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Android – Can You Afford to Ignore It?

Front end for your next application may be an Android device

Yes – I suppose you can ignore Android if you only work on the server side and have nothing to do with how user interacts with your application or you have taken a vow not to touch anything that has Java in it. Otherwise it may not be very wise to ignore Android. Did you know that…

  1. In Q1 2010, Android based phones outsold iPhone in US – Report from OSnews
  2. Google TV which is scheduled for launch on fall 2010 will run on Android – Announcement on Google Blog

So What?
Till about two years back most computing devices which end users used were PCs or laptops running some version of Windows (I am sorry Mac or Linux users – you were in small minority). Release of iPhone changed all that and created a new category of user interface device called smart phones. There followed a rush of application which would run exclusively on iPhone. Though, mobile devices and mobile applications were around for some time it had not been popular.

Now the release of iPad is threatening to create another new segment of user interface device called tablets. Again, tablets were around for a long time but it never really took off. It looks like iPod will change that. Google TV and a possible revamped Apple TV is likely to create yet another class of user interface device.

In short, the types of devices through which users are interacting with computer are proliferation. This trend is likely to continue and we may see more types of devices coming up in the future.

And, they will all be programmable and they will all have an operating system. What will that operating system be? Unless it is a device from Apple it is very likely to be Android!

Why not Windows?
Windows will remain dominant on PCs and Laptops (not sure about Netbook) but it is very unlikely to do so for these newer forms of devices. Look at these facts:

  • For smart phone, windows have not worked
    • It has less than 20% market share and it is shrinking – about 2% per quarter
    • On the other hand Android share is growing rapidly – about 2% per quarter
  • For Tablets, windows have not been very successful
    • HP Hurricane Tablet will probably use Web O/S (result of Palm acquisition)
    • Dell Streak Tablets will be Android based
  • Google TV will run on Android

So … not much of windows … lots on Android!

Have I forgotten Apple?
Though iPad has sold more than 2 million in such a short time and iPhone has managed around 28% smart phone market share in US – Apple can never dominate the market the way Windows did.

Not unless all other smart phone manufacturers (Nokia, Blackberry, Motorola, HTC, Samsung, LG, Sony-Ericson …) go out of mobile business. Somehow, I don’t see that happening!

Why can we not stick to browser based thin client applications?
Don’t forget that we are having so many types of devices because each has some distinct feature and set them apart from the rest. Obviously, user will definitely like the applications to leverage them. Browser based applications, unfortunately, cannot take advantage of the native power of any of these devices.

Sure, some of the applications running on these devices would be browser based. But, the new generation of applications will need to take advantage of the unique power of the device.

As of March 2010, Android App Store market had 35,000 applications and the number has been doubling in about 3 month’s time.

What is special about Android?
Android is open source operating system specifically designed for touch phones. Though Symbian, promoted by Nokia, is also open source it was designed for previous generation of mobile phones. It has been steadily losing market share. Palm Web O/S is powerful but it is proprietary. The current owner HP intends to use it for its tablet.

Report from OSnews (see the diagram above) indicate that Android devices have just started outselling iPhone. Even Gartner predicts that Android will grab No. 2 spot by 2012 in smart phone market.

Google benefits by openness!
Google wants open access and open standard. It is to their advantage. That is how their business works. They will strive to make Android as open as possible.

Open Source applications becomes stable and more powerful over a period of time. There are so many examples. Not only do you have Linux, you have Apache web server, MySQL database, Mozilla browser, Eclipse IDE … and many more.

You will see more and more powerful and robust Android cropping up all over place.

What if you are…

  • …a specialist in .NET
  • …only into applications which runs on a browser

You should still get to understand Android because the front end for your next application may be an Android device. Such device would not run Windows and browsers would not allow you to access the native device features of that device.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Udayan Banerjee

Udayan Banerjee is CTO at NIIT Technologies Ltd, an IT industry veteran with more than 30 years' experience. He blogs at http://setandbma.wordpress.com.
The blog focuses on emerging technologies like cloud computing, mobile computing, social media aka web 2.0 etc. It also contains stuff about agile methodology and trends in architecture. It is a world view seen through the lens of a software service provider based out of Bangalore and serving clients across the world. The focus is mostly on...

  • Keep the hype out and project a realistic picture
  • Uncover trends not very apparent
  • Draw conclusion from real life experience
  • Point out fallacy & discrepancy when I see them
  • Talk about trends which I find interesting
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