Smartphones

Two big Android issues Google needs to address

This week Google hosts its annual developer conference, Google I/O. There are two key Android issues Google needs to talk about.

At a time when the company is growing in strength as a platform provider, Google hosts its annual developer conference, Google I/O 2010, this week in San Francisco. We can expect to hear about new features and product plans for the Android OS and the Chrome Web browser, and other products. But, when it comes to Android there are also two important issues Google must address.

The I/O event starts on Wednesday at the Moscone Center and Google is expecting about 5,000 attendees. The company has already scheduled press briefings on four topics:

  • Android
  • Chrome
  • Wave
  • Enterprise

The most anticipated item of the event is Android 2.2 (codenamed "Froyo"), which will add support for Adobe Flash as well as the capability of turning Android devices into Wi-Fi hotspots (a la the Palm Pre Plus). Those are the new features we already know about. Certainly, Google will also unveil other Android announcements at I/O.

Despite the recent news that Android has made major market share gains against RIM and Apple in the first quarter of 2010, there are still two key challenges brewing in Android land that developers and users would like to see Google address at I/O:

1. Android fragmentation

The first is the issue of OS fragmentation. With lots of Android devices being propagated by multiple handset makers and wireless carriers, there are now Android smartphones running lots of different versions of the OS.

This puts a lot of strain on app developers to support different versions of the software and it can impede forward progress on app features. It also frustrates users when they have to wait indefinitely for their wireless carriers to roll out OS updates.

Google needs to talk about the role it can play to help streamline this process.

2. Android vs. Chrome OS for tablets and netbooks

Beyond the momentum for Android on smartphones, there's also a growing stable of vendors that want to use Android to run tablet computers in the same way Apple used the iPhone OS to power the iPad. In fact, enterprise vendors like HP, Cisco, and BlackBerry have all been rumored to be experimenting with Android tablets.

The biggest problem with that is that Google may not be entirely committed to a tablet version of Android. After all, the company has touted the Chrome OS (based on the Chrome Web browser) as its OS for light computing devices such as netbooks.

Google needs to provide better clarification on the differences between Android and Chrome OS and its vision for how they should be implemented.

Follow developments from Google I/O

To keep up with the developments from Google I/O you can follow this blog where I will offer commentary on the most important developments that emerge. You can also watch the keynotes streamed live at the Google I/O channel on YouTube. The Wednesday (5/19) keynote runs from 9:00-10:30AM Pacific and the Thursday (5/20) keynote runs from 8:30-10:00AM Pacific.

Take the poll

About

Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the upcoming book, Follow the Geeks.

50 comments
public_domain
public_domain

HORSEPUCKIE. google has recast LINUX into a small, powerful, versatile, efficient, safe and magnificient OPSYS. and the lackies at windozer cant take it. i can sling more mud at the deffective innefficient and poorly designed opsys at windozer that will stick than you can at google with stickem attached. LINUX BREEDS - WINDOZER BLEEDS.

sjenkins
sjenkins

I think there are two more issues that Google needs to address. First, from many bluetooth headsets you can not voice dail from the headset. You must speak into the phone after pushing the icon on the desktop after you have to unlock it. For the mobile users that are driving and traveling this is a major safety concern. The second is a better integration with M$ Exchange natively; although Touchdown and others have done a good job. Corporate users don't want to pay for additional software for exchange integration. Give us our email, multiple folders, and meeting requests and now we are talking!

d_baron
d_baron

Support X!! Xorg implementations can be made to run on tiny resources such as deli-linux (as little as 16 meg!). This would open up a proper android tablet and enable a tablet or handset to be an operational X-client. I can SSH onto my desktop from my Sony-Ericson. Wouldn't it be lovely to be able to get GUI as well (OK, it can be simply to slow to be of any use).

dcolbert
dcolbert

I'm not sure there is a division that needs to be clarified. Chrome OS for light mobile computing devices like Netbooks... The iPad is not a Netbook. It is less than a Netbook. It is a large mobile phone. There is a market for these devices - so make those devices - Android based tablets. Chrome OS is also over ambitious. The cloud, thin-client future that Google wants to see is probably a pipe-dream. Hopefully Google overcomes their hubris to realize this. Chrome OS will most likely be rejected. Netbooks will continue to need full desktop OS platforms, tablets are best served by mobile OS platforms. Chrome OS doesn't have a place to live.

matthias_blackshear
matthias_blackshear

I think moving Android to netbooks and tablets is a natural progression of the OS. I don't see myself or other business folks embracing the Chrome OS. I'll stick with my safe, secure, and private Ubuntu for Netbook install. Not everything belongs in the cloud.

eScoop
eScoop

You know, if Microsoft had announced a product that was "supposed" to do a bunch of great things and then did not deliver even a smokey prototype for years - they would be RIGHTLY chastised for that behavior. For years that's what MS did - and got smoked for delivering only Vaporware. When Google does it people on Tech Republic blogs put up polls asking us which we would want to see more? More? Who's seen it in the first place? Google smoke is all I've seen - why would I want to vote for Vapor? Oh wait! It's the cloud! Right - everything's going to the cloud! Kool-aid anyone?

rcummings622
rcummings622

I agree about the fragmentation. On the Android Market, for example, I have no problem paying for apps I want. But I hate paying for updates that are due to some quirk on a different phone.

WDMilner
WDMilner

The versioning problem is not something that will go away. Telco's are notorious for not updating the software/firmware on their various phones in order to controol what the user can do with them. The solution would be a common upgrade site but I don't see the telco's changing any time soon. Your poll needs another option - neither.

Justin James
Justin James

The fragmentation is the #1 challenge for developers and users. As someone who has looked into developing for Android, you can't count on users having the upgrade available. For example, anyone with a MotoBlur device is stuck at 1.6 (unless they force an upgrade and forego MotoBlur), even if the carrier would release 2.X to them. The way I see it, a developer would be losing a lot of sales to make a 2.X-only app, but the 1.5 and 1.6 SDKs are *very* limited (can't even work with Bluetooth!). At the same time, though, the fact that Android *can* be modified is one of the biggest reasons that device makers are putting it everywhere. Things like MotoBlur, HTC Sense, etc. are critical for makers to have some sort of unique value and differentiation in the market. But its the customization which forces the fragmentation, because for each new Android version, the customizations need to be updated, tested for backwards compatibility, etc. And that's why we see brand new devices still being released with Android 1.6. To put it another way, Android's open source nature is a pair of golden handcuffs. J.Ja

jmarkovic32
jmarkovic32

Why does everything wrong with Android always have to be something that Apple is doing with the iPhone? It's basically "Two things Google has to fix in order for Android to be like the iPhone". If I wanted an iPhone I'd buy one.

jeff.merkle
jeff.merkle

The poll is confusing - tablets and netbooks are truly two different beasts. Given the impressive touch-awareness of Android, it makes sense to use it for tablets. However, netbooks would be best run on ChromeOS, as Android without touch input is not a compelling OS.

Contradiction
Contradiction

These people keep making the same mistakes. Can?t they learn from the mistakes of the past? It has to be ONE manufacturer, creating the device AND the operating system! Android will end up just like Windows Mobile. One million versions of it, each one customized for a certain device. No consistency, no success. HINT: Look at Apple.

Daniel Breslauer
Daniel Breslauer

My wife has a Samsung i7500 Galaxy with Android 1.5 (Cupcake), via the Israeli carrier Cellcom. It's a horror story though things are getting better now, after 6 months. * Google Maps keeps on crashing whenever we try to use Latitude, especially when there is no GPS signal (like indoors). * The battery was so horrible it barely lasted 12 hours without use. After 6 months of complaining, numerous trips to service stores, and 4 replacement batteries, we now finally, since last week, have a battery that seems to WORK. The worst thing is that all of the carrier's service reps tried to tell us that it's perfectly acceptable and normal for a touch screen device to have a horrible battery life. They didn't seem to understand it's WORSE than horrible. There WAS a serious problem with this device - it has now been solved with the 4th battery we got. Combined with the lack of an Android update, lack of tethering (preferably USB because of the battery), limited usability of Bluetooth, we're thoroughly regretting purchasing this device and would not make the mistake of buying Samsung ever again. I do have to say that the screen is awesome. Now that the battery is getting better, we still need a fix for the Google Maps issue (at the carrier, they didn't even know what Latitude was) and an Android update.

merumaru
merumaru

how fast is booting up an Android tablet VS Chrome OS tablet? if the tablet runs Chrome, does it mean that it has to stay connected to the Cloud all the time, to get updates, download apps, and store data in the cloud?

Timespike
Timespike

One of the nice things about the ipad is that not all iphone or ipad apps are web browser plug-ins or even need the web at all. Android has a similar advantage. Chrome is JUST a browser - that doesn't offer nearly the functionality.

scubaj
scubaj

The first point doesn't make a lot of sense - why would anyone put that onus on Google? The company I used to work for had many different OS's out on RIMM, and if a user wanted an upgrade to the latest, we could push manually, otherwise it's the carrier. I would assume with Android it's the same. If you want the upgrade, download it from the Market place, if you want it hand delivered, wait on your carrier - plain and simple.

Editor's Picks