Recently, a blogger over at Radar.oreilly.com posited his “Five Reasons iPhone vs. Android isn’t Mac vs. Windows“. There, the gentleman states:
“As the title underscores, I am a big believer that to understand what makes mobile tick, you really need to look beyond a device’s hardware shell (important, though it is), and fully factor in the composite that includes its software and service layers; developer tools and the ecosystem “surround.”
The gentleman, bless him, seems unaware that iPhone vs. Windows Mobile (or even WINCE) would be a more apt comparison, since Android doesn’t have much of anything to do with Windows or Microsoft.
Or perhaps he had considered that touting the superiority of the embedded OS X in iPhones,over the embedded Linux in Android could not be defended, even off-handedly.
But first, a caveat: readers of this blog know that I am a fierce Linux advocate. And OS advocacy, like Unix editor advocacy, can quickly devolve into religious discussions. Nevertheless, I see the need, and usefulness, of both OS X and MS Windows on desktops, despite my misgivings about their development and distribution models. Not to belabor the point: this is a specific application of “Toleration” found at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Indeed, I am more than just “tolerant” of OS X, since I use Snow Leopard on my not-often-used Mac mini. But all my other desktops are Linux, as well as all of my servers hosted over at our datacenter, because: I find Linux superior to all other solutions for these uses.
This includes the embedded realm. I’ve incorporated embedded Linux in my networks: I’ve used a Meraki for wireless services, and my current wireless router (Ubiquiti Bullet) uses embedded Linux. And — knock on wood — I’ve found these to be very stable solutions.
So it really is no small matter that my Motorola Droid runs an embedded Linux distro as its OS: I would daresay there are far more person-hours invested in embedded Linux development than embedded OS X development. When we consider this, it’s no surprise that Google would select Linux as the OS upon which to build their Android platform.
But when it comes to Android itself, it’s only recently that it has become a true contender as a mobile platform. Before the Moto Droid was released, there wasn’t any way to use Android on anything but a gsm mobile network: leaving one with the choice of T-Mobile or AT&T as their mobile provider. Since these carriers do not have the 3g coverage that I need, I wasn’t willing to switch from Verizon to these alternate carriers…and if that sounds like a Verizon ad, let it be known that I’d much rather use a ubiquitous, open carrier than anything available on the U.S. market.
So, many folks — myself included — couldn’t take Android seriously, until it was available on Verizon’s network. Indeed, there were no mobile devices in the Droid’s class offered on Verizon’s network until last October — and until then, I was a die-hard user of my Palm Treo 755p running PalmOS 5. (Poor Palm: If a WebOS phone had been available before the Moto Droid on Verizon’s network, that’s probably where I would have jumped, along quite a few other Verizon customers.)
Having said all that, let’s consider what the Droid’s interface has, which can’t be found on an iPhone:
- One-Touch Contact Icons
- Multi-Screen Desktop
- Extreme Social Media Integration
- Integration with Google Contacts
- Integration with Google Calendar
- Ability to use Google Voice as voicemail (including email/sms of voicemail transcripts)
- Can spawn a terminal /bin/sh session via USB connection, as well as a whole slew of developer assistances
In short: These are only part of a tsunami of capabilities, which only recently begun gaining momentum in the mobile space.
This year should be interesting for Android advocates.