As Launch Approaches, Android Faces Real-World Challenges

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The Android cat is almost completely out of the bag. This week, Google displayed the software system -- which NewsFactor says is nearly complete -- at its developers conference in San Francisco.


The story says applications displayed included a way to unlock the phone by drawing shapes on a touch screen instead of typing in a password or phrase, a bookmark function for the home page, a mapping-related tool that roams with the user and displays photos of a city, a zooming tool, and a version of Pac Man. The system can be configured to work with a tracking ball.


Time is growing short: Android phones are schedule for release by at least some partners -- which include Samsung, HTC and LG -- by the end of the year.


It seems that the business infrastructure is springing up around Android as well. This Android Guys post points to the presence on the demo of an icon marked "Market." That, apparently, could link to a portal where Android applications will be marketed and securely downloaded. Andy Rubin, who is Google's Director of Mobile Platforms and oversees Android, said such a portal is a good idea.


Not everyone is excited about the platform. This CNET commentator says, in essence, that Android is nothing more than a celebrated iPhone knock-off. He acknowledges that there are three big problems with the iPhone: It is "too locked down," it is on AT&T's network, and it isn't made for the enterprise. The bad news for Android would be if there is truth to rumors that at least two of these issues (enterprise-grade features and its overly locked-down nature) are on their way to resolution.


The glimmer of hope is that the very open nature of the platform makes it possible that new and innovative features will emerge. While the author suggests that this is possible, he doesn't seem overly optimistic.


Part of the conference was a display of the winners of the first round of an app-development contest run by Google. eWEEK describes some of the winners, which are uniformly cool. The problem, at least from an enterprise point of view, is that there aren't too many that are aimed at business users. While some of the applications do have tangential business uses, the lion's share don't. The applications, said the writer,

won't help connect people in a business environment the way Google Apps, IBM Lotus Notes or Microsoft Office SharePoint do.

Android faces a raft of serious competitive issues -- and not just from the iPhone. In this GigaOm post, the author notes three flaws, though he partially backtracks in an update. Perhaps the key question raised by the post is about the number of carriers that are likely to carry Android devices. He discusses the need for an application store or portal. The update points out that Google seems at least on the way to addressing the issue. The bottom line is, however, that it seems pretty late in the game for the issue to be unresolved.


Android clearly is a good idea. The danger is that a crowded consortium-like initiative could easily bog down. This is especially bad news when the main competitor is a company named Apple.