We can’t help but wonder if everything is OK in Mountain View, where Google (GOOG) is furiously trying to get its Android mobile operating system ready for a Q4 launch.
Apple (AAPL), one of Google’s primary smartphone rivals, just successfully launched the second version of its iPhone, and its app platform — also a key part of Android — is better than we had expected.
Meanwhile, much of what we’ve seen or heard about Android lately has a touch of uncertainty and doubt. Some developers feel shafted by Google, which hasn’t updated its software kit in a while, and hasn’t been answering many questions. Other developers aren’t going near Android with a 10-foot pole until there’s an actual phone on the market, and are devoting their resources to the white-hot iPhone platform instead. And even Sprint Nextel (S), Google’s biggest U.S. carrier partners — in theory, one of its most important allies — seems like it’s starting to get impatient.
Some recent developments:
Why? In his interview, he’s sometimes critical of Android, mixing enthusiasm and praise with sharp jabs. He notes that Android is not “providing unknown magic other OSes are quantum leaps behind on,” that in “many cases their competition is ahead,” and that Android needs “a more proactive and direct linkage to the carrier’s network and service requirements.”
We can’t help but wonder if Android is trying to treat the carriers as more of a dumb pipe than they’d like, and not totally embracing their thirst to sell their own branded services, like Sprint’s mobile TV service, ringtone/music store, homepage, etc., whether customers want that stuff or not.
Why might Sprint be especially antsy? Because Google is spending so much time appeasing T-Mobile, its first launch customer, that Sprint won’t be able to launch an Android phone in time for the crucial holiday shopping season, the Wall Street Journal reported last month.
– Some Android developers are feeling shafted.
Not all of them, but some. One reason: It’s been a while since Google updated the software kit it provides to developers. Or has it? Google is supposedly distributing an updated version of its kit to select developers under non-disclosure agreements, which is leaving non-favoured Android coders feeling a little left out. Reaction:
“…This was a huge oversight on Google’s part. I only hope that they realise the stress and hardship they have put on those who have supported them the most,” says one coder, Ken Adair, on Google’s Android Discuss message board.
“I was looking for a change of the mobile ecosystem, with Google’s leadership. But what we have is the same old, closed mobile ecosystem,” says poster Shane Isbell.
Other developers have been more understanding. But part of the problem, from what we’ve deduced: Google’s complex relationship with many partners makes it tricky for them to answer every question. That doesn’t mean it’s a good thing that it’s ignoring its developers. But 100% transparency is unrealistic.
– Other developers/companies aren’t even bothering with Android, because it’s not a real market yet.
In the past few weeks, we’ve talked to several mobile and Web developers, and we’ve asked as many as possible if they’re working on anything for Android. Few, if any, are paying much attention to it. Why? Because there’s no phone on the market yet, and no customers yet.
This isn’t a terrible thing — Android’s success will be predicated on a lot of factors, including how sexy its gadgets are, how its carrier partners price their phones and service, how well Google’s built-in apps work, etc. But if Android phones launch and all of the attention is still focused on the iPhone platform, Google could have to push harder to get attention and developer investment.
Building any platform is a lot of work, and any time there’s as many people involved as there are with Android, toes will get stepped on. It’s possible that there’s truly great stuff going on that we’re not hearing or reading about — either because it’s under non-disclosure, because it’s still half-baked, or because we don’t hang out with the right people. But from where we sit, it looks worrisome
Know more? Are we totally off-base? Work at Google and want to talk? Let us know in the comments below, via email to [email protected] — confidentiality guaranteed — or via our anonymous tips box.
What Google Can Learn From The iPhone Apps Launch: More Games For Android
Android: We’re Listening To Developer Complaints. We Just Can’t Do Anything About Them
Apple Guy John Gruber: Rooting For Google Android, But Expectations Low