I wrote some time ago very favorably about future of Android and Android-related job market. Unfortunately, recent events have forced me to re-consider my opinion. I mean Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility.
In short, I think this is a big mistake on Google’s side which is very damaging for Android in a long run and, frankly I’m no longer confident in its future. Here is why.
There were 3 main strengths that made Android a dominating force of mobile OS market:
1. Google was a partner to hardware (phone) vendors
2. Android provided cross-platform application layer. Due to this the same application binaries could run on any Android phone notwithstanding underlying hardware
3. Android is free.
Having all those 3 strengths in place Android inhibited emergence of a potential competitor. Why phone vendors would consider another OS even if it had all 3 strengths given that they already have Android?
Until now Google followed Microsoft model: they were providing OS which was used by many hardware (phone) vendors. Google and hardware vendors were partners. After Motorola acquisition they are competitors. Now hardware vendors could not be so certain about using Android. What if at some point Google creates a new version of Android and releases it through Motorola without providing access to it for other hardware vendors. What may prevent them from playing such trick? Remember, for example, that Google didn’t publish Android 3 source? Naturally, as a result of the acquisition other hardware vendors will start hedging their bets by increasing use of other OS, e.g. Windows Mobile. At least Microsoft has proven that it has no intention competing on hardware.
So, strength #1 is no longer there after Motorola Mobility acquisition.
Without it there will be many vendors willing and capable to offer a mobile OS with those 3 strengths.
For example, Microsoft. It (almost) never competes with hardware vendors as I mentioned. Given its financial resources it can easily make new versions of Windows Mobile free or almost free. And with its C# and CLI experience it is absolutely capable of building a cross-platform application layer.
Another contender could be a combination of Intel/Nokia MeeGo and Java cross-platform application layer from Oracle. And those companies have enough money to make their OS free.
Maybe Google believes that Android will be still viable due to its excellent quality? Sorry, but this is not so obvious.
Some time ago I wrote a post where I described my software architect opinion on Android. Internal quality of Android code and code design is far from perfect.
Also, Android bug backlog is growing and serious issues are not addressed for long time.
Take a look at this bug as an example. Sometimes when you send SMS using Android phone to person A it is somehow sent to person B. Pretty serious, right? You would not like this happening to you, probably, would you?
The issue was first reported in June 2010 (more than a year ago). There is 1800+ comments from people having the problem. And this is how the story ends:
Comment 1817 by ksb…@gmail.com, Jun 19, 2011
Instead of worrying about “bots” or whatever and seeming to minimize this problem, you should worry about how your ligitimate customers feel about this issue!
I just sent a text to one girlfriend that my HTC Evo shows was actually sent to her. BUT, the problem is that my girl in Mexico texted me and asked why I sent her a text in English about going to Las Vegas!! That’s completely MESSED UP guys!
I switched to this from my Iphone cause the Iphone home key wouldn’t work, but this is worse! Fix this or I’ll definitely be going back. Apple never screwed up my personal life!!!
Comment 1818 by bweb…@dslextreme.com, Jun 22, 2011
This problem happened to me at the worst of all possible times with the most sensitive of all txt msgs. Becasue of this, my marriage is now in turmoil. Screw Google! I’m going to trash my new Galaxy S and get a Windows 7 phone. I’m talking to a lawyer about being heavily compensated for damages. Never, ever, ever buy a Google phone…that’s the word that I’m going to spread.
Comment 1819 by chicmagn…@gmail.com, Jun 22, 2011
FIX THIS! I just got a Nexus S and the same thing happened to me… I am SOOOOO lucky I didn’t call the person it went to by accident names… This is an AWFUL bug!
Comment 1820 by firstname.lastname@example.org, Jun 23, 2011
I’m going to block further comments on this issue because it is suspected of placing excessive load on one part of our server-side software for Google Project Hosting.
Comment 1821 by email@example.com, Jun 28, 2011
Corrected permissions to just block additional comments because of server load.
Instead of fixing the issue Google folks just decided to block users complaining since their complains overload Android bug tracking system.
[Update Aug 24, 2011] It seems that closing channels for feedback about Android problems becomes Google policy.
Overall, Android OS shows all signs of underfunded technology project. Apparently Google just don’t allocate enough money to hire enough properly qualified developers to deliver code of proper quality and to fix the known bugs. Otherwise I can’t explain the issues I am observing.
And having this Google decided to spend $12B on buying Motorola instead of investing enough in Android OS. Nice move, Mr Page
By entering hardware production Google Android moves from partnership with phone vendors to competition with them.
In seems Google adopts Apple business model. It is worth reminding that very few companies were successful in a long run trying to produce both hardware and software. Apple is rather an exception and it takes Steve Jobs genius to pull this through (I have big doubts that Apple will be as successful as it is now without Steve).
Overall, I think this Google move will cause re-structuring of mobile OS market and change the trends we had observed until now. Hardware vendors will start looking for alternatives to Android. There may be several options:
- Broader adoption of Windows Mobile
- Forking of Android source so that to create another OS based on Android but evolving independently (something like CentOS guys did with RedHat code)
- Support for some alternative mobile OS like MeeGo modified to become cross-platform one like Android
In short, mobile market enters a period of uncertainty and if you plan to build you career on Android, watch very attentively what is going on mobile market.
[Update from Sep 20, 2011. Things started evolving exactly as I predicted in this post. Look here for an example]