T-Mobile's G1 smartphone may not have been the iPhone killer some were expecting, but there's no doubt Google's open-source Android platform is here to stay. So what does the future hold for Android?
According to Strategy Analytics, global Android smartphone shipments will grow a staggering 900 percent in 2009, driven by widespread vendor and developer support. Coming in a distant second (in terms of growth), Apple iPhone OS will see a 79 percent growth rate in the same time period.
"The Android mobile operating system from Google gained early traction in the US in the second half of 2008 and it is gradually spreading its presence into Europe and Asia during 2009," said Tom Kang, senior analyst at Strategy Analytics. "Android is expanding from a low base and it is consequently outgrowing the iPhone OS from Apple, which we estimate will grow at a relatively lower 79% annually in 2009."
Thanks to its low-cost licensing model, mostly open-source structure, and support for cloud services, Android has the potential to be a major force in the smartphone market by the end of the year.
Acer president and CEO Gianfranco Lanci acknowledged yesterday all the attention Google's open-source Android platform has been receiving and assured investors that his company has taken notice, too.
"We are testing Android on a lot of different solutions," Lanci said during Acer's first-quarter investors conference in Taipei. "We are working on an Android solution for the smartphone, but I think it's too early to say if we're going to see Android on a netbook in the near future."
Lanci had previously been critical of Android for use in netbooks, noting Android is not yet ready to fit the needs that come with them, such as being able to "view a full web for the total internet experience." At the time, Acer did say it was testing Android for netbooks, noting that other companies have been doing the same thing.
Netbooks aside, Acer's latest statements regarding smartphones follow in line with what HTC, Far EasTone, and Samsung have also indicated. In other words, be prepared for a deluge of Android-based cellphones in the not too distant future.
Earlier this month, a pair of bigwigs over at Acer said during a press event that the company plans on using Google's open-source Android OS in its upcoming smartphones, but doesn't feel the OS is ready for netbooks. Just don't tell that latter part to Chinese company SkyTone, the first company (we're aware of) to release an Android netbook.
SkyTone, who's best known for its Skype headsets and kiddie PCs, lists on their website the Alpha-680 Google Android netbook. Available in pink, red, yellow, white, or black, the low cost netbook comes equipped with a 7-inch LCD screen, ARM11 533MHz processor, 128MB of DDR2 (upgradeable to 256MB), a 1GB SSD (upgradeable to 4GB), WiFi, memory card slot, two USB 2.0 ports, and of course Google's Android OS.
ComputerWorld describes the rig as a "glorified cellphone...without the glory," and we'd have to agree. It's unclear when it will be available for purchase and for how much, but even if it checks in somewhere between $100 and $200, Dell's $199 Vostro A90 would make the Alpha-680 a tough buy.
How do blokes at the S60 on Symbian Consumer Operations (SOSCO) contend with monotony that usually plagues people at workplaces with such unimaginative names? They savagely slaughter time through such wild undertakings as the porting of Symbian to an off-the-shelf Atom-based motherboard – please do try that at home.
“ A few of the bright and capable guys in the SOSCO (S60 on Symbian Customer Operations) team have Symbian compiling via GCC and now running on an off the shelf Atom based motherboard from Intel,” Lee Williams, Executive Director of the Symbian Foundation, wrote in a blog post.
Williams wrote that the “responsiveness of the UI and upper application layers” impressed him the most. Williams’ bluster apart, the screenshots are rather vapid.
Asus and HP are both avowedly toying with the idea of Android-based netbooks. Both of them have, in fact, assigned engineers to the task of porting Android to netbooks. But Android won’t remain confined to just cell phones and netbooks by the looks of things.
Google this week released an 'early-look' version of the SDK for Android 1.5 with a smorgasbord of features to keep developers busy for quite some time. Google crammed so many goodies into its latest release that it would probably be easier to list what's not included, like no Microsoft Exchange sync, but where's the fun in that? Here's just a sampling of what's new:
On-screen soft keyboard
Works in both portrait and landscape orientation
Support for user installation of 3rd party keyboards
Video playback (MPEG4 and 3GP formats)
And the list goes on and on. But it's not just new features that find their way into Android, but several existing ones have been polished. Even the SDK itself has been tweaked and "introduces several new capabilities that enable you to develop applications more efficiently for multiple platform versions and locales."
Convincing Acer -- who, at last count, was selling more netbooks than Asus and claims 38.3 percent of the market -- that your OS is a suitable alternative to XP or Linux for use on netbooks is no easy task. At a press event earlier this week, Chief Executive Gianfranco Lanci and Jim Wong head of Acer's IT products business line, told reporters that while Acer plans on using Google's open-source Android OS in its upcoming smartphone, it doesn't feel the OS is ready for netbooks.
"For a netbook, you really need to be able to view a full web for the total internet experience," Wong said. "And Android is not that yet."
Lanci echoed Wong's sentiments, adding that Android is better suited for communication, whereas Windows comes at the market from the computing side. According to Lanci, an ideal solution would be to offer both. However Lanci did admit that Acer is currently testing Android on its netbooks, adding "I think everybody in the industry is testing Android on netbooks."
And he's right. HP said last week that it was considering Android for future netbooks, and so too has Asus.
Would you be interested in an Android-powered netbook, or is XP the way to go? Hit the jump and sound off.
In a flooded smart phone market, Google’s open source approach was a refreshing change, especially given the state of martial law many iPhone user’s live under. But with the removal of the tethering application from the mobile store, many users are starting to question just how open the platform really is. In defense of its actions, Google was forced to cite a passage from its distribution agreement with T-Mobile.
“Google enters into distribution agreements with device manufacturers and Authorized Carriers to place the Market software client application for the Market on Devices. These distribution agreements may require the involuntary removal of Products in violation of the Device manufacturer’s or Authorized Carrier’s terms of service”
When you pair this up with T-Mobiles terms of service which forbids tethering, Google suddenly appears to be legally bound to ban the application. This does however make us wonder what the future of Android will look like on other carriers. Will this lead to carrier specific app stores in the future? Users who purchase unlocked phones and use them on other carriers which permit tethering will probably want access to these types of applications. The big question is will they be able to?
An Android-based netbook now seems a near certainty. Asustek’s Samson Hu, who heads the Eee PC business, had told Bloomberg that the company has begun work on an Android-based netbook, but did not promise a commercial version. But Asus isn’t the only one allured by the distinctive price advantage offered by Google’s Android OS. HP has confirmed that it, too, is deliberating upon the use of Android netbooks as an alternative to Windows in netbooks.
Though Asus and HP are only testing waters, Android-based netbooks may become a reality in the near future – perhaps as early as next year. All said, challenging Windows’ ascendancy in the netbook segment won’t be easy for Android.
Though the browsing experience on cellphones has come up by leaps and bounds, a lot of work still needs to be done. Another considerable step forward would be full-fledged Flash functionality on cellphones. It is something that figures high on Adobe’s list of priorities. In fact, it is busy developing Flash ports for major mobile platforms.
Now it appears as though a Flash port for the Android platform may become available sooner than expected as another company is also developing one.