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posted by cmn32480 on Tuesday November 14, @10:04AM   Printer-friendly
from the if-Google-won-did-we-the-people-lose? dept.

Android is 10 years old this week. In part one of a larger story, The Register looks at the beginnings of Android, including some early competition, and a brief comparison to Microsoft.

Google was in the game, at a time when others didn't realize what the game was. Or did, and couldn't turn the ship around fast enough. Android succeeded because it was just about good enough, and its parent was prepared to cross subsidize it hugely. Android wasn't brilliant, but it was better than Bada, and uglier than WebOS. Symbian simply wasn't competitive. If you were a Samsung or Sony or HTC, then Android gave you what you needed, it gave users a better experience. Developers were happy writing for a Java OS, it was a doddle after writing for WM and Symbian.

[...] Motorola also had a significant part to play in Android's success . . . as did Verizon. Carriers like Verizon had been snubbed by Apple's carrier exclusive strategy, and Verizon was badly burned by the BlackBerry Storm. It went all in.

[...] Android is far bigger and far more invasive than a PC could ever be. Google's dominance over our personal lives is far greater than Microsoft's ever was. The clunky laptop in the corner did not track your every movement or read your emails.


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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @12:16PM (9 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @12:16PM (#596757)

    How Google won the smartphone "war": Easy, there were no opponents.

    Google had the only working iPhone alternative without the Apple Jail (R)(tm), so if you wanted a touch screen smart phone that you controlled, Android was what you bought.

    Blackberry needed a keyboard. Meego was killed by the CEO from Microsoft. And Microsoft themselves were so far behind that they had lost before they started playing, and they still haven't even figured out whether Windows 10 is going to be a desktop or a touchscreen OS.

    Btw, why this fascination with the word "war"? Why does everything have to be a war? Browser war, smartphone war... I'm starting to get the feeling that people who label every market segment with competition a "war" are longing back to the old days of the Soviet Union where there would be no such thing.

    • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @01:11PM (6 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @01:11PM (#596774)

      Microsoft's biggest problem with mobile operating systems was that they kept launching them and abandoning them. If you were a Microsoft fanatic, you had PocketPC 2000 - which they dumped. Then you had Windows Mobile 5 or 6, and they dumped those too. Windows Phone 7 received heavy promotions and investment from Microsoft, and then Windows Phone 8 came out and yet again was incompatible.

      Contrast that to Android. It's the first mobile OS that Google launched. And if you wrote an application for Android 2, you can reuse almost all of the code in Android 8. So despite Google's tendency to kill other projects when they don't gain momentum fast enough, here they stuck with their original architecture and just kept enhancing it. So consumers, OEMs, and application creators never had to start from scratch.

      As it is? I wouldn't be surprised if Android eats the world. I expect Google to incrementally add features that support traditional desktop computing until casual home users have Android device docks in their monitors and home power users have dedicated Android desktops. God save us all. (If there is one.)

      • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Tuesday November 14, @02:29PM (3 children)

        by DannyB (5839) on Tuesday November 14, @02:29PM (#596798)

        I wouldn't be surprised if Android eats the world. I expect Google to incrementally add features that support traditional desktop computing until casual home users have Android device docks in their monitors and home power users have dedicated Android desktops.

        There are already signs of this. I first recognized it in about 2012 when I could plug an OTG dongle into my Android phone and then connect a mouse or keyboard -- both of which were supported by the Android OS. The mouse especially. Suddenly, Android had a pointer! And moving the mouse moved the pointer. It occurred to me that each "activity" (an Android term) could really be a "window" on a "desktop".

        Later when Android could run multiple apps at a time, side by side, on a phone, that realization was even stronger that there would one day be the year of the Linux Android desktop.

        When Chrome OS could run Android Apps, I could see the handwriting on the wall.

        Remix OS is a great proof of concept. I think one of the remaining nits to work out is that Android apps (activities) need to be adaptable to dynamic resizing while running. Thus the app could run in a "window" without being aware of it, yet the window is resizable.

        (If there is one.)

        Seek and ye shall find.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @02:53PM (1 child)

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @02:53PM (#596808)

          Well, now I'm being nitpicky. There are signs of the features that Android needs to gain ground on the laptop and desktop market. But what I am not seeing is actual consumer adoption of Android in laptops, all-in-ones, or desktops yet. I expect it to happen, but I'm not seeing it.

          Three or four years ago you could buy Android monitor all-in-ones and there were docking stations for phones and attachable keyboards for tablets. But it was too early, Android didn't have the features it needed for a pleasant desktop experience and the hardware lacked the processing power and RAM required to come near the performance of a cheap traditional laptop. I bet a laptop with Android 8 and a Snapdragon 835 with 6GB of RAM would work pretty well for more than half of the people currently using a Microsoft Surface or similar.

          • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Tuesday November 14, @03:08PM

            by DannyB (5839) on Tuesday November 14, @03:08PM (#596814)

            I think Google is to blame. They don't recognize the opportunity. It is probably internal infighting and factions, just like what killed Nokia. But Android vs Chrome OS. Ok, now Chrome OS can run Android, so problem fixed, right?

            How about if Google got behind a pure Android desktop OS? Introduced the necessary APIs so that developers could adapt their apps to run in dynamically resizable windows.

        • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @07:29PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @07:29PM (#596933)

          Google can't seem to make up their mind about Android on the desktop or not.

          Yes there seemed to be a push towards that around the release of the tablets-only 3.0 version.

          But then much of the effort were rolled back during the later 4.0 releases, and Google tried to push ChromeOS instead.

          Note btw that ChromeOS was current CEO Pichai's baby, while Android was originally a Andy Rubin startup (and he ran the division like his own fief, even nixing Android for tablets for a long time by insisting that every Android device have a mobile network radio).

          And the Android rollback coincides with Rubin first moving to robotics, and then leaving Google, while Pichai first taking over Android management and then ascending to CEO-hood,

          All this suggests there was a power struggle internally at Google, and pichai came out on top.

      • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @04:04PM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @04:04PM (#596841)

        Microsoft's biggest problem with mobile operating systems was that they kept launching them and abandoning them. If you were a Microsoft fanatic, you had PocketPC 2000 - which they dumped. Then you had Windows Mobile 5 or 6, and they dumped those too. Windows Phone 7 received heavy promotions and investment from Microsoft, and then Windows Phone 8 came out and yet again was incompatible.

        The ironic thing is that Microsoft was once the king of compatibility; in Windows they even maintained a list of quirks from earlier version of Windows to enable for specific programs so they continue to work. And I'd say this compatibility was one of the keys to their long-time success. You simply knew that if you got a new Windows, your old programs would continue working.

        • (Score: 2) by lentilla on Tuesday November 14, @08:38PM

          by lentilla (1770) on Tuesday November 14, @08:38PM (#596970)

          You simply knew that if you got a new Windows, your old programs would continue working.

          Well, sort-of continue working.

          Programs would work (or appear to work) well-enough that you could never conclusively prove what had gone wrong without first investing significant time into resolving the issue and then you were left with a sunk cost. And thus the cycle began all over again.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @07:23PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @07:23PM (#596928)

      MS was not far behind, they scuttled their own ship by breaking backwards compatibility upon the release of WinPhone7.

      That, and Google was giving away the OS while MS insisted on license payments.

      End result was that they needed a "willing" collaborator in all this. And after having lost/alienated their Asian options, they hijacked Nokia by targeting the boardroom.

      Damn it, Symbian still held a high star outside of USA and those parts of Europe that are now not iPhone bastions (Aka UK and Scandinavia).

      And frankly iPhone was not a big deal outside of the MSM that were already deep in Apple's pocket thanks to Mac historically being their go to graphics platform. This and the link back to iTMS and iPods was what sold iPhones initially, as outside of the touch screen it had nothing that really made it a "smartphone". Feature by feature you could get more done using a cheap J2ME "featurephone" from Samsung or like.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 15, @04:44AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 15, @04:44AM (#597158)

      Btw, why this fascination with the word "war"? Why does everything have to be a war?

      You are waging war on over-use of "war".

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @01:06PM (6 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @01:06PM (#596773)

    ... we all lost.

    The only way to truly own your "device" is to download some shady binary blob security exploit from a shady "hacker" website in order to "root" it.

    This is no way to live.

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by DannyB on Tuesday November 14, @03:03PM (5 children)

      by DannyB (5839) on Tuesday November 14, @03:03PM (#596813)

      Most people that use Linux download binary code, trust it, boot it on their hardware, install this binary code onto their system and then begin using it.

      I'm sure you could very likely get all of the same source code that "shady hacker" got and compile and build it all yourself. At no small effort.

      Now it wouldn't hurt if it were made easy to download and then do a single gigantic build of the whole binary ready to flash onto your unlocked phone or tablet.

      But once upon a time it wasn't exactly easy to get Linux installed on to a PC. It involved downloading lots of floppy disk images from a "shady hacker" website and jumping through all kinds of hoops to get it installed, get it to boot up, get it configured and begin using it.

      Just sayin'

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @03:47PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @03:47PM (#596833)

        Most people that use Linux download binary code, trust it, boot it on their hardware, install this binary code onto their system and then begin using it.

        Maybe they do, but there are at least other options. There are fully free operating systems endorsed by the FSF, and even fully free laptops (though they are older, which won't please people who care primarily about power).

        It's not ease of use that's the issue, but freedom.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @04:01PM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @04:01PM (#596839)

        To root your "device" you need to exploit a security flaw in the existing system.

        This exploit is not readily published; it's kept obscured not only to prevent abuse but also to inhibit the closing of that loophole.

        You have to break into "your" device in order to actually own it.

        • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Tuesday November 14, @10:47PM

          by DannyB (5839) on Tuesday November 14, @10:47PM (#597033)

          Not in all cases. Some phones are available unlocked, and offer you an option to unlock the bootloader.

          My phone is a Google phone, used on AT&T, for example. If I had an AT&T phone, it would be locked. But I didn't buy my phone from AT&T, so AT&T has nothing to say about it. They just give me a SIM and my phone works. The amusing thing is that when I brought my sweet (at the time) Nexus 6P in to the AT&T store for a SIM, they seemed to get me right to the desk, without waiting, got a SIM popped into the phone, and then rushed on my way out of the store before anyone sees what kind of phone I had.

      • (Score: 2) by lentilla on Tuesday November 14, @08:44PM (1 child)

        by lentilla (1770) on Tuesday November 14, @08:44PM (#596971)

        It involved downloading lots of floppy disk images from a "shady hacker" website

        Quite... but those shady hackers of yore were nothing compared to the networked sociopaths of today. It's a bit like comparing mosquitoes to the bubonic plague.

        • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Tuesday November 14, @10:48PM

          by DannyB (5839) on Tuesday November 14, @10:48PM (#597034)

          I say "shady hacker" in jest. Back in the 1990's, most Windows PC users had no idea that Linux existed, what it was, or how to install it. As they become aware of what it is, it appears to be some deeply dark technical thing that requires magical skills and patience and is the realm of dark basement dwelling hackers.

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Snotnose on Tuesday November 14, @01:25PM

    by Snotnose (1623) on Tuesday November 14, @01:25PM (#596780)

    Bunch of us engineers downloaded it when it was first released, within a day an email came out saying DO NOT DOWNLOAD ANDROID ON COMPANY COMPUTERS. iF YOU ALREADY DID, DELETE IT!

    That was followed by some legal mumbo jumbo saying they didn't understand it yet and didn't want to be sued or somesuch.

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by DBCubix on Tuesday November 14, @01:45PM (5 children)

    by DBCubix (553) on Tuesday November 14, @01:45PM (#596782)

    They opened it up to other companies to license, customize and make it their own and in effect have a type of ownership. This strategy works and is an effective counterbalance to how Apple locks their systems in.

    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @02:09PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @02:09PM (#596789)

      The other half of the story of the success of the IBM PC is that developers were free to program the damn thing as they saw fit; even a proprietary operating system like Windows allowed programmers to do just about anything they wanted.

      So, while the Big Players have the ability to construct custom hardware to run Android, the software world is woefully constrained. As the other AC put it: You've got to break into your own computer to use it the way you want.

      • (Score: 2) by hendrikboom on Tuesday November 14, @04:48PM

        by hendrikboom (1125) on Tuesday November 14, @04:48PM (#596855) Homepage

        Much agree. When I needed a personal computer, I knew that the Macintosh, with its very usable interface, was coming out real soon, and I wanted to wait for it. But I needed a computer *then*, not a few months from then. So I ended up with a PC instead. When the Mac finally came out, I was relieved at my hurried purchase, because the Mac was not user-programmable at all.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @02:15PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @02:15PM (#596792)

      Plus it was the cheapest smartphone.
      It's not rocket science.

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by DannyB on Tuesday November 14, @02:54PM (1 child)

      by DannyB (5839) on Tuesday November 14, @02:54PM (#596809)

      Android appealed at all levels to all participants.

      * For end users, it was a smartphone that was available in all price ranges, features, colors, styles, manufacturers, mobile networks, etc.

      * A killer feature of Android was that you could customize the phone to the N-th degree. Rather than Apple's way, or no way.

      * For OEM hardware manufacturers, it was an OS that they could easily license in order to sell tons of new and pricier hardware.

      * For mobile network operators (other than AT&T) it was a smartphone they could sell because iPhone wasn't available to them.

      * For App developers it was an alternative to iPhone. An Android app would run on all manufacturers hardware, on all mobile networks.

      * As an app developer, you could sell your app in multiple app stores. Not just Google's Play store. But Amazon's Android app store on Amazon's ecosystem. There was also the hint that other Android ecosystems could emerge (without Google's core apps) because Android was open source. Alas, Google started moving more of the best parts of Android out of the OS and into "Play Services" app which was exclusive to Google. But until this point, it was yet another major attractive facet of Android for developers, developers, developers.

      * For developers, you didn't have to pay $99 / year to develop. You didn't invest in your app only to hope and pray that Apple doesn't reject your app from the store for arbitrary non-uniformly enforced reasons, or no reason at all. Or because Apple liked your idea and decided to build their own and kick you out. You could download the Android SDK, and download Eclipse, and download the Android plug in for Eclipse -- all for free, and on any platform (Linux, Windows, Mac OS) and start developing without anyone's permission. For iPhone you had to use Apple's tools, on Apple's OS, on Apple's hardware and pay handsomely for the privilege and hope your app was approved. On Android, you didn't need anyone's permission to merely put your compiled app onto a real phone. Just USB cable the phone to your computer, enable the right permission from the phone's settings, and your development tools could then install your app on the phone with every edit / compile / debug cycle.

      What was not to like?

      And Android was programmed in Java. Not some obscure language. The vast majority of the Java ecosystem of libraries was usable. And Android was Linux. You could build an Android app that was a "console terminal" and get an actual Linux prompt from the phone's Linux. Or get an actual Linux prompt (from the phone's Linux) through the ADB tools on your computer. I remember one time I was showing my friend that I could use a terminal on my netbook, connected to my phone, and run the "top" command. While we were watching "top", my phone rang. Leaving the USB cable connected, I took the call, as top continued to run, my friend was impressed. :-)

      Android's "intents" was a killer feature. It enabled core elements of the system to be replaced by third parties. Something Apple could not do. Third parties could provide alternative replacement keyboards -- and you could switch keyboards on the fly. Alternate browsers -- and the end user could select which browser they wanted to use or be the default. Or alternate email apps. Or alternate dialer apps. Alternate "desktop" launcher apps that gave the phone a different "personality".

      Apple started playing catch up. I remember one year when Steve Jobs bashed the idea that anyone wanted to be using multiple apps on a phone at one time and switch between them. Or background apps. To cheering throngs of Apple fanboys.

      Next year, Steve Jobs introduced iPhone having background apps. Again to cheering throngs of fanboys. But it was inferior. The pop up badges.

      Next year, Steve Jobs introduced an imitation of Android's notification system to make background apps work better.

      Then year after year, it was lots of playing catch up.

      • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @07:38PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @07:38PM (#596939)

        And yet MSM will keep talking up iPhone, because they are in bed with Apple by way of having standardized on Mac for their publishing pipeline...

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @03:20PM (4 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @03:20PM (#596819)

    The fact remains that 95% of the people who buy android phones don't know what android is, don't want to know what android is, and don't care what android is. They are not a member of this anti-apple holy war that android the fanboyz wage. They simply just want something cheaper than an iPhone.

    Good luck updating the OS on 3/4 of current android phones a year from now. hehehehehe

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @06:14PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @06:14PM (#596891)

      I'd bet the number of people that don't know what Android is are closer to 40%, but the rest of your argument still holds.

      But even if you love Apple, if Android didn't exist the iPhone X would be a $1500 handset with iPhone 6 components. Competition from Pixel and Samsung Galaxy devices is the biggest boon to Apple fans.

      And yeah, I'm furious about the horrifically short support lifetimes of Android phones. I shouldn't have to pay $800 to get something that receives a security update more than six months after I buy it. (Nexus used to offer that, but Pixel product prices are much higher than their Nexus predecessors.) Hooray for Cyanogenmod/LineageOS.

    • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Tuesday November 14, @06:17PM

      by bob_super (1357) on Tuesday November 14, @06:17PM (#596893)

      how many people demand to know the code that controls their washer, dryer, or car ?
      People buy an appliance based on looks/price/performance.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @07:15PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @07:15PM (#596925)

      The fact remains that 95% of the people who buy android phones don't know what android is

      It's the robot right? The one that puts the apps from the internet in your phone during "boot up." What do I win?

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @07:34PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @07:34PM (#596937)

      Sad but true. Marketing trumps all.

      Before Samsung stepped up and matched Apple on marketing blow for blow, most android devices were seen as "droids" (remember that Verizon branding?). And these days they are all "Galaxy".

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @06:00PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @06:00PM (#596884)

    The clunky laptop in the corner did not track your every movement or read your emails.

    Sure, not back then, but these days they do...

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