Monday, October 12, 2009

The trouble with Android, cont’d

See, freedom and openness are great, except when they’re not. They’re great when you’re talking about politics, and about people being able to do whatever they want as long as they don’t harm other people. But on consumer electronics? Not so much. Which brings me to Android.

I’ve been predicting this along, and now it’s happening, and what’s more, people are starting to notice. Even passionate Google/Android fanboy Michael Arrington has been forced to admit that Android is facing a really profound problem, ie not a problem related to execution, which could be fixed by, oh, I don’t know, shooting a couple of engineers in front of the others so you could scare them into doing better work. No, the problem with Android is related to the very nature of the project itself. The problem is, Android is an open-source program. Arrington seems just now to realize that this means people can fork the code, and he and others are praying that this won’t happen:

Android, an open source operating system, must avoid the fate of J2ME, an open source mobile applications platform. Open source is great, until everyone splinters off into their own world. That’s what happened to J2ME, and a number of frustrated Android developers are now saying that there is a risk Android will follow the same path.

Um, hello? Folks, the whole point of doing open-source code is to let it fork. The idea is to accelerate evolution by encouraging weird mutations. Creating an open source program and hoping it won’t fork is like decorating your house with a zillion Christmas lights and a forty-foot inflatable Santa and hoping nobody stops to look at it.

Even if Android doesn’t fork into a zillion little weird programs that go scuttering off in all directions like so many beads of mercury, well, there’s another issue, and again, it’s a profound one, related to the very essence of Android — namely, that Android is just the OS, and every handset that it runs on is different. So if you’re an app developer, what do you write for? See, on the PC, this wasn’t an issue, because the hardware itself was pretty much standardized, so you could write for, say, Linux, and not worry about the hardware. Not so with Android. As Arrington points out:

New Android devices are being announced and shipped in bunches. HTC, Samsung, Dell, Verizon and others have phones on the way. Each has different hardware, and different software, than the others. We’ve spoken with a number of high profile Android application developers. All of them, without exception, have told me they are extremely frustrated with Android right now. For the iPhone, they build once and maintain the code base. On Android, they built once for v.1.5, but are getting far less installs than the iPhone.

Italics mine — because that’s the heart of the matter. With us, on the iPhone, you build once and sell to millions of identical handsets. Nice, right? See, sometimes there’s a method to our control-freak madness.

And now they’re faced with a landslide of new handsets, some running v.1.6 and some courageous souls even running android v.2.0. All those manufacturers/carriers are racing to release their phones by the 2009 holiday season, and want to ensure the hot applications will work on their phones. And here’s the problem – in almost every case, we hear, there are bugs and more serious problems with the apps. There are whispers of backwards and forwards compatibility issues as well, making the problem even worse.

Hmmm. Bugs? Compatibility problems? In a Google product? Hard to imagine. I mean, aren’t they like the smartest people on earth or something?

More than one developer has told us that this isn’t just a matter of debugging their existing application to ensure that it works on the various handsets. They say they’re going to have to build and maintain separate code for various Android devices. Some devices seem to have left out key libraries that are forcing significant recoding efforts, for example. With others, it’s more of a mystery.

It’s not a mystery. Hardware makers are a) evil; and b) stupid. They don’t want apps written for their device to run on other devices. They want you locked in. Duh.

Imagine if Windows developers had to build different versions of their applications for different PC manufacturers. Or even different versions for various models by a single manufacturer.

Wow, yeah. Imagine that.

That’s what some Android developers are saying they are facing now.

Jeez, if only someone had warned them about this, right? Shucks. Maybe they just should focus on the iPhone instead.

Friends, let me say this again. Android is a half-baked, unfinished clusterfuck. I’ve been at this a long time and I can tell you the only way to make a great consumer device is to lock the fucking thing down. Tight. Otherwise you’re “playing tennis without a net,” as Robert Lowell once said. Or was it Jerry Garcia. I get them mixed up.


Friday, October 9, 2009

Nerd fight!

Is there anything more fun than watching paranoid fanboy bloggers go nuts over some random market research report? And then having the analysts defend themselves? Read on to learn about the Dilger-v-Gartner dorkmatch.

It all starts when some analyst at Gartner says Android will be bigger than iPhone by 2012. This of course sends Daniel Eran Dilger, one of our most loyal fanboy bloggers, into an epileptic fit. He starts foaming at the mouth and attacks Gartner in a 14,000-word piece, calling them shills who have “dutifully suckled the teat of Bill Gates throughout a series of sour spells.”

The thing I love about DED is that a) he’s such a good writer; and b) he thinks this shit through and sees behind all the smokescreens.

For example, maybe you’re wondering why Microsoft would pay Gartner to say nice things about Android? Well, see, you’re not thinking this through.

For one thing, Gartner isn’t pro-Android. They’re anti-Apple. This whole fucking thing is about Apple. Get it? It has nothing to do with Android, or Microsoft, or market research.

It’s an attack on Apple! The whole fucking world is out to get Apple, man!

Why does Gartner hate us? Simple. Because we don’t pay them.

In fact Gartner has a long history of attacking Apple, except when they don’t, in which case Roughly Drafted will cite their numbers gladly and present them as God’s truth.

But anyway. By promoting Android, Gartner is really attacking Apple. On Microsoft’s behalf. Or at Microsoft’s behest.

Plus, there’s an even more subtle game being played here:

Does that mean Gartner is now backing Android just to give itself an appearance of objectivity?

DED doesn’t answer, and he doesn’t have to. We know the answer: a resounding yes! Gartner is saying nice things about Android because it is pretending to be objective.

That way, the next time they say something nice about Microsoft, or something bad about Apple — did I mention that they totally fucking hate Apple? — it will seem a tiny bit more believable.

Yes, they’re playing a deep, deep game over there at Gartner. Thank God we have journalists like DED who can unravel these Gordian knots of double-dealing.

But the whole thing goes even deeper: The truth is, Gartner knows that Windows Mobile is dying, and if that happens, Gartner won’t be getting any more Microsoft money.

In anticipation of this, they’re buttering up Google and its hardware partners:

If WiMo does indeed die next year, that means Gartner’s shills will need new sellout partners. Android is the most likely to support Gartner, not because Google is known to shill, but because the platform represents hardware makers that might be.

Just to be even more clever, Gartner doesn’t actually say that Windows Mobile is about to die next year. In fact, they say the opposite. They say Windows Mobile will be just a hair behind iPhone in 2012, with 12.8% share versus 13.7% share for iPhone.

Oh, you dastardly market research fiends! Believing one thing, and saying the exact opposite.

For what it’s worth, a Gartner analyst just came out and defended his honor and the honor of Gartner by saying that, um, he’s never been bought off or influenced by a tech company.

Yeah right. Like anyone is gonna believe that.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

So here is the issue with Android

Check out the photo at right, and note that each guy is holding a different phone. Choice is great, right? Well, let’s examine that a bit.

Gizmodo runs a closeup of that shot of Eric, and concludes that the phones in question are the HTC Hero and the Motorola Sholes.

Both wonderful phones — not really, but for the sake of argument, let’s say they’re both the most amazing pieces of hardware ever invented, way better than the iPhone, purely on a hardware basis.

Now imagine you’re an app developer. Maybe you’ve got a game. Writing for Android means you do one version for this phone:

and another version for this one:

As you may notice, they’re not very alike. And let’s imagine there are loads more of these Android phone models, all slightly (or very) different from one another. Like this new vaporphone that Dell is working on. And you, lucky Android developer, have the pleasure of trying to guess which models are going to sell enough units to make it worth your while to port your application to them.

People gripe about Apple being control freaks, but please try to remember, there’s a method to our anal-retentive madness.


Monday, March 17, 2008

Google talking smack about iPhone. Translation: They’re scared shitless


See this clip for an example but the story has been spreading all over the place about some mid-level dork at Google saying Android is going to kick the shit out of iPhone and have much wider adoption and already can do things today that you can’t do with iPhone. Oh really? Let me point out some things you can do with iPhone today that you can’t do with Android — like, um, I don’t know. Make a phone call. Or even hold it in your hand. See, that’s because iPhone is an actual product that exists in the three-dimensional world, and not just a bunch of specs and press releases.

To all of the good folks who have sent me various links to this ridiculous Google smack talk, let me first say thank you. And namaste. I honor the place where your concern and my profit margins become one. But be assured that you can relax, because there’s nothing to worry about. Little rule of thumb in the Valley is that when a company starts talking smack about the other guy, it’s a sure sign that they know they’re fucked.

To all my friends at Google, look — don’t worry. If Android doesn’t work out you’ve still got all those other new initiatives to fall back on. Like the energy thing. And Google Transit. And Google Ride Finder. And the robots on the moon prize. One of those is bound to take off in a huge way. Okay. Meeting over. Back to the white boards, kids! See you at the smoothie bar!