A recent headline “BlackBerry Storm Transformed into Google Android, Sorta” got me thinking. No, it wasn’t that certain news outlets are click-mongering hope stealers. It was about the future of Android. First, that the idea of a phone having a semi-portable, nameable operating system is a breakthrough in itself. A few years ago, the idea that a phone had an operating system at all was a little strange sounding. “What do you mean ‘Download for UIQ phones?’” Or that you would install something “on” the phone at all. The phone was the phone, the buttons, the screen, the novel type of hinge. “Look at this hinge technology”, you’d say.
We’re past all that of course. There wasn’t any doubt since the Newton that we’d get where we are today, but there still is this concept of the hardware and the software coming together as a package that should go to the same place the Newton went. The operating system and phone should be considered independent and hopefully, someday not long from now, will be.
There is a perfect analogy to this in the PC world: Linux (and Android is Linux). Linux goes on everything. When that gaming “rig” from ’99 stops being able to run current games, put Linux on it and use it for MythTV, or just Hulu, or checking your email and never getting a virus. Imagine the same system applied to cell phones. Don’t need your old phone? Put Android on it and make an imeem machine for your bedside! Or an alarm clock and imeem machine. Or an alarm clock with imeem and StreamFurious for listening to the news in the morning. You can forget about that recycling program at your local Circuit City Best Buy. Your phone is going to still be useful until something replaces alarm clocks and music. And why shouldn’t it be? You paid for it. It’s yours.
The Palm Treo. Great phone, and a very good OS for the time, but as soon as mine stopped being able to make phone calls, it stopped carrying its weight. Suddenly 6 ounces was a lot for a planner and to-do list. Now we’re getting to the point where the phone is almost beside the point. There is, after all, a machine called the iPod Touch, which, even though I don’t condone it, some people do own. This is an iPhone without the phone part. Yet somehow it remains useful. I know if I couldn’t make phone calls with my G1, I would probably still carry it around. I could still avoid getting lost, play music, and make lightsaber noises just like those iPod Touch users (whoever they may be). All the more reason for operating systems to be portable. It’s not a phone anymore!
And let’s not forget the fact that you may want to put Android on cutting edge hardware too. Take the Blackberry — pipe dream — example. Blackberry has great hardware. It fits your hand. The keys are big and tactile, and it’s got that great thumb wheel. Pop Android on there and you’ve got it all, the phone you want and the OS you love with all the software you bought over the course of years of ownership.
The Android on Blackberry scenario probably won’t happen anytime soon (prove me wrong kids!) but there is still a message here. We Android fans do not yet have great hardware. We have good hardware (G1), and we have the clunky , the fake , and the goodbye weekends!
This is not to say that the market is failing us. In fact, it’s working pretty well in every corner of the globe. It’s that we’re so antsy to have it all. Not only that, but wouldn’t it be terrible if a great OS never had a great home? There would be more than one gadget historian shaking his head in shame.
I say let the next Android come from RIM.