inch screen is a much nicer size than the HTC EVO's, making for a much more comfortable pocket phone, and easily my favorite of the various phone form factors I've used.
Sony Blu-ray GoogleTV box: really nice hardware, but it's a shame that Sony screwed up the software so badly. The Blu-ray player application feels like it was made by a completely different team than the rest of the system, which makes sense, since Google didn't make that part. The one area that this device shines, incidentally, is actually the one everyone made fun of when it was first released: the remote control. People laughed, but I can honestly say it's the single greates remote control I've ever used. I really miss it after returning the whole package to the Sony store. If you don't care about Blu-ray, I say save $100 and get the Logitech.
Logitech GoogleTV box: hardware's cheaper than the Sony, but some of the software is better. The built in Harmony universal remote system is really slick, and being $100 cheaper than the sony is a nice perk. The bundled Bluetooth keyboard is way too big to make for a comfortable control device, but as we've been using a vintage SGI Indy keyboard on our various computer-television-hybrid devices for a number of years (have you ever seen then length of the cord on those SGI Indy keyboards?? Not sure why SGI thought they needed that long of a cord, but I for one am glad they made that decision.) it is a step up. GoogleTV has some pretty neat potential, but it's a real shame Google hasn't released the SDK for it yet, or, at the very least, just allowed access to the existing wealth of Android apps in the Android Market. Apps will be where the platform shines, so it seems kind of crazy that they're trying to sell them prior to that. I guess it has Twitter, so what more could people really want, right? Also, it's a shame all the TV networks have blocked the damn thing.
Samsung Galaxy Tab: really nice hardware, but it's a shame that US carriers have the phone functionality disabled. (The one I've been using is unlocked and has full phone functionality, which is awesome. However, being a prototype, it's also got a really rickety housing that feels very fragile.) Darn fine device; great form factor. Goes great in my cargo pants, and after using it for a few minutes, using an iPad now feels like driving a boat. I'm not, however, completely sold on Android as a tablet OS just yet. This hasn't stopped me from using it all the damn time, I'm suspect that a web-based platform might make for a better experience.
ChromeOS: nice hardware but -- wait. I haven't actually seen hardware yet. But I've been running ChromeOS on one of my netbooks for a few months and really, really like it. I tend to use web-based services unless I absolutely have to use a native application, so a web-based OS is a natural fit for me. Combine that with yesterday's Chrome Webstore launch, and it's now an attractive platform for people who are far, far less nerdy than me. If you're having trouble imagining a web-based OS, take a look at the Chrome Webstore and install a few apps. Then imagine your computer is faster with longer battery life and not encumbered by nonsense like virus checkers and printer drivers; now you can start to imagine what ChromeOS is like.
Apple 13" Macbook Pro: really nice hardware, but it's a shame Apple screwed up the software. OS bitching aside, the Macbook Pro is easily the finest piece of computer hardware I've ever owned, and nearly a year of living with Windows 7 made making the switch to OSX far less painful than it would have been going straight from Linux. I'm not completely sold on OSX, but for my usage, it's pretty shocking how much more productive I am than I was on Windows. Having a real UNIX system under all that shiny bounciness is something I didn't realize I missed until I had it back. I think I may write a post about my (most recent) Mac switch instead of going into detail here, as this quick little post has gotten kind of out of hand.
Hopefully it won't be several months before we speak again. Don't be a stranger.
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.