Before March 2010, I do not really understand nor even bother about the Android platform. To me then , it was just another smartphone platform emerging out from the bowels of Google attempting to provide an alternative to the Symbians, Apple iPhones, RIM Blackberry and Windows Mobile. Without even bother to further research, I had already declared a death sentence to this new ” boy on the block”. It was also possibly due to the obsession I had then tinkering the roms of both Blackberry and Windows Mobile. Work pressure then and frequent travels on my job had also limited my time to explore anything new and unknown.
It was only in March 2010 I bought my first Android phone, the Google Nexus One. The purchase was make after I started reading about Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt boast that Google is now ready to dethrone iPhone in the years ahead. I followup my research by joining Android forums on the internet , asking stupid questions, challenging users opinions and participating in their discussions. Since my first purchase, I’d never look back and I am positive that Android will rule one day, not this year, possibly by 2012 to be the number one smartphone platform in the world.
The following Newsweek article by Daniel Lyons summarizes very well the growth and development of the Android platform. If you are a new or even a experienced Androider this article is a good read to appreciate better the growth and potential of Android.
Some excerpts from the article :
How a tiny piece of software created by a few Google engineers is ushering in the mobile revolution and reshaping the fortunes of the world’s biggest tech companies.
Nobody ever imagined how quickly the Android mobile-phone platform would take off – not even Andy Rubin, the Silicon Valley engineer who created it. Five years ago Rubin was leading a startup that had just been acquired by Google and was trying to develop software that could power a smart phone. Two years ago the first Android phone hit the market and, frankly, it was a bit of a dud. But the software kept getting better, and top handset makers like HTC, Motorola, and Samsung jumped on board, rolling out dozens of Android-based devices.
What began as a trickle now has turned into a tidal wave. In August Google announced it was activating 200,000 Android phones each day. On at least one day since then, that number surged to more than 250,000, Rubin says. Android now has leapt past Apple to become the biggest smart-phone platform in the United States, the third-biggest worldwide, and by far the fastest growing.
The software was written by a small team of engineers tucked away in a nondescript building on the Google campus in Mountain View, Calif. While it contains 11 million lines of code, the whole program takes up only 200 megabytes of space, about as much as 40 MP3 songs. Yet despite its tiny size, Android is changing the mobile industry in profound ways, shifting the balance of power from Europe and Asia, the previous leaders, to Silicon Valley and reshaping the fortunes of the world’s biggest tech companies.
Android has also transformed Google and its longtime ally Apple into fierce rivals. Until recently, Apple seemed destined to rule the mobile Internet, thanks to the popularity of the iPhone, which was introduced in 2007 and quickly began grabbing market share. But Android has enabled handset makers like Motorola and Samsung to develop credible rivals to the iPhone. This year, as those companies have gained traction, Apple’s momentum has stalled.
Most important, every one of those smart phones will be constantly connected to the Internet. If you own a smart phone, you know how extraordinary that linkage can be. Scott Adams, the author and creator of the comic strip Dilbert, last year argued in an essay that smart phones represent a kind of “exobrain” that augments our regular brain, giving us the ability to store and retrieve mountains of information and to perform tasks like navigating unfamiliar terrain.
The top companies in desktop computing–Apple, Google, and Microsoft–must shift their focus to mobile devices to remain competitive. But that pits them against traditional phone makers like Nokia and Research in Motion. Nokia, which has developed its own smart-phone software called Symbian, remains the industry gorilla. There are already 1.3 billion Nokia phones in use, and 200 million of them are smart phones.
But Google has a few advantages of its own. Instead of trying to modernize an older system originally created for voice-centric phones, Rubin and his engineers started with a clean slate, developing a modern mobile operating system for a new kind of device–a small computer that happens to make phone calls. Unlike older operating systems, Android was created to be good at rendering Web pages and to run many applications at the same time.
Google also counts the very nature of Android as a strength. The company does not make money from Android directly. It gives the software away to hardware partners. Google reckons that Android gets more people onto the Internet, where Google can show them ads. Google CEO Eric Schmidt says Android-based phones already generate enough new advertising revenue to cover the cost of the software’s development. Schmidt envisions a day when there are 1 billion Android phones in the world and notes that if Google could get just $10 from each user per year, it would be a $10 billion business. That’s real money even for Google, whose revenues this year will be $21 billion.
In addition to making Android available for free, Google also lets phone makers change the code and customize it so that an Android phone made by, say, Samsung has a different user interface than an Android phone from Motorola. Rubin believes this open-source model gives Google an advantage over rivals selling closed systems, like Apple, which also operates its own online stores.
The Android model is messier, but by putting Android into so many hands at so many companies, Rubin believes he has created an accelerated form of evolution, where the species diversifies and improves at hyperspeed. The struggle between Google and Apple today looks a lot like the battle between Apple and Microsoft in the PC era. Because Microsoft licensed its software to all of the world’s computer makers, it eventually controlled 90 percent of the market. “The industry is repeating itself,” Rubin says.
One of the top priorities right now is to improve the user interface to catch up with the iPhone. A bigger challenge is making sure that the same open-source model that has led to Android’s rapid growth does not also become its undoing. If phone makers do too much tinkering and customization, Android could splinter into many different versions, none of them completely compatible with the others. Such fragmentation has been the Achilles’ heel of every open-source project. To counter it, Rubin and his team have created a compatibility test suite, a list of things a phone must have in order to carry the Android brand and to run Google applications like Google Maps. Rubin believes this will induce phone makers to keep all Android phones fundamentally compatible.
Android has become a serious threat. Right now Rubin’s engineers are putting the finishing touches on the next version of Android, code-named Gingerbread, which is scheduled to ship before the end of this year. They’re also developing a version of Android called Honeycomb, which is designed to run on tablet computers and will follow on the heels of Gingerbread.