Why the future of the smartphone OS may not be Android?

Andrew Rubin was a manufacturing engineer at Apple between 1989 and 1992 and later moved to Microsoft, started Danger and then finally developed the Android smartphone operating system between 2003 and 2005. Apple thinks this is a valid point in their cases against HTC and Android points and he must have gotten the inspiration then as they have stated in court filings. Whatever else the marketplace for the future smartphone OS is going to be it is sure going to be acrimonious and there will be blood letting. I think Symbian and then in parts Nokia as it stands now are some of the early victims. There is an opinion among the thought leaders like Gartner, Forrester, IDC that Android is going to be the mainstay of the future smartphone OS business. They maybe missing a critical point in that the OS at some levels is nothing but a rendition, a take off on the Apple iOS. It does not really do anything any better but by design does a few things like security all that much worse.  If the market is to be a Darwinian survival of the fittest game – then there are some very essential character flaws that Android can never hope to recover from.

For one it is much litigated against with both Android and original device makers like Samsung having several legal cases currently on at different parts of the world and there must be some kind of cost on that? From thence comes the next problem and that it is not really free and that at the end of the day thanks to all the litigation a developer needs to pay royalty to of all the people Microsoft. As a matter of fact it was recently reported that Android is a pretty large revenues stream for MS in the balance sheets. The irony as CNET says is enough to make your head explode and MS makes more money on Android than they do on their own smartphone OS!!!! This is not exactly going to get easier and then there is Dalvik and the Oracle suit, which has not been going particularly well for Google at the moment. To add to the mix we now have Motorola and that must be taking some getting used to. As long as Google just made the OS – there were enough original device makers (ODMs) like Samsung, HTC, LG and the rest to make devices around the OS as it was ostensibly free but once you put Motorola into the mix which Google bought – then why? At many levels they are now competitors aren’t they now? Google’s of course stated that Motrola will enjoy no advantage but documents leaked seem to indicate (as all corporate hypocrisy inevitable does) the exact opposite. An immediate result has been that both Samsung and HTC are looking at other options and with the shuttering of HP’s device strategy they have a Web OS that they can play with and yeah – no one forget Microsoft or RIM with QNX – the other two elephants in the room?

Today the reality is that Android is the largest OS out there for smartphones and tablets but will that edge always remain and can Google do something about it? Besides the environmental issues of patents and lawsuits and royalties – there are several technical issues too. For one there is the entire version fragmentation that ensures that there is no single user interface out there, or a single user experience. There is a 2.1 and there is a 1.6 and then there are the ice cream sandwich and then there is a tablet version and even that has two sub versions and then where the carrier companies in markets like the US control the OS on the system – it is a whole new story out there. At one point Google had to clamp down on the openness and all that once could do with the OS to ensure that there is a semblance of a system there. Most of the competition has only one version out there and the latest version effectively updates and relegates the older version to the dustbin. The incompatibility that the Android version issue creates when it comes to apps in their marketplace is something that has bothered several developers and will possibly continue to haunt them. The Android marketplace – their version of the App Store from Apple but with none of the controls or quality filters is one of the other problems with the OS. It has proved to be a very effective infection vector for a whole host of mobile malaware and attacks. Android is always going to be a security nightmare and there is really no way that they will ever get on top of that in any easy way. The issue is not just limited to the platform – developers report extreme amount of piracy which further will work to erode confidence.

So you basically have an OS that is being developed by a company that already has one another OS (Chrome) and it is getting beaten and sued, not making any direct money but making money for the competition directly and has several technical issues and the people who used to makes phones on them are now either making or buying or consorting with our license based OS and this company will keep developing that OS? Then there are the 3rd party developers – can they take this cost and can they keep developing given that this is not the most profitable platform to develop on as recent surveys seem to show?

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About Soumya
A technology enthusiast, forever enamored by all that it hath wrought and of course here is an attempt at making sense of it all and perhaps simplifying it!

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