The Android Revolution

We’ve discussed Google’s Android Operating System before as it pertains to Verizon partnering with the tech giant or the system’s specific capabilities, but there’s a lot to catch up on, as is often the case with Google. There are now a ton of Droid systems already on the market, with more coming. Keep reading as we take a closer look at the state of the market.

Not only is the Droid system most favored among developers (as we’ll soon learn), but since the operating system’s release in October of 2008, an unprecedented number of smartphones (and e-readers, among a few other gadgets) now use the system. By the end of 2009, Google expected there to be 18 Android phones by year’s end, but just a few months in 2010 there are a whopping 45 smartphones making use of the Droid system.

 

Let’s catch up on the latest Droid developments and find out a little bit about the latest smartphone to join the Droid army: the Motorola Backflip, which is being offered by AT&T.

{mospagebreak title=Survey Says …}

Those who follow tech news on a regular basis know that Google and Apple had a fairly amicable relationship and often bonded over their mutual hate of Microsoft. After all, the two companies, just ten miles apart in California’s technology empire of Silicon Valley, had little reason to be enemies; they offered very different services to their respective consumers. Around 2007, however, there were rumblings that tension was brewing between the two big hitters as a result of Google announcing its plans to develop Android for mobile phones. The rest, as they say, is history.

Fast forward to today where there is a fierce rivalry between the two wildly successful companies, some even going as far as to say that the battle between the two superstars “will shape the future of mobile computing.” Even more to the point, literally billions of dollars are up for grabs when it comes to phones, software, and services, and developers are a major driving force that helps bring in the big bucks.

Developers must choose what operating system they want to work with and develop programs, applications, and other services on which either Apple or Google are capable of making major money. According to the latest BusinessWeek cover story, the relationship is also mutually beneficial. “A company that can nail mobile ads and share the wealth with the growing legion of app developers—freelance software writers who create all those sometimes-useful (Business Card Reader), sometimes time-killing (Flick Fishing) mobile programs—could pull in the best of the lot. Create the strongest ecosystem of apps and devices, and, the thinking goes, you leave rivals gasping to keep up. Essentially, the mobile platform that creates the most ways to make money wins,” BusinessWeek writer Peter Burrows wrote.

If that’s true, it appears as if Google’s got the lead, and not just in terms of popularity and demand. Appcelerator, an open source platform for mobile apps, conducts a Mobile Developer Survey and its most recent findings show dwindling interest in the iPad as a development platform. The iPad was just released at the time of the survey. Obviously the fact that its latest, most talked about product is already losing ground is bad news for Apple, but what makes it worse is that the survey also found that interest in Google’s Android OS is not only thriving, but growing by leaps and bounds compared to last year.

According to Appcelerator, the 1,000+ developers surveyed have varying backgrounds representing iPhone, Android, PCs, Macs and Linux and back in January, 90 percent of the developers surveyed claimed to be “very interested”  in creating an iPad application within a year, but cut to the March survey and only 80 percent of respondents felt the same way.

It may not seem like a huge decrease, but when combined with the other findings from the January and March surveys, the 10 percent decrease becomes very telling.

The iPad interest may be waning because many have come to the conclusion that the iPad is nothing but a large iPhone, but according to the survey the iPhone is still top seed, with 87 percent of developers surveyed saying there are "very interested" in it as a development platform. So, why is this bad news for Apple again? Well, because Google is gaining ground — and quickly.

According to the survey, Google’s Android mobile OS has 81 percent of the developers claiming they are “very interested” in developing for the Android platform. Not only is it bad news for Apple that Google’s trailing them by a mere seven percent, but even more worrisome is the fact that the numbers jumped upwards by 13 percent in just two months.

That’s right, in January’s survey just 68 percent of developers surveyed stated that they were “very interested” in developing for Android, and two months later that percentage jumped to 81. Though the numbers have stayed pretty much the same for the iPhone, numbers for Blackberry and the Windows Phone jumped pretty significantly in the developer’s poll as well. This may suggest that despite the release of Apple’s iPad, it seems as if developers are more interested in exploring a broad spectrum of platforms, with the Android OS nearing the top of the list.

{mospagebreak title=Latest Phone to Join the Droid Ranks}

It looks as if the battle between Google and Apple will only intensify now that Google’s invading Apple’s turf by offering its competitively priced new smartphone to AT&T, which continues to be the exclusive carrier of Apple’s iPhone in the U.S. The new phone, deemed the Motorola Backflip, will be AT&T’s first smartphone offering that runs on Google’s Android operating system.

Early reviews of the smartphone, which was released in March, suggest that the Backflip isn’t very impressive. Not only does it run on an outdated version of Droid (the latest is version 2.1), but it doesn’t appear as if the Backflip will ever see a software upgrade either — well, at least not anytime soon. That’s because of proprietary software Motorola has built on top of the Android operating system.

It’s not all bad news, though. Thankfully, the software Backflip and Motorola Cliq (for T-Mobile) users get “stuck with” seems pretty cool.

So far one of the most appealing aspects of Backflip seems to be its Motoblur function, which combines all of a user’s contacts from their profiles on Facebook, Twitter and MySpace into one handy address book. Additionally, it backs up the contact list into the cloud (meaning on the Internet) for easy recovery. Motoblur also places updates from a user’s various social networks onto the Backflip’s home screen. In a world obsessed with digitally keeping in touch and staying on top of the things, this last feature is particularly helpful.

Of course, this is just one of many new smartphones slated for the Android OS. Hopefully those smartphones set to be released in the coming months are a bit more impressive and have more to offer than the Backflip, though at just $199 it’s not too shabby.

{mospagebreak title=What’s Next for the Android OS?} 

Just a few months into the New Year, Google already has a lot in the works, but most notable is their foray into television in partnership with Intel and Sony. It’s too early to tell if it will be a total television takeover, but so far these are the details we know for sure:

According to the New York Times, the three companies have teamed up to develop a platform being called Google TV, which will supposedly bring the web into our living rooms through the use of a new generation of televisions and set-top boxes. Admittedly, Google and Intel have little to no sway in the television world, but if Google TV takes off it will allow both companies to extend their dominance in the computing world to television, and consumers will no doubt benefit from the outreach.

According to the Times, which used anonymous sources believed to be familiar with the project (though everyone involved declined to comment and claimed to have no knowledge of Google TV), the companies involved envision technology that will “make it as easy for TV users to navigate web applications as it currently is to change channels.”

Some TVs and set-top boxes already exist on the market which offer web content, but the number of websites that can be viewed is severely limited. So, technically this is nothing new. According to the Times article, it’s Google’s intention to “open its TV platform, which is based on its Android operating system for smartphones, to software developers. The company hopes the move will spur the same outpouring of creativity that consumers have seen in applications for cellphones.”

The project has supposedly been underway for several months, and the three companies have reportedly chosen Logitech, which specializes in the making of remote controls and computer speakers, for peripheral devices that will include a remote control equipped with a tiny keyboard.

This new frontier for Google and its Android operating system should be seen as a pre-emptive move to get a foothold in the American living room as more and more consumers begin to explore ways to bring the web to their television sets. If it’s anything like the other gadgets that utilize its Android OS, chances are it will be successful.  

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