Google Android: we want developers but…

So, I’m watching the Android video and talking with my friends who are developers. Man, I thought my videos were boring, this one takes the cake.

Steve Jobs does NOT have to worry about losing his job to the folks from Google.

I didn’t see ONE feature that will get normal people to switch from the iPhone. This comes across like something developers developed for other developers without thought of how they were going to build a movement.

How do we know this developer API is uninspired? They are bribing developers with $10 million in prize money.

Compare to the iPhone. Steve Jobs treats developers like crap. Doesn’t give them an SDK. Makes them hack the phones simply to load apps. And they create hundreds of apps anyway. Now, Apple is getting is act together. Early next year an SDK is coming. So now developers will have both sexy hardware, a sexy OS (under iPhone is OSX, an OS that’s been in wide use for years now), AND a well-thought-out SDK.

But, here’s why Android is getting received with a yawn from me:

1. It was released without a personal approach. When Steve Jobs brings out new stuff he does it in front of people. Not in a cold video (as much as I love video it doesn’t inspire the way sitting in an audience does and getting to put my own hands on it).
2. This stuff is still vaporware. No phones are available with it. At Microsoft I learned DO NOT TRUST THINGS THAT THEY WON’T SHOW ME WORKING. Remember Longhorn? Er, Vista? The first time I saw it was largely in a format like this — it looked cool but it wasn’t running anywhere and they wouldn’t let me play with the cool demos. I’ll never make that mistake again. If you want my support for your platform I need to be able to use it and show it to my friends.
3. The UI looks confused. Too many metaphors. One reason the iPhone does so well is because the UI is fairly consistent. Fun, even. How do I know this? My ex-wife hates technology and she bought one and loves it. I try to imagine her getting a Google Android phone and getting very frustrated with a mixture of drop-down menus, clicking metaphors, and touch metaphors. At some point she’ll give it back and go back to the iPhone, which only presents a touch metaphor.
4. No real “love” for developers. Heck, I don’t know of a single developer who has had his/her hands on Android. And all we get is this cold video that just doesn’t inspire me to believe in the future of the platform. I know Dave Winer didn’t feel the love from the Open Social “campfire” event, but at least there we heard from quite a few third-party developers. That made me believe in the platform because I knew that they had already gotten at least SOME third-party developers on board. Heck, remember Facebook? Go back and see when I got excited by Facebook. It was two weeks after the F8 platform announcement. Why then? Because I saw that iLike got six million users in two weeks and was staying up. So, that communicated two things to me: 1. that the platform attracted interesting developers. 2. that Facebook was well enough architected to stay up, even under pretty dramatic load. Android is a LONG way from demonstrating either of these things to the market.
5. Google needs to get atomic videos. On an announcement like this there shouldn’t have been one long video, but rather 50 small ones, each demonstrating a separate API. Developers today are busy. Fully employed. They want easy to understand instructions for how to integrate platform stuff into their stuff. It’s amazing that Google itself doesn’t understand how its own search engine works. If it did, they would see the advantage of creating lots of video, not just one (because then they would be more likely to get found for a variety of search terms, not just a few — it’s one reason I create at least a video every day and it’s paid off very well for me). I’m giving Vic Gundotra the same advice — his long Open Social “campfire video” should have been cut up into the atoms that made up that video. Sure, put the long complete video up too (the molecule) but cut it up. Yes, yes, I know, I don’t take my own advice but then I have an excuse: it costs money, er time, to edit video and I don’t have a lot of it. Google doesn’t have that excuse.
6. Google’s PR comes across as “only caring about big bangs.” Last week I was in the Open Social press conference. Everyone else in the room worked for a big-name media outlet. Business Week. Wall Street Journal. Los Angeles Times. CNET. Barrons. etc. etc. Even TechCrunch was relegated to a phone-based seat and wasn’t in the room. That tells me that Google’s PR doesn’t get the value of small people. In fact, if you were tracking the mentions of that press call you’d have seen my use of Twitter during it got mentioned many times on blogs. Google’s PR didn’t seem to even understand why Twitter was important. They also kept me from using my video camera during the press call (the only reason I got video is cause I carried a cell phone with me — they asked me to leave my professional camera out in the car). Compare that to presidential candidate John Edwards who let me film, even on his plane during “off times.” And he has a Twitter account too.
7. It looks too much like a poor copy of the iPhone. They didn’t talk about ONE thing that the iPhone doesn’t do. Where’s the car integration? Why didn’t they focus a LOT on GPS, or video creation, or something else the iPhone doesn’t do. Do we really want to spin a Google earth map? Really? That doesn’t turn me on. Showing me Kyte.tv working on this thing would turn me on — that’s something the iPhone doesn’t do. Showing me killer podcasting-creation features would turn me on. That’s something the iPhone doesn’t do well. Instead we get some video game that we all played 10 years ago. Yawn. OK, OK, I know Android plays Quake and the iPhone doesn’t. But, come on, we all know a game API is coming for the iPhone and is that really going to get a lot of people to buy Android?

Anyway, so far I’m disappointed in Android. Maybe they’ll get it together, but until then I’ll remember the Russian Government official’s cell phone. He’s running Windows Mobile. Why? Cause developers in his community are building stuff for it. I’ll keep checking in with him to see if Android has gotten any traction.

Are you sensing that Google is just not very good at technology evangelism? After all, look at how successful Google has been outside of search. It hasn’t really had a good home run that we can point to outside of that. I think that’s because Google is coming across as too arrogant, too interested in only “important developers and people,” and doesn’t understand how to pitch end users and developers at the same time (developers only really come after end users do anyway, look again at the iPhone).

But what do I know, I’m just a blogger, right?

UPDATE: Patrick, on TwitterGram, says “it looks like a ripoff of the iPhone.”

UPDATE2: other responses are rolling in from around the Internet. Engadget. GigaOm.

226 thoughts on “Google Android: we want developers but…

  1. Ryan (comment 14) has it exactly right. This is Apple vs. EverybodyElse all over again. Apple goes first, big hype, and the trendy types all buy. But in the end it is the less fancy, more open platforms that win.

    Might not be perfect, but many developers will see this as an opportunity, and much more innovation will come from Android than the iPhone. One caveat, we have to see it running on some real hardware.

  2. I downloaded the sdk and tested it. The gui is nice, it can be used almost the same way as my old and long ago replaced ericsson t20, even the placement of the menus are the same. The touchscreen is not really needed, you can get by only using the arrow keys and the yes/no menu/back buttons, very handy for one handed operation.

    The emulator is trickier. It runs a computer with qemu, that uses a linux kernel, a boot ramdisk and two disk images. The images contain linux filesystems with the binary programs (like an sql server) that is needed for linux to work. The gui’s bottom part is binary and written in c++, but the windowing system runs is java. The runtime is a modified java vm, much like the one used on some sony-ericsson phones.

    The main difference between this and the apple iphone is that this environment theoretically allows the use of home made hardware, but it contains a few non open source kernel and software components. I hope they can be replaced with standard open source code. It would be possible to write c++ applications that tie into the gui and can be controlled from the java side windowing system. (like windowing and menus in java, 3d rendering in c++, just like on certain mri kits)

    My conclusion is that this sdk is mostly the hardware developers sdk, mainly aimed at getting the environment up and running on an actual hardware, but it got tailored for running demos. Imho if we could find the source or at least the apis for the proprietary modules, it would be possible to get the whole system up and running on any hardware, including running it natively on anything that can run linux. I like this approach better, because this way I could use it with my own home made gsm hardware (via nano+gsm module+touch lcd+battery), or even install the android environment as an application under openmoko. The only thing preventing people from building linux based phones is the lack of gsm services (like sms and mms handing in thunderbird or a dialer with proper contact lists).

    They could only blow their chance is by keeping the runtime environment closed and only licensing it to device manufacturers. I don’t know if they open up these subsystem too, but the current sdk doesn’t have them in source form.

  3. I downloaded the sdk and tested it. The gui is nice, it can be used almost the same way as my old and long ago replaced ericsson t20, even the placement of the menus are the same. The touchscreen is not really needed, you can get by only using the arrow keys and the yes/no menu/back buttons, very handy for one handed operation.

    The emulator is trickier. It runs a computer with qemu, that uses a linux kernel, a boot ramdisk and two disk images. The images contain linux filesystems with the binary programs (like an sql server) that is needed for linux to work. The gui’s bottom part is binary and written in c++, but the windowing system runs is java. The runtime is a modified java vm, much like the one used on some sony-ericsson phones.

    The main difference between this and the apple iphone is that this environment theoretically allows the use of home made hardware, but it contains a few non open source kernel and software components. I hope they can be replaced with standard open source code. It would be possible to write c++ applications that tie into the gui and can be controlled from the java side windowing system. (like windowing and menus in java, 3d rendering in c++, just like on certain mri kits)

    My conclusion is that this sdk is mostly the hardware developers sdk, mainly aimed at getting the environment up and running on an actual hardware, but it got tailored for running demos. Imho if we could find the source or at least the apis for the proprietary modules, it would be possible to get the whole system up and running on any hardware, including running it natively on anything that can run linux. I like this approach better, because this way I could use it with my own home made gsm hardware (via nano+gsm module+touch lcd+battery), or even install the android environment as an application under openmoko. The only thing preventing people from building linux based phones is the lack of gsm services (like sms and mms handing in thunderbird or a dialer with proper contact lists).

    They could only blow their chance is by keeping the runtime environment closed and only licensing it to device manufacturers. I don’t know if they open up these subsystem too, but the current sdk doesn’t have them in source form.

  4. People who want push email, people who like to chat, people who want enterprise applications on their phone…. should definitely prefer Android to the iPhone. Not everyone puts a beautiful UI at the top of their list… and that Android prototype UI certainly looks better than every mobile OS other than iPhone.

    And lets not forget that menus are still being implemented if I am not mistaken.

  5. People who want push email, people who like to chat, people who want enterprise applications on their phone…. should definitely prefer Android to the iPhone. Not everyone puts a beautiful UI at the top of their list… and that Android prototype UI certainly looks better than every mobile OS other than iPhone.

    And lets not forget that menus are still being implemented if I am not mistaken.

  6. Android is not a copy of the iPhone, and the iPhone is hardly perfect. In fact, from the demo video, Android looks a lot better than the iPhone. At least I can chat and receive notifications while I am doing something such a browsing. Woo… The iPhone has it’s work cut out for it in terms of integrating actual application communication with their pretty “perfect” UI. Ugh…

  7. Android is not a copy of the iPhone, and the iPhone is hardly perfect. In fact, from the demo video, Android looks a lot better than the iPhone. At least I can chat and receive notifications while I am doing something such a browsing. Woo… The iPhone has it’s work cut out for it in terms of integrating actual application communication with their pretty “perfect” UI. Ugh…

  8. Heh! Do you really believe Scoble, that Apple’s developer’s SDK would be as flexible/powerful as Google’s OS. Apple never gives power to developers. Face it.

  9. Heh! Do you really believe Scoble, that Apple’s developer’s SDK would be as flexible/powerful as Google’s OS. Apple never gives power to developers. Face it.

  10. I think Andriod is a step in the right direction, which is allowing the “public” develop the apps that will be useful in everyday life, but has a ways to go.

  11. I think Andriod is a step in the right direction, which is allowing the “public” develop the apps that will be useful in everyday life, but has a ways to go.

  12. I think that Android will benefit in the short term iPhone, Windows Mobiles devices and Symbian devices.
    Seems ‘paradoxical’ but Google will make the Mobile Market more dynamic but benefits others vendors instead of Google itself.
    And even Android is far from the developers side without offering a C/C++ way to develop native applications.

  13. I think that Android will benefit in the short term iPhone, Windows Mobiles devices and Symbian devices.
    Seems ‘paradoxical’ but Google will make the Mobile Market more dynamic but benefits others vendors instead of Google itself.
    And even Android is far from the developers side without offering a C/C++ way to develop native applications.

  14. So the iPhone SDK is “well thought-out” is it? That’s interesting – because as far as I know, neither you nor anyone else has seen it.

    You’re happy to talk about the iPhone SDK as if it were god’s gift to mobile developers, while complaining that the Google SDK, which is here, now, is vapourware?

  15. So the iPhone SDK is “well thought-out” is it? That’s interesting – because as far as I know, neither you nor anyone else has seen it.

    You’re happy to talk about the iPhone SDK as if it were god’s gift to mobile developers, while complaining that the Google SDK, which is here, now, is vapourware?

  16. I guess I should clue some in that Google does have sort of a competitor fast approaching..

    Just imagine a Mobile ajax runtime that allows the Mobile User to create Mobile widgets using html,css, and javascfipt its called MobileY! and currently is development in far away lab

    ipHone succeed because it went after Mobile Users..

    Another term for MobileY! is a Social Mobile Browser for every mobile user..

    I am taking a huge risk here in getting into trouble with my top bosses..

    Lets just say I am kicking Purple Dinosaurs through the SF49ers Uprights..

    Videos for Mobile Users Coming soon :)

  17. I guess I should clue some in that Google does have sort of a competitor fast approaching..

    Just imagine a Mobile ajax runtime that allows the Mobile User to create Mobile widgets using html,css, and javascfipt its called MobileY! and currently is development in far away lab

    ipHone succeed because it went after Mobile Users..

    Another term for MobileY! is a Social Mobile Browser for every mobile user..

    I am taking a huge risk here in getting into trouble with my top bosses..

    Lets just say I am kicking Purple Dinosaurs through the SF49ers Uprights..

    Videos for Mobile Users Coming soon :)

  18. I can just laugh at you. I mean… whats your education? Who are you all of the sudden to judge things that analytics reviewed so many times with developers that you can’t even imagine?

    Get yourself some good faculty diploma, then you can discuss things like that, but before that… you’re just one of the bloggers who wants to get hit with visits.

    did you ever checked SDK in eclipse? did you checked their documentation? no? did your programmers friends? i don’t think so.

    Attention whore!

  19. I can just laugh at you. I mean… whats your education? Who are you all of the sudden to judge things that analytics reviewed so many times with developers that you can’t even imagine?

    Get yourself some good faculty diploma, then you can discuss things like that, but before that… you’re just one of the bloggers who wants to get hit with visits.

    did you ever checked SDK in eclipse? did you checked their documentation? no? did your programmers friends? i don’t think so.

    Attention whore!

  20. This is a ridiculous post. I built my first Android app yesterday in about 15 minutes using the handset simulator. The SDK is exactly what I am looking for. The platform looks very solid. As a long time Apple developer I know better than to invest resources to support proprietary Apple technology again. Jobs does not care about developers. Google obviously does. Thank you Android team!

  21. This is a ridiculous post. I built my first Android app yesterday in about 15 minutes using the handset simulator. The SDK is exactly what I am looking for. The platform looks very solid. As a long time Apple developer I know better than to invest resources to support proprietary Apple technology again. Jobs does not care about developers. Google obviously does. Thank you Android team!

  22. Well I for one welcome the android too. Android doesn’t compete with the iPhone, but it seems to deliver a stable, well integrated development platform for the mobile, so it’s competing directly with Windows Mobile and Symbian. It hits the soft spot of those by giving us a tightly integrated mobile experience, something that’s never been achieved by Windows Mobile, Symbian or even Pam OS.

    iPhone is still only 1.5 million phones on 2 billion. Google is doing a Microsoft here. By 2010 we’ll have 5% iPhones and 95% phones running on an (open) OS that’s easy to develop for. And add Opensocial to the equation and suddenly all mobile apps will behave like a blackberry behaves for email on a mobile device.

    The only thing I don’t like about the announcement is the price contest. Seems to me not the best way to stimulate innovation and creativity. They should also not make the mistake that Microsoft made and only embrace the developers, they should embrace open source psychologists, graphic designers, usability engineers and antropologists as well

  23. Well I for one welcome the android too. Android doesn’t compete with the iPhone, but it seems to deliver a stable, well integrated development platform for the mobile, so it’s competing directly with Windows Mobile and Symbian. It hits the soft spot of those by giving us a tightly integrated mobile experience, something that’s never been achieved by Windows Mobile, Symbian or even Pam OS.

    iPhone is still only 1.5 million phones on 2 billion. Google is doing a Microsoft here. By 2010 we’ll have 5% iPhones and 95% phones running on an (open) OS that’s easy to develop for. And add Opensocial to the equation and suddenly all mobile apps will behave like a blackberry behaves for email on a mobile device.

    The only thing I don’t like about the announcement is the price contest. Seems to me not the best way to stimulate innovation and creativity. They should also not make the mistake that Microsoft made and only embrace the developers, they should embrace open source psychologists, graphic designers, usability engineers and antropologists as well

  24. Speaking as a developer, I can’t remember the last time a platform has excited me as much as the iPhone. I know many developers are, like me, already hacking away at apps on jailbreaked iPhones in preparation for the official SDK. Its capabilities are simply awesome. Developing for it is a joy, even without any official tools; it’s OS X, after all. If Apple plays their cards right, we’ll see many revolutionary, killer apps to emerge on the iPhone well before any Android device has even seen the light of day. No bribe from Apple required. I’d even be worried if I were Nintendo — iPhone will be the dominant platform for the next generation of mobile gaming, mark my words.

    Android? It feels like Symbian all over again. I’m very underwhelmed.

  25. Speaking as a developer, I can’t remember the last time a platform has excited me as much as the iPhone. I know many developers are, like me, already hacking away at apps on jailbreaked iPhones in preparation for the official SDK. Its capabilities are simply awesome. Developing for it is a joy, even without any official tools; it’s OS X, after all. If Apple plays their cards right, we’ll see many revolutionary, killer apps to emerge on the iPhone well before any Android device has even seen the light of day. No bribe from Apple required. I’d even be worried if I were Nintendo — iPhone will be the dominant platform for the next generation of mobile gaming, mark my words.

    Android? It feels like Symbian all over again. I’m very underwhelmed.

  26. Wow. You missed the point.
    Do realize this is not a phone, but a phone platform. And that too a free and open one.

  27. Wow. You missed the point.
    Do realize this is not a phone, but a phone platform. And that too a free and open one.

  28. Scoble: It is not a phone! It’s a framework, with an SDK available for Windows, OS X(Intel), and Linux, which allows developers to write applications in Java and test them in an emulator. There is complete and excellent documentation of the very extensive API, and an emerging support community. What you saw in the videos was very likely an early hardware prototype, and not representative of any final incarnation of the Android platform on a device.

    That should put the whole iPhone comparison thing to rest.

    In terms of the SDK, Android is indeed pretty exciting, due to the sheer breadth of libraries available (OpenGL ES, XMPP, full phone stack/contacts access, etc) and the elegance of the API (it’s NOT another version of J2ME, please at least look at the sample code).

    It’s hardly vapourware from the point of view of a developer. You can, today, download the SDK and start writing applications which have access to nearly everything on the phone. Sure, OpenMoko would be even cooler, with the hardware accessible now, but Android is by no means a certain dud.

  29. Scoble: It is not a phone! It’s a framework, with an SDK available for Windows, OS X(Intel), and Linux, which allows developers to write applications in Java and test them in an emulator. There is complete and excellent documentation of the very extensive API, and an emerging support community. What you saw in the videos was very likely an early hardware prototype, and not representative of any final incarnation of the Android platform on a device.

    That should put the whole iPhone comparison thing to rest.

    In terms of the SDK, Android is indeed pretty exciting, due to the sheer breadth of libraries available (OpenGL ES, XMPP, full phone stack/contacts access, etc) and the elegance of the API (it’s NOT another version of J2ME, please at least look at the sample code).

    It’s hardly vapourware from the point of view of a developer. You can, today, download the SDK and start writing applications which have access to nearly everything on the phone. Sure, OpenMoko would be even cooler, with the hardware accessible now, but Android is by no means a certain dud.

  30. You are well off the mark here.

    First, understand Googles target audience with this announcement. Heres a hint – its not hi-profile tech-savy bloggers like yourself, or end customers, duh!. Btw, I don’t work in tech or phones, and these videos from google were more exciting to me that any of your recent videos. Their targets are developers and phone manufacturers. And developers don’t want atomic videos, they want documents and specifications and this is what they’ve got. Imagine a developer saying “How do I implent feature x?, s**t theirs no atomic video describing the API, now I’m screwed”…. yeah, right!

    And all this crap about how you haven’t seen it, its vapourware, etc, well boo-hoo – if you look at all the release info some of the google devs have been using android on mobile devices for 6 months! Note that android is based on technically the best software stack you could conceive – i.e. a linux core with Java apps – both established, open and proven technologies in the mobile world. This approach takes care automatically of perhaps the biggest problem the iphone is encountering in allowing 3rd party apps, namely security. Additionally, realise that due to this approach, it would be easy to mix in non-java code in the future.

    As to the multiple interface control options – you’re again missing the point. They are talking about the capabilities of an operating system, not a single device. Phone manufacturers can expose control options as they choose in order to make a coherent interface. They point is *they have choice*.

    As to the $10 million prize for apps, yes google are buying developers to write apps, yes they are seemingly a little late to the game, and yes this shows that they are bloody serious about android. Ultimately what your observations of the iphone hacking scence should have taught you is that a key reason people buy ‘smartphones’ is for 3rd party apps. So how successfully do you think a financially incentivised open source mobile operating system designed for 3rd party applications will be? Don’t be stupid, this is going to be huge.

    Your blog post reads very much as a “give mes one of your new toys to play with or I’ll trash it for no good reason”.

  31. Sorry, but you’re ignoring the fact that the iphone will never be available in some places (I live in Argentina) and my options are:
    Find somebody in the US that buys me a iphone, hack it and use it with any carrier here. Perhaps I’ll brick it on the process… right?
    Or:
    Wait, buy any phone I want that has android on it and do a legal activation with my current carrier.

  32. You are well off the mark here.

    First, understand Googles target audience with this announcement. Heres a hint – its not hi-profile tech-savy bloggers like yourself, or end customers, duh!. Btw, I don’t work in tech or phones, and these videos from google were more exciting to me that any of your recent videos. Their targets are developers and phone manufacturers. And developers don’t want atomic videos, they want documents and specifications and this is what they’ve got. Imagine a developer saying “How do I implent feature x?, s**t theirs no atomic video describing the API, now I’m screwed”…. yeah, right!

    And all this crap about how you haven’t seen it, its vapourware, etc, well boo-hoo – if you look at all the release info some of the google devs have been using android on mobile devices for 6 months! Note that android is based on technically the best software stack you could conceive – i.e. a linux core with Java apps – both established, open and proven technologies in the mobile world. This approach takes care automatically of perhaps the biggest problem the iphone is encountering in allowing 3rd party apps, namely security. Additionally, realise that due to this approach, it would be easy to mix in non-java code in the future.

    As to the multiple interface control options – you’re again missing the point. They are talking about the capabilities of an operating system, not a single device. Phone manufacturers can expose control options as they choose in order to make a coherent interface. They point is *they have choice*.

    As to the $10 million prize for apps, yes google are buying developers to write apps, yes they are seemingly a little late to the game, and yes this shows that they are bloody serious about android. Ultimately what your observations of the iphone hacking scence should have taught you is that a key reason people buy ‘smartphones’ is for 3rd party apps. So how successfully do you think a financially incentivised open source mobile operating system designed for 3rd party applications will be? Don’t be stupid, this is going to be huge.

    Your blog post reads very much as a “give mes one of your new toys to play with or I’ll trash it for no good reason”.

  33. Sorry, but you’re ignoring the fact that the iphone will never be available in some places (I live in Argentina) and my options are:
    Find somebody in the US that buys me a iphone, hack it and use it with any carrier here. Perhaps I’ll brick it on the process… right?
    Or:
    Wait, buy any phone I want that has android on it and do a legal activation with my current carrier.

  34. I am guessing, and it is a guess, that you didn’t bother watching the architecture videos, or the HOWTO video? If you had you would have seen the potential of the platform and what you can do with the frameworks.

    In fact I know you didn’t watch the arch videos, because you didn’t mention one of the most relevant and interesting points – you might write code in Java, but it runs on Google’s own in-house VM and NOT on J2ME.

    Maybe you should get your developer friends to watch more than the demos?

  35. I am guessing, and it is a guess, that you didn’t bother watching the architecture videos, or the HOWTO video? If you had you would have seen the potential of the platform and what you can do with the frameworks.

    In fact I know you didn’t watch the arch videos, because you didn’t mention one of the most relevant and interesting points – you might write code in Java, but it runs on Google’s own in-house VM and NOT on J2ME.

    Maybe you should get your developer friends to watch more than the demos?

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