Google’s Android mobile OS is an interesting new technology that will open up the mobile space in 2008. Bill Sobel blogged about the platform in conjunction with our Jan 17th panel “Wireless, Wimax, Mobile and Beyond: A Look at the Future Communications“.
Android will enable a multitude of new mobile applications. Along with the iPhone’s soon to be released open platform, which will enable anyone to build software for the phone, I expect 2008 to bring a number of new types of apps. Yes, we’ll see some tie-ins to OpenSocial and other social network applications, as well as some better implementations of some existing applications like chat, location, and messaging. But we’re also likely to see applications that never existed in a mobile context, because developers will finally be able to create software for handsets just like they create software on desktops.
One of the important aspects of the handset space, which people don’t seem to be talking about, is how its fundamentally different from computing on the desktop. This distinction wasn’t really able to be developed because thus far we’ve had anemic platforms (like JavaME) that restricted what developers could do because of limited APIs. With Android and with the iPhone, such restrictions go away because the OS and API are essentially the same as their desktop counterparts.
The really exciting and innovative applications will only come about if the hardware supports it. With the iPhone, you really have both an OS and a handset that remove the traditional limitations of mobile platforms, and we’re already seeing some novel applications being built. With the iPhone’s official APIs, many more developers will build new types of apps. But with Android, thus far we’ve only seen the traditional phone interfaces (QWERTY keypad and small screen). For Android to really succeed, it will need better and less restrictive hardware as well. Apple caused developers and users to rethink how they interact with a mobile computing device — its not really a phone, but a pocketable computer that can make calls. Android will need to get similar handsets in order to remove the traditional hardware limitations that have restricted phones up until now.