I’m having a little trouble understanding Android; the business side I mean, not the technology.
Technology · It looks like decent enough software, although there is some pretty sharp criticism in Five problems with Google Android. In particular, as a scarred veteran of X Windows programming and one who’s welcoming the introduction of resolution-independence in OS X, I too think it would be wonderful to get past pixel-based imaging models. [Update: the “Five Problems” guy may be wrong on this one.]
Still, if anything can match the iPhone, it’ll be a truly commons-based, radically-open platform.
Licensing and Business · I think that the problem in the mobile space has always been the business model, not the technology. I’ve argued repeatedly that it will never get interesting until the mobile network operators relax their death-grip on the customer relationship, open the networks and devices, and focus on their core competences: bandwidth and billing. The technology hasn’t been that great, but it hasn’t been that bad. My perfectly decent little Samsung phone, with a truly great screen, has Java and lots of other goodness, but I can’t actually run any programs unless I buy them from the network operator. Oddly, there are no programs for sale that are interesting in the slightest. That’s the problem.
Unless I’m missing something, the big deal with the Java-language-on-another-VM setup seems to be about using the Apache license, as opposed to the Sun version’s GPL. Which means (and once again, I may be missing something) that any old cellphone maker can take the Android software and build another locked-down control-freak phone just like my Samsung.
So what’s the point?
As a Sun shareholder, sure, I’d like our technology on those mobile devices. But as a Sun shareholder, I see another huge upside in the mass of server infrastructure everyone will need when the network operators unclench and we get an explosion of creativity and Mobile/Internet apps. So if Android will do that, it’d be hard to be against it. Will Android do that? Why?
Disclosure · Like it says on the front page of ongoing, I do not speak for Sun except when I say I am. In this particular matter, not only do I not speak for Sun, I have no idea what our official position on Android is, I’m not in that loop, nor have I read the legal Android fine print, nor have I downloaded the software.