Android’s popularity increased even beyond the iPhone, capturing second place in the US phone market in the first quarter of 2010 (Android Shakes Up U.S. Smartphone Market, Marketwatch.com; also Android Captures Second Place in Mobile OS Race, TGDaily). Also, while this is a very impressive achievement for an OS, I think it is important to realize that the iPhone is maintaining 21%+ market share with only a single device that is actually considered a smartphone. Personally I think this will be the iPhone’s eventual downfall (single point of failure) until they either license iPhone-OS for other devices or push VOIP telephony features onto the iPad, iPod Touch, and possibly other form factors (maybe a cheaper semi-smart phone). I’m sure The Steve knows what he is doing, but it seems clear to a lot of us that the Android uprising is nigh.
Note as well that VisionMobile‘s 100 Million Club, which reports on businesses in mobile computing who have shipped over 100 million handsets with their offerings, lists neither Android nor iPhone in their operating systems section (report released in May 2010, documenting units shipped through the end of 2009). By comparison, Mentor Graphics’ Nucleus RTOS has sold on 2.1 billion handsets. Android is a brand new issue, so it makes little sense to compare single-digit percentages of market share when, as a whole, these operating systems still make up a very small percentage of units sold. These two operating systems, and smartphones in general, are trending very strongly right now, but this is still the first inning of a long, long game.
One thing you can be sure of in the outcome, though – as smart operating systems become more accessible, “dumb” operating systems for mobile devices are fast going the way of all flesh. Further, from my perspective, Linux in general—and Android in particular—has the lowest overall costs, the highest overall ROI, and the fewest barriers to entry.
Meanwhile, worries about legal issues surrounding IP lurk in the backs of pundits’ minds, summarized neatly in this article: Does Android Have a Target on its Back, by James Kendrick. Mobile Linux developers should all be reading James’ blog. I completely agree with his assessment that the Microsoft signature deal is much more important in the long term than Apple’s ironic noisemaking over look-and-feel. I say “ironic” not because I think they don’t have a right to protect their IP—which they definitely do, if it is theirs—but because of the amount of look-and-feel they have lifted over the years, particularly from Xerox PARC in the very early days. Personally I think this is a prime example of why software patents are evil, but the Microsoft deal indicates to me at least that our industry in general is starting to take them with more of a sense of respect and propriety. (They still should be copyrights, though.)
How will these lawsuits turn out? No one knows yet. Do they endanger the Android ecosystem? Take a look at the number of Android-based devices currently in production and those planned, and I think the answer is obviously no. The only odd news item in this area is Motorola’s apparent (but still officially unannounced) acquisition of Azingo,
In more practical news, MontaVista has announced an Android Rapid Development Program that provides serious commercial support for device developers. MontaVista provides added value in the form of (1) a software reference platform with integrated software packages not found in the standard Android offering (including digital tuner support for digital media apps like IPTV), (2) a huge and awesome testing suite built for entire devices rather than just for applications, and (3) MontaVista’s renown professional services. Note that I work for MontaVista and thus my opinion is biased, but that also means I know a lot about the offering and have seen it up close. If I were independently creating a commercial Android device, particularly one that was time-critical (and which one isn’t?) I would definitely be checking out this offering.
On the entertainment front, holidays were declared and commerce has ground to a halt now that Quake 3 is running on the Nexus One. The port looks very tight according to the video. I would download it and test it, but I am considering selling my unlocked Nexus One to save up for an Android tablet. (Anyone interested?)
Also… can someone explain to me why gaming, particularly mobile gaming, has evolved into a multibillion-dollar segment of computing? I’m not complaining, just baffled. I definitely played my share of games in my sordid youth, but never brought myself to spend large amounts of money on them, plus at the time they required a desktop system. I certainly would feel like an idiot if I missed an important call because my battery was dead due to playing Quake on the bus.