Google has finalized their $12.5 billion merger with Motorola, and if Google is smart, they will pull their licensing of the Android operating system and do an Apple. They will release Android 5.0 on a Google-owned and Google-manufactured device like Apple does with the iPhone.
Simplicity. Right now, Android developers have to write software that works on at least 4 versions of Android that span over 300 devices with different specs – from screen-size to processing capability to ports and drives. The Android development world is awful. As a result, many users have wildly varied experiences. My LG Enlighten is a low-end Android phone, barely meeting the minimum requirements for running Android 2.3 Gingerbread, but there is also Android 2.2 Froyo, Android 3.0 Honeycomb, Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, as well as Nook and Kindle Fire branch OS’s which are based on Android’s kernel but wildly different from the standard releases.
For a developer like Dropbox, writing for all these variants is a pain. It isn’t quite as hard as trying to write a universal app of Mac OS X 10.5-10.7 as my friends at Logos Bible Software are discovering, but it is still a pain of the royal type.
If Google is smart, they will develop a brand new version of Android that runs only on their own device. Let people keep their older devices, but phase out support like Apple did with iOS 3 and iOS 4. Invest heavily in designing an experience rather than just a clunky and sometimes unreliable OS.
You might be surprised to hear me say this, but I think Android has the makings of a far better OS than iOS. Because it is not a scaled down version of a desktop OS but is instead it’s own creature, Android can do things iOS can’t. It integrates with Google’s other services so well that I actually considered getting an Android tablet until I discovered that Google does not have a mobile version of their Documents service (now called Drive).
If Google is smart, they develop Android 5.0 or Android 6.0 to run exclusively on a small group of devices – a compact phone, a larger phone, two tablet sizes (7″ and 9.5″) and at least two docking systems like what they tried to do with the Atrix. The Atrix was actually an ingenious idea, and if Google can monopolize on it, they could have tremendous potential.Design the OS so that your phone or tablet has limited capacity to save battery life, but when you’re home and you plug it into the shell, the capacity doubles or triples. Resource swapping like that reduces the need for multiple devices, but it has to work right EVERY TIME. You have to be able to get a day and a half out of your phone AND have desktop capacity when it is plugged into the larger unit.
Think about it. One unit that is both the iPhone and the Macbook or iMac. Forget the flawed Chromebook idea. Google needs to find a way to have one device that provides two experiences – the portable and the desktop. That is the only way to beat Apple at their own game.
But it has to work. Android phones would be fantastic if they would just do the stuff we want them to do. I paid $700 for my iPad. I would never pay that for an Android tablet. I got my Android phone for free – and that’s about what I’d pay for this multi-device mishmash that Android is right now.
If Google can do it and do it before Apple and Microsoft roll out their ideas for integration (and what are Apple’s OS X 10.8 and Microsoft’s Windows 8 but exactly that?), then Google has all the backend resources and apps to really make it work. But they have to do it right.
Here’s to the potential of Google and Motorola’s merger, which somehow I think they are going to squander.
That’s my techno two-bits for today anyway.