There has been some good discussion around Android recently and Daring Fireball blog has some very good points on the opportunity Android has in the market.
I 100% agree with him that the iPhone needs competition. Unfortunately, the competition doesn’t look very good so far. While John Gruber makes a case where competition could exist if executed right, I don’t see someone gaining significant share in the market, at least in the short term. The iPhone seems to be a couple of years ahead of its competition in the market so far.
When hardware becomes a commodity, the value moves to software. So the game suddenly shifts to the software vendor’s turf. Now, to provide better end user experience on an end user device like a phone, a vendor with expertise in both hardware and software has significant advantages in this market and there are not many vendors who do software and hardware and definitely not at the scale as Apple. This puts Apple much ahead of competition not just in the short term, but also in the long term. When they have a lead, it is tough to beat them, unless we see some blunders from them.
I love Linux. As I geek, I spend lot of time with it and I don’t see how tens of thousands of companies (like Google) can survive without open source software like Linux. That said, it is already known that Linux has not penetrated the desktop market as much as it penetrated the server market. In fact, I’ll go a step further and say that it is tough to find enough open source software with great UI/usability. On the other hand, more often than not, the server side stuff is pretty good for most of the popular open source software. I think this is true with Android. I played with it a bit and found similarities between Android and Linux (yes, it is the same core). Similar to Linux, Android has the same powerful stuff, but where it fails is the usability and the final touches it needs. I can never call any Linux software ‘pleasure to use’ (yes, including Ubuntu), but I can say that after using a Mac, for example. As long as someone takes the user experience and user interface seriously, I think Android will face the same fate as Linux.
If a new phone has to compete with the iPhone, being 10% better is not good enough. It has to be significantly better than the iPhone. If it comes from a smaller vendor, it’s going to get much tougher.
If there is one thing I’d like to see in Android (or Linux), it is the improvements to the usabiltiy and UI of the entire OS. It looks crappy, at least for my taste. Attention to detail is very important and it has to be a pleasure to use. Unless someone comes up with an OS that is good for end users, they’ll keep loosing against Apple. Phone is the device that stays with us longer than any other device. It is not good enough if it is functional. It has to be ‘pleasure to use’.
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(Cross-posted @ my personal blog)