Last Updated Sep 2, 2009 11:47 AM EDT
That's a tough environment for Google to expand significantly into the mobile operating system space, particularly in the face of the probable onslaught from a new Apple tablet expected this autumn. While several more handset makers, including Motorola, are expected to release new Android-based devices in the next few months, Apple is going to attract even more developers to its ecosystem, and even though Microsoft is unpopular with the hip set, the creaky vendor from Redmond is doing its best to attract developers â€" something it's always done fairly well. Google will also face increased competition from Nokia and Research in Motion, each of which is also building out app stores that will attract a significant number of mobile app developers.
*HTC's G1 is isn't the only handset on the U.S. market running Android any longer, but it may still be unfair so it may seem unfair to hang Android on the basis of the three or four handsets currently on the market a single piece of evidence. Richard Spence, a developer with Bluetrail, argues that "the time to judge Android is when there are a number of handsets out there, particularly the Sony." [The point here isn't how many handsets running Android are currently on the market, but whether the operating system will get significantly better with time.]
But many developers complain that Android runs slowly and has a fairly poor user interface, which is a serious disincentive for developers looking to hook users with a hot new app. Ruby developer Tom Insam noted that
the browser just isn't up to the standard of the iPhone's. The Mail app is awful. The web browser seems to sometimes open new windows, and sometimes reuse existing windows when following links.... [and] the on-screen keyboard is sluggish.William Volk, CEO of mobile app vendor Playscreen, said the Google Checkout experience for purchasing apps is "unacceptable to the vast majority of Android users."
Alex Kerr, founder of mobile app vendor Phone Thing Ltd., says Android is irrelevant until it's technically more mature and commercially more ubiquitous. It's
a potentially interesting prospect, but little else. Geeks are excited because it's from Google, it's new, and it's open. On paper the OS structure is certainly clever and technically attractive, but sadly the market reality of the holistic end user experience isn't bearing this out - yet.Despite this, Android enjoys a sort of cachet among the tech crowd, which Kerr attributes less to its actual attribute than to the antipathy many developers feel towards Windows Mobile, BlackBerry and Nokia's Symbian. "The whole thing stinks of religious dogma, as with the old PC/Mac/Linux wars...There's way too much emotional opinion floating around, resting on blind dogma," he posted on a professional mobile developer forum.
[Image source: samuraispy via Flickr]