Daniel Eran Dilger
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Google fans fail to contemplate why Android is free

Daniel Eran Dilger

Supporters of Google’s Android platform studiously ignore all its potential problems. Now they’re refusing to acknowledge why it is free. This is a bad omen for anyone who hopes that Android has a future.

Humans are wired to ignore flaws in things they love. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t ever settle down and sprout kids. But refusing to acknowledge show-stopping problems is also the basis of dysfunctional abusive relationships and codependency.

It’s time for Android followers to weigh their giddy anticipation that 2010 will be the “Year of Android” against the reality that Android isn’t exactly the bee’s knees in terms of technology, in implementation, nor as a business model.

Listening to your critics

Symbian executive director Lee Williams is clearly not in love with Android. But he recently voiced some criticisms that should be taken seriously. Symbian recently converted itself from a commercial smartphone licensing company into an open source foundation through the actions of Nokia, much the same way as Google has funded the operations of the Mozilla Foundation in order to produce Firefox.

Nokia, the world’s largest phone maker, along with Samsung and the beleaguered Sony Ericsson are all pushing new Symbian phones, and Symbian itself is working to recruit other partners to use its platform. This makes Symbian a lot like Android, apart from a few differences:

1. Symbian has a vast installed base and currently has about a 50% share of the smartphone market. Android has a negligible installed base and very little market share (around 2%). Instead, it has monstrously large yet vaporous expectations set for it real soon now, just like Itanium, Java on the desktop, microkernels, and Sirius XM all once had. (That was a callback to my previous, unrelated article for you regular readers).

2. Symbian has actually operated on a large variety of popular phones for nearly a decade. Android was announced around the same time as the iPhone, shipped its 1.0 and store about a year after Apple, and currently appears on a very small number of phones, although its fans are all anticipating a major reversal of fortune largely because they think this would be awesome.

3. Symbian is being pushed by big vendors: Nokia (which I’ll again note to be the largest phone maker in the world) and Samsung (the number two phone maker) and Sony Ericsson (which, while ailing, is still the fifth largest phone maker). The other two of the top five phone makers also make Symbian phones, although third place LG is currently being paid to direct all attention toward its new partnership with Windows Mobile and fourth place Motorola has announced the intention to back Android exclusively as its smartphone platform.

Did Microsoft kill Android at Mobile World Congress 2009?

Android is being pushed by HTC, the company that made most of Microsoft’s Windows Mobile phones as an ODM for other companies, including Palm. HTC has seen the writing on the wall for WiMo and has decided that Android is its best opportunity to replace WiMo. Motorola is also a vocal Android partner, but is also about as beleaguered and rudderless as Sony Ericsson.

Microsoft: HTC has made 80% of all Windows Mobile phones

Android fans like to talk about the “18 mobile makers” that will be officially supporting the platform by the year’s end, but they don’t point out what a mixed bag these are. The majority of this number are little Chinese outfits you’ve likely never heard of before: TechFaith, Hauwei, General Mobile, and Highscreen, along with non-phone device makers like Dell’s netbook, Barnes & Nobles’s Nook (Kindle alternative), and the Archos internet tablet.

The platform also includes major companies that actually make phones among its supporters, including Lenovo (IBM’s former PC business), LG and Samsung. But recall that LG and Samsung share the same history as Sony Ericsson: Symbian players who were caught off guard by the iPhone, licensed WiMo in desperate attempts to poop out something that could compete, and then after that strategy failed, went scrambling back to Symbian.

Last year, Sony Ericsson introduced its WiMo-based XPERIA X1 and Samsung unveiled the WiMo Omnia. This year, both dumped WiMo from their flagship offerings; Sony Ericsson debuted the Symbian Idou while Samsung touted its new Symbian OmniaHD. LG is a bit behind on the curve, so it’s still in the process of releasing a flurry of phone models anchored to the lead balloon that is WiMo 6.5.

4. Symbian is being run like Mozilla. While it got its initial funding from Nokia, Symbian takes direction from members of its board, which includes various hardware makers. Google develops the Android platform itself to serve its own needs first, although it allows members of the Open Handset Alliance to do whatever they want in hardware and modify Android pretty much anyway they like.

Talk to an Android fan, and they’ll describe this backwards: that Symbian is a wholly-owned extension of Nokia while Google just wants Android to be whatever manufacturers want it to be. This is an important distinction because what Symbian has become is exactly what Android backers say they want: an open, independent software platform that altruistically does whatever is in the best interests of its partners. Android is actually something very different.

Lunch isn’t free

There are two kinds of freetards: cheapskates and ideologues. Cheapskate freetards love Linux and Ogg and because they don’t have to pay some outfit for the use of proprietary technology. There’s nothing wrong with this of course, but these people tend to go overboard in making excuses for the lapses in quality. It’s fine to say you’d prefer to add your own elbow grease to save money in a DIY project, but if you’re not honest about the amount of work involved, you may end up putting more effort in than makes sense. Lunch isn’t free.

The ideologue freetards aren’t just interested in saving money, they’re interested in killing proprietary development entirely for political reasons. They want one choice, because they feel that some choices are not okay. They want to decree in law that lunch is and can only be free. The problem is that lunch is never free.

If you go to a conference and they offer free lunch, it isn’t really a free lunch, it’s there as a way to keep you from leaving the event to find your own food. If you get a two for one coupon offering a free lunch, it’s not a free lunch, it’s a plea to get you to buy at least one lunch at half price in the hope that you’ll like it and keep eating at that place. If your friends offer free pizza and beer for helping them move, it’s not a free lunch, but rather a cost-effective alternative to hiring professional movers. There is never a free lunch, ever.

In the world of software, fake free lunch has similar analogs. Microsoft offers its Direct Push as a “free” feature for Exchange Server because it doesn’t want users to go looking for paid alternatives in the form of RIM BlackBerry Enterprise Server, and then end up buying BlackBerry phones instead of Windows Mobile phones, or other phones licensing Exchange ActiveSync, like the iPhone. It’s not a free lunch, even if the deal may be in the interests of both users and Microsoft. And of course at some point Microsoft will start charging licensing fees for Direct Push, just like some conferences charge for lunch when they know you no longer have any options. Future costs are something to evaluate when eating a free lunch.

There are plenty of two for one deals in the software business too: Office, Creative Suite, iLife and other suite bundles all provide an assortment of very popular apps with some other placeholders thrown in to keep you from looking at alternatives. “Advertising-supported” is another example of free being non-free; your attention span has value, so having to sit through ads is a cost you incur for gobbling down this kind of free lunch.

A lot of open source software is also free in the sense of “free snacks when you help us move.” Like other kinds of fake free lunch, there’s nothing wrong with making this kind of deal, as long as you are not oblivious of what you are actually trading in order to get something that represents itself as free when it really is not. Killing yourself all day to earn a $4 lunch is not a good deal unless it comes with a pretty solid friendship and the knowledge that you have pals that will help you move someday, too.

Blind to Android’s costs

The people contributing to and willing to invest in Android similarly need to appraise the real costs involved. From the beginning, Google portrayed itself as being an altruistic friend to freetards of all stripes. It provides access to online apps that are “free as in ad supported,” and in the last couple years it has floated Android as a free alternative to Windows Mobile.

Given the universal lack of love for Microsoft’s terrible mobile operating system, this made Android a hero spanning hardware makers and potential device buyers. Add in the ideologue freetards who hate the iPhone and its App Store for being commercial ventures, and you have even more support from disgruntled developers who failed to cash in on the App Store gold rush

But Android isn’t being given away just because Google is the opposite of evil. Instead, credulity in Google’s “do no evil” creed has been strained to the point of shattering. Remember when Google was the alternative to the “in your face” advertising being shamelessly disgorged by Microsoft and Yahoo and Doubleclick, companies who all wanted to track you with spyware cookies, build up a database of your preferences and buying habits, and subsequently target you relentlessly with customized ads?

Back then, Google was all about dialing things back to subtle, textual ads that were relevant because of context: ads in your Google search results linked to sites you may want to check out. Then came ads in Gmail that pertained to the topics mentioned in your messages. A little creepy, but only on the level of those electronic eyes that know when to flush your toilet. It’s not like they’re filming you as you do your business and then predicting when you might want to pay for toilet paper.

Well that era is over. Google now owns the “we never said we weren’t evil” DoubleClick, and the company is working very hard to set up a Minority Report style dystopia where ads track you and your every move around the web. The reason for Android’s existence isn’t just to kill Windows Mobile so that Google can continue to subtly place ads next to your map search results, but rather because Google wants to extend its cookie monster domination over the mobile web, too.

While cookies in desktop web browsers offer an intimate look at what you’re interested in, what you buy online, and how long your attention span lasts as you jump between pages, imagine the rich font of personal information tied up in your mobile. That’s a major aspect of the cost of Android as your free lunch. Google is an adware vendor. You may decide that this is an acceptable tradeoff, but you can only do that if you actually stop and weigh the costs yourself. It’s completely delusional to blindly buy into Android as the free lunch with no strings.

Kill the messenger

And yet, when this Symbian executive pointed out that Google’s Android is not just another adware experiment but actually an attempt by Google to syphon customers and their valuable data away from hardware makers and mobile phone operators, Androids fans lined up to ignore the meat of his beef and instead quibbled about his probable bias.

Obviously, Symbian would rather have Google contributing to its own existing platform than introducing a new competitor. But that doesn’t make the issue he raises wrong or irrelevant to the hardware makers and mobile operators that will have to back Android for it become successful.

If this all seems familiar, it’s because Android fans have nearly unanimously taken the same approach to debating the issues that I’ve been among the first to raise, including Android’s serious platform fragmentation problems related to the hardware grab bag and the custom user interfaces being designed by Android licensees desperate to fit in while standing out. This is the Linux Problem: freedom expanded to an ideological infinite that simply results in anarchy.

Google’s Android Market Guarantees Problems for Users

For what its worth, Android’s fragmentation problems are just as bad or worse on Symbian and Windows Mobile, something that the Symbian executive didn’t get into for obvious reasons. Steve Ballmer likes to point out that Microsoft has already worked on this issue, but again has little to say about the fact that phone vendors are all abandoning his platform en masse apart from the hoodwinked (for now) LG.

The simple reality is that everything has pros and cons. For users who only consider the upside because they’ve been blinded by adoration, the downsides may be earth shattering. Android enthusiasts, many of whom are not even actual users but are simply cheering it on with the expectation that it will soon be ready for prime time on a good handset at some point (or will at least provide Apple with some much needed competition to keep it innovating), seem to prefer to dismiss any criticism directed at it without any sort of rational discussion of the actual pros and cons.

That’s a dangerous sign that associates Android with a series of high profile failures that all happened for many of the same reasons: unbridled optimism that blinded observers from seeing problems before they grew to the point of being unaddressable. Again, I can repeat that list of things like Itanium, Java on the desktop, microkernels, and Sirius XM. Real costs and drawbacks were ignored because the idealized potential of all those things seemed so breathtaking… but only when the real costs and drawbacks were ignored.

John Dvorak reverses entire career, says Microsoft should copy Apple

Android’s Kiss of Death

On the other hand, successful new products are often roundly criticized even as they excel. Take the iPhone: critics went full hog in exaggerating every flaw and limitation while Apple plugged away at addressing the issues. Conversely, its very unique features and capabilities were often discounted. This baptism by fire that resulted in the platform becoming unassailably powerful. Android is getting the opposite treatment: nothing but flattery and excuses. This is not exactly resulting in a strong platform.

Look who railed against the iPhone in scathing tones at its introduction: John “pull the plug on the iPhone” Dvorak, Paul Thurrott, Rob “the iPhone could be more of a drag on earnings than a help” Enderle, Wired Magazine, CNET/ZDNet, IDG, Gartner, ABI Research, Troy Wolverton, the Street, Brian Lam of Gizmodo, Engadget, the Register UK, and oh so many others.

Secret iPhone Details Lost in a Sea of Hype and Hate
The Street’s Flaccid Campaign Against the iPhone
Troy Wolverton Digs Up Rob Enderle In Desperate Apple Attack
Japanese “hate” for iPhone all a big mistake
IDG’s Galen Gruman throws fit about Apple’s iPhone 3.1 Exchange fix

Those same sources have not leveled similar criticism upon Android, which has accomplished much less over the same time period. Instead, they’ve all heaped hugely hyped helpings of praise and ecstatic optimism on Android across the board. These are people and publications that are almost always wrong when trying to predict the future. This is not a good sign for Android regardless of its cost.

Gartner’s presumptuous coronation of Android as the Windows of smartphones


1 Jon T { 10.27.09 at 2:54 am }

That is so, so right – having that anti-Apple brigade endorse your product or business model is its own kiss of death.

Oh how they will all look back and wonder how they got it so wrong.

And I must say, Android is being painted to be the light at the end of tunnel – that may actually turn out to be the speeding train that takes them all down..

2 lowededwookie { 10.27.09 at 2:54 am }

Actually Dan Huawei are quite well known, well at least in countries that have had 3G for some time.

They make USB and ExpressCard 3G modems that are really quite good products. Some brands of modems are also clearly Huawei modems despite having other “manufacturer’s” names on them.

3 Gwydion { 10.27.09 at 3:08 am }

Huawei: $23 billion revenues in 2.008 and 87.000 employees.

Yes, a little unknown Chinese company.

4 raganesh { 10.27.09 at 3:54 am }

A post in the NYT with thoughts about Google’s motivation for Android: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/26/microsoft-google-and-the-bear/

5 christian { 10.27.09 at 5:39 am }

Faithful reader comments :-)

This is really the best article in a long time. The plea to apple article din’t become your eloquence or my reading eyes -no offense. This time you really thought some sharp ideas up. I think you are spot on in the long run. Symbian will benefit both from better leadership and from the source of android. Which will probably mean that Android will become a leeched upon 2nd class citizen. People like products, and companies like contractual formalizations.

You made my day – again. Thanx for keeping at it. I hope you get filthy rich, and untill then i will read your magazine thoroughly feeling better informed and sometimes even more.

6 christian { 10.27.09 at 5:41 am }

PS: very nice quote!:
“This is the Linux Problem: freedom expanded to an ideological infinite that simply results in anarchy.”

7 Strompf { 10.27.09 at 6:00 am }

I always assumed that Google developed Android simply as a first attack at Microsoft’s core business, as part of a bigger plan to achieve dominance in the IT industry.

I found it a brilliant move of Google: Attacking Microsoft heads-on in the desktop os market seemed a bit too ambitious, but sideways by first introducing a smartphone os, followed by a os for slightly bigger devices (Chromse OS), etc., seems brilliant to me.

8 Skippy { 10.27.09 at 6:59 am }

1. If you meant Huawey (not Hauwey), they’re the biggest Chinese telecom manufacturer. Their equipment (especially mobile telephony) is already pervasive in many 3G-enabled European countries.

2. Freetards and idealists are two extremes. But what about the middle ground? What about people who want, not just freebies, not just have political interests, but want to feel they still own the hardware and software they buy? In a day and age when personal computing devices are increasingly becoming “black boxes”, an open platform can have a certain appeal.

3. You say Google is aiming at becoming a sort of Big Brother, watching us browsing. But as long as the watching is done via cookies; and as long as the user can control the cookies; and as long as the Android platform (or phones) themselves do not otherwise phone home; the problem is simply uneducated users. I don’t see what this has to do with Android. Guarding your privacy online is a general issue.

4. You call “Linux” an anarchy. So what? Why do people insist of looking for centralisation patterns behind Linux, or any FOSS platform built in the “bazaar” style? It’s always been like that and yet the business world seems to have grown accustomed to it.

9 dallasmay { 10.27.09 at 7:23 am }

I must say that I am really surprised by your position. Google’s Android is the only Mobile operating system that matches the iPhone OSX. WinMo, Symbian, Palm OS, and Blackberry all are from a previous era. They simply can’t match the ability and strength of the iPhone and Android. And to prove the point, MS, Nokia, and Palm have ditched their legacy OSs and have begun complete bottom up rewrites. MS’s WinMo7, Nokia’s Memo (or whatever it’s name is) and Palm’s WebOS are necessary now that Apple has turned the World upside down with the iPhone.

Symbian is a dinosaur in this era. Nokia spun it off in order to focus on their own new operating system -Linux based. Plus, the iPhone isn’t the iPod. It’ll never reach that kind of marketshare, because it’s tied down to specific carriers. Apple can’t just do what they want with it like they could with the iPod. Some people can’t switch carriers to ATT, and that means that they will have a different set of choices to make when it comes to buying a phone.

The field is very wide open here. In 20 years, when we look back on the history of smartphone development, it will look very different than the history of the personal computer. We won’t have one super-dominant player. It will more likely look like the history of most every other industry. We will have a variety of players, each tirelessly working to add features and styles to attract many different people.

The Dominant player, that ties them all together for interoperability, will be the internet. That is a place where Google’s Android will do very well.

10 Gwydion { 10.27.09 at 7:26 am }

@dallasmay { 10.27.09 at 7:23 am }

“I must say that I am really surprised by your position.”

Surprised? Why? Symbian, WinMo doesn’t represent a threat to Apple, Android yes.

So we can foget our hate to MS and we can start to hate Google.

11 accumulator { 10.27.09 at 7:54 am }

Just to quibble (and to provide your daily dose of useless trivia):

“There is never a free lunch, ever.”

With a notable exception: the Gargoyle Cafe at the University of Chicago offers a sandwich and a small soda to all Nobel laureates. (This is an actual fact, although the reason is obviously tongue-in-cheek; Milton Friedman, the father of “There’s no such thing as a free lunch”, was a Nobel-winning economist).

12 Zea { 10.27.09 at 8:17 am }

Nice read, and since Brian Lam of Gizmodo is a sold out I wont take anything he saids without a large pile of salt.

13 gus2000 { 10.27.09 at 8:28 am }

Funny you should mention that…I’m almost done porting my Friedman shell into my new Miltnix distro. And it’s free!!!

14 Berend Schotanus { 10.27.09 at 9:13 am }

I am absolutely an Android fan.

However, not for cheapskate or ideologic reasons. Not even because I intend to buy one. I am an Android fan for very selfish reasons, I use an iPhone, I am very happy with my iPhone and I hope iPhone will be a success not only on the short run but also on the long run.

I think it is not so nice, while talking with my friends about smartphones, to say: “Apple, Apple, Apple.” I think it is much nicer to say: “Well, listen, my preference is iPhone but of course you’ve got also Android, Palm, even Blackberry…”

iPhone momentarily is the fastest growing platform ever. Apple has to accommodate this growth, there are limits to what is feasible. There certainly is a point where the pace of growth would become a threat instead of a benefit and that would be a pity.

I think iPhone benefits hugely from Android. Android helps establishing (web) standards that are beneficial for Apple as well. It provides a powerful counterargument against charges of illegal monopolist practices. And it gives the less lucky manufacturers a pass time, while they might use their energy in a way much more annoying for Apple when the Android lightning conductor didn’t exist. Actually I think that Steve Jobs himself advised Google to develop Android.

Even the seemingly unfair press iPhone is receiving might be not so bad at second sight. Suppose Gartner would call iPhone no 1, I think as a consequence a $ 500 stock price for Apple would be a mild projection, inducing maybe again all kind of roller coaster effects. Who knows: maybe Apple is paying Gartner for not mentioning iPhone as no. 1 ;-)

So, although I concur with all arguments mentioned, I say from the ground of my heart: “Yes, let 2010 be the Android year.”

15 LuisDias { 10.27.09 at 9:29 am }

What a load of crap, Daniel! I’ve been lurking here nodding all the way ages ago, forgot my own code lost in the gmail database and thus refrained from commenting for a long long time, but this does it ;)!

Not that I mind you dare to speak out against Google’s “good will” towards “the people”, I also found Symbian leader’s voice against Google quite funny and insightful in a basic sense: why should anyone portray themselves as “non-evil” if not to try to hide the very opposite idea?

But your own ideas of “free” are so 20th century and so out of style from you that I worried for your own mental health: Daniel thinking in 20th century terms?!? WTF? Go read (or listen) to that great book by Chris Anderson “Free: The future of a Radical Price”, which is also, hahem, free.

There is no such thing as “free lunch”, but there is such a thing as a 0.0001 cent cost android OS per phone, which is sufficiently low to just scrap it and call it “free”, specially if the company at hand just wants to create mindshare, and some trivial space for ads.

Look, this ain’t nothing new. Radio and TV has been around here for almost a century now, and they were also free. Can you imagine a Daniel like figure making rash reviews on paid journals because these naughty radio & tv “evil” guys were cheating people into their naughty schemes and plots?!? And yet, irony is gold when we realize that Daniel’s own product is free for web users like me. AhAh!

The only thing I can say about Android is that it’s still lacking, but to compare it with Symbian efforts is misleading to the extreme. Symbian still has to recode everything, Android doesn’t. And the fact that Android is open source means that even if Google is set up to do “evil things” (what? FUD from Daniel against open source? Didn’t see that coming!!), the carriers just take it from there and don’t have to start all over again: Google simply does not own the IP of Android as MS does with WM.

Daniel fails to understand that all companies in the software business are always subject to the pressure of “free”, it’s a race for the bottom. Even Apple acknowledges this and mostly takes their revenue from hardware. And given Moore’s law, totally “free” isn’t that special anymore. Welcome to the 21st century.

16 MTaibbiCamp { 10.27.09 at 9:37 am }

Look at this article: Movie about Sirius XM sends U.S. Postal Worker to the Stars
or at

17 TheMacAdvocate { 10.27.09 at 9:45 am }

A lot of this comes back to the clickthru economy. Fortunately for the one-trick-pony analysts (clicktards?) who specialize, the stories that bash Apple get attention. Most analysts are simply ramora in the freetard ecosystem.

Yet another way that Google contributes to the cycle of praise/bash that allows inferior analysts to pay their rents.

18 HCE { 10.27.09 at 9:49 am }

Frankly Daniel, I don’t get all this Android hate coming from you. Let me make a few points in response.

1. Google is a vendor of targeted ads. No denying that. That’s how they make money. However, this applies to pretty much every device that uses Google and their services and not just Android devices. All of this doesn’t make Google evil. I’d guess that Yahoo and Microsoft (the other two big guys in free web services) will do pretty much the same thing. Frankly, I find the notion of companies being “good” or “evil” a little amusing. These are not charitable entities – they exist to make money. So long as it makes sense to treat customers well and make money, they will. If, however, screwing their customers proved a viable business model, that’s exactly what they’ll do. This applies to pretty much every company out there – yes, Apple too.

2. The “new” and “open” Symbian you are talking about isn’t here yet. What we have now is (as you yourself have previously noted) a fractured mess – none of it open. The open version of Symbian comes out in a year’s time. This and Nokia’s Linux-based platform, Maemo 6, will have a completely new UI/API based on the Qt toolkit that Nokia acquired in early 2008. If Android is untested, this will be doubly so. No idea how many of the current Symbian vendors will follow them to the new UI/API.

3. HTC isn’t this insignificant little company that you make it out to be. In terms of smartphones, they are a lot bigger than companies like Samsung, LG and Motorola. Their market share of 5 percent includes only their own-brand phones. If you add all the phones that they make for others, their share is probably way bigger.

4. Anyway, none of this means that I am sold on Android. By the end of this year, they will have Android 2.0 in place. Some great phones from several major vendors will be out too. Essentially, they will be in more or less the same position as Apple was when the iPhone 3G and the version 2.0 software came out. The first half of 2010 is going to be the big test for them. If they can make a big jump in market share then they will be a serious iPhone rival, if they cannot then they are going to be an also-ran.


19 ChuckO { 10.27.09 at 9:49 am }

Google is a lot like the band U2 they both have a general aura of goodness that is less a result of anything they’ve actually done than their commercial success. In either case you can feel like a better person by using the product instead of actually doing something.

20 benlewis { 10.27.09 at 9:49 am }

Another great article. Another donation. Thank you! You mention in passing that Apple does need a real competitor or two. I completely agree with this and find it unbelievable that three years in, no one has emerged. Also, I fear that a substantial number of bankers in New York figured out how to get a free lunch a year or so ago. Too bad it meant a meltdown for the rest of us…

[Thanks Ben! Perhaps there is such a thing as a free lunch… it just requires spending hours researching a topic and writing it up. – Dan]

21 stevelee { 10.27.09 at 10:16 am }

The reason that there is no free lunch is that somebody pays for it. Sometimes, as in Daniel’s examples, they pay and get benefits, or at least hope to. If your meal really is free gratis for-nothing to you, still, somebody paid for it.

22 ChuckO { 10.27.09 at 10:21 am }

Here’s a great joke about IT projects that explains why there is no free lunch:

The IT Menu.

1. Get it done quick.
2. Get it done cheap.
3. Get it done working.

You can have any two but NOT ALL THREE!

23 MikieV { 10.27.09 at 10:50 am }

@ LuisDias

“…And the fact that Android is open source means that even if Google is set up to do “evil things” …, the carriers just take it from there and don’t have to start all over again: Google simply does not own the IP of Android as MS does with WM”

And when the carriers “take it from there” it will fragment the market for “Android” phones.

At what point will these super- and sub-sets of Android have to coin a new moniker for their particular fork of the Android tree?

I’m curious to see who develops into the Ubuntu [Flavor of the Month] in Android distros. :)

24 Hakalau Tom { 10.27.09 at 11:56 am }

Thoughts of an ideologue Mactard (my creed being that the M$ monopoly retards progress) based on comments so far (10.27.09 at 10.50am):

Great article, a must read for Gartner and the like. As usual, Dilger argues forcefully, with rhetorical exaggeration here and there, but this article does not spew “hate”. Can we give that word a rest?

Ballmer is correct (I can’t believe I’m writing this) is saying that Apple’s iPhone will never own the smartphone market. Most of us who willingly endure commercial TV and radio, complaining that $20 (one time) is too much to pay for a superior browser, $3 is to high for a superior iPhone app, and $0.10/day is too much for news. To this majority, lunch may for now seem to approach “free” within 0.00001 cent, and Android will appeal, once the obstacles Dilger reviewed are overcome. 2010? No way.

Technological advances have pushed way down the costs and prices of certain products, but to relegate the aphorism “no free lunch” to last Century would be breathtakingly shortsighted. While the paradigms of global money flow were in flux, housing prices would “never go down”, until they did. Likewise, business models for the creation and distribution of information and entertainment are in flux, and lunch sometimes looks to be free, but not for long.

I would never accuse a corporation of “evil”, because I consider them amoral and totally without integrity, and therefore undeserving of the label “person”. (The Supreme Court and I disagree.) Dilger merely fired a shot through a gaping hole Google opened with their “do no evil” motto–a much deserved cheap shot.

25 John E { 10.27.09 at 12:17 pm }

check out this new survey:


the results are pretty amazing. too early for Android to show up in the stats, but Symbian is clearly in trouble.

26 SteveS { 10.27.09 at 1:10 pm }

Once again, the consummate Apple fanboy speaks out against the latest perceived threat to Apple’s glory. I love most of Apple’s products, but this level of zealotry makes me embarrassed to be an Apple fan.

The latest hatred seems to be directed toward Android. That’s understandable… Symbian is on it’s way down, WinMo is dropping like a rock, Palm was the great “iPhone killer” that fell flat, etc. In short, aside from RIM’s established market, nobody offers a potential threat to the iPhone except for Android.

[Don’t stick words in my mouth. I’ve never expressed any “hatred” for Android. If fact, in the previous article I stated that I’d prefer to see Android take off over Symbian or WiMo as a “generic” OS. What I’ve outlined is a bit of realism for those who have let Android-mania blind them to its very significant flaws and few (and largely theoretical / political) advantages. The only expression of hate here is dripping from your comments. – Dan ]

What’s funny is that you use Symbian as the basis for your argument and claim they are the new Mozilla. Yes, Nokia has a long established presence in Europe. However, Symbian is horrible. It was acceptable in the days where your competitors are WinMo and Palm (before WebOS). Now, with the iPhone, Android and even WebOS, Symbian is a complete joke. Nokia’s marketshare is eroding.

[I have written about how horrible Symbian is before. I’ve also written about how horrible Netscape/Communicator was. I fail to see how you see a distinction between these two pitiful examples of crappy code and terrible management converting themselves into open source projects as a last gasp effort in survival.

Netscape once owned the web browser market like Symbian owned the smartphone market. What exactly do you see as a difference between these two companies, apart from the fact that it was Google that funded Netscape’s phoenix into Mozilla, and Nokia that funded Symbian’s new release? If anything, Mozilla had less to work from. Symbian has some weird stuff, but its foundation resurrection pares off the two other UIs (its all S60 now) and keeps a decent kernel.

My best guess is that the iPhone will do to Symbian what WebKit did to Firefox: expand around it and leave it an island in the past. (Firefox doesn’t even have a mobile version that works). in this analogy, Android might be Opera.]

Many of the handset makers need a generic OS to use for their hardware. For a while, it looked as if this void would be filled by WinMo. With the Android, Microsoft’s dreams are being crushed. Symbian open sourced their OS in an attempt to fill that void, but nobody is biting. Only Nokia is dumb enough to hitch their wagon on that dying product.

[Yes, and the MP3 makers needed a generic OS to use for their hardware, which is why PlaysForSure was such a hit. Do you even read my stuff? You sound like you’re just reciting Android religious tracts. I mean come on, at least address what I’m saying instead of rattling off planned comments. ]

No, Android will do well in the market place. There are enough people that hate Apple or RIM to want to use one of the many cheap alternatives. These will be Android based alternatives. The biggest loser here will be Windows Mobile (WinMo). With 50% marketshare riding on a lousy product, Nokia / Symbian have no where else to go but down. The market is large enough to support multiple platforms.

[The only people who “hate” Apple or RIM are freetards, and they don’t matter in the economy. There is nothing about integrating a free OS that results in a desirable “cheap alternative,” or we’d have lots of low cost Linux PCs to choose from. In smartphones, what difference in price is there between the iPhone, a BBery, and a Droid/G1/Hero? Oh, that’s right, none. ]

Despite what some may believe, Android’s success is actually good for Apple. Android’s sales come largely at the expense of WinMo, etc. and they also validate Apple’s products and standards like WebKit based browsers, etc.

[What I wrote wasn’t an attack on Android or an effort to rein in its potential for success. It was a scathing condemnation of blind adoration of Android by people who fail to honestly appraise its pros and cons. Including the fact that it is not really a free OS; its a tool by Google to wipe out WiMo (no complains) and then take Microsoft’s place in mobile adware (that’s no good) while delivering a layer of software that looks about as good as Windows, has about as good of a security model, and works about as well across hardware as WiMo (that’s also no good).

Think that through and get back to me. – Dan ]

27 studentrights { 10.27.09 at 1:55 pm }

Hi, Dan,

I’ve been reading your site forever and I’m a big fan. But I like many others on this site are concerned about the “tone” rather than the “content” of your writing. You clearly know what your talking about and every article is a very entertaining and informative read but you discredit yourself when you insult others. I have no doubt that Microsoft’s actions are unethical if not criminal at times but dragging your commentary down to the level of Hannity from FOX News is discredits your arguments.


I’m 100% with Apple. I don’t care for Linux or Microsoft products much less Android but why expend effort on pages worth of brilliant and informative writing only to spoil it with insults.

People are slowly figuring out that Microsoft offers half-baked solutions that usually aren’t worth the money or trouble but you won’t convince anyone by insulting them.

28 gr@wl!x { 10.27.09 at 3:54 pm }

Enderle and Wolverton desperately need Android to work, then kill Apple, in order to justify their historical ‘predictions’. It’s not at all surprising they are myopic to its faults. They are the pond-scum of the tech press.

Furthermore, they are paid hansomely to shill for big tech companies (a practice that the FTC will hopefully eraticate soon http://tr.im/DhgC ).

29 cy_starkman { 10.27.09 at 4:25 pm }

Ooooo, by the number of comments and strong positions you’d almost think Daniel was trying on some of the shock pundits style in attracting eyeballs.

Then, you just realise the delusional state of mind people are in when they are forced to consider free.

21st century free is a different free…
after doing heaps of work I paid no money…
Daniel is anti-free cause he’s a Apple fanboi and wants $$$…
Or anti Google.. what crap.

Urrrr. It is so plainly obvious that many people don’t get the idea that nothing is free in such a mentally locked way that there is no exampling that will help them see through it.

How in f’s name is the largest, most complex, resource intensive, global spanning infrastructure with more parts than there are humans on the planet probably by an order of magnitude mistaken for being free.

I mean, something as simple as breathing is not free, because you expend energy to take the breath. There will be cells damaged during the breath that need replacing either due to toxins, strain or age; these will require energy.

Or is it simply part of the delusional state that allows the most indebted country in the world to be the “biggest financial power”.

In a culture where debt equals wealth. Why shouldn’t costly be seen as free.

After all the addict who performs fellatio in exchange for a free hit of cocaine sees no cost, just the free cocaine. In fact they will get violent if you were to try and help them see the cost. Even after being bashed, being tricked with no drugs, and infected with diseases they will still valiantly defend the kindly dealer who gives them both food (via the daily protein shake) and drugs for free.

Android isn’t free. Google’s not free. In fact, Google not only stuffs its choad (ads) in your mouth, you actually pay the ferryman (ISP) for the privilege of having your mouth stuffed full until you gag (download costs).

I’ve read that upto 90% of all email sent daily is spam. Isn’t spam unsolicited (unasked for) advertising

Funny that Google, the largest purveyor of unsolicited advertising isn’t considered the “king of spam” or included in the articles regarding “the burden and strain” spam puts on the network infrastructure.

So yes, let’s all hold up Google as the shining light, the flag bearer of freedom, the do-good company of the modern era, the example of unity, sharing and creative commons to the world.

Let’s praise their name as they now seek to dominate and flood the wireless networks with their message of freedom. Increasing our data costs and slowing down our connections.

In fact on a Google corporate blog entry only the other day I read that they are considering building and providing free housing, initially to roll out in the USA but then globally. It’s great, you get a free house, utilities and food and in exchange nothing, you pay not one cent.

To cover their costs (as you will have none) in providing this heart warming service to the world everything you do will be discreetly monitored to improve your experience (by selling that info to companies to better target your feeble brain). Any content that contains an image of your face will blur out identifying features if you opt out (via an obscure off site weblink); Google though will own that content and can use or sell it as it sees fit (to porn shops, content producers etc). Anyone is welcome to visit people in the free Google Houses but they will need to first register with an account and then be subjected to ongoing unsolicited advertising unless they complete a form in triplicate that is available from any Google corporate office in person (that secretly is used to send even more ads regardless).

Hopefully I have insulted all the delusional Freetards at once regardless of which banner they fly.

/end rant

30 The Mad Hatter { 10.27.09 at 5:51 pm }

Since this is close to Halloween, let’s look at the Smartphone market from a Monstrous point of view. Monster Movies are a universal form of communication according to Steven King.

Symbian is Living Dead – a Zombie

WinMo is the chick wearing the skimpy halter top and shorts – we know she will be dead before the first act is over

Palm WebOS is the hand made man – Frankenstein’s Monster

RIM keeps barking – the Werewolf

Android is the new monster – Pokemon

IPhone is the sucking the life from it’s competitors – Count Dracula

I love this silly crap!

Now, here’s where it gets fun.

Daniel’s right. He’s right because Apple delivers great value. You get an IPhone, you get one hell of a deal. It’s a phone, a game machine, a Palm Pilot replacement, a music player, a tablet PC, an EBook Reader, a mobile reference library, and God knows what else. Compare it to a Kindle, where all you get is an EBook reader.

Daniel’s wrong. He doesn’t understand “FREE”. The point of FREE, is that the user is in control. They control the horizontal. They control the vertical. No one else. The USER. It’s not about price, it’s about control, and this is why Google is the enemy, because they don’t want to allow the user full control.

Apple doesn’t want to allow the user full control either. But that’s OK. Apple has never promised to allow the user full control. And where Apple retains control, they do so to prevent the platform from being damaged. Think “BRAND”. This means that Apple does some really stupid things, like blocking an application that pulls in the PAGE3.COM pictures – when you can get to the site using mobile Safari anyway… Of course Americans have always had a conflicting view of the human body. Hookers on every street corner (and in every TV show) and they freak out when they don’t get to see Janet Jackson’s nipple.

And of course communal barn raising is an old American custom. Linux and other GPL software is the modern equivalent.

31 bartfat { 10.27.09 at 8:52 pm }

I think Daniel’s trying to present the economics of a “free lunch”, as in the old saying, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Obviously, Google or the hardware makers are doing the development work for Android. The open source community will only contribute so much, after that the commercial vendors have to customize it. So the costs of development aren’t included in the licensing, instead they’re the cost of actually developing. So it’s not a free lunch from there… secondly, he has a good point about Android allowing complete customizations, which is both a blessing and a curse. Since many manufacturers will have crappy interfaces because they may not know how to design a UI well (I know Samsung doesn’t) or will be hamstrung by software limitations due to the fact that it runs on a multitude of hardware configurations… which means that it’ll be difficult for an App Store-like environment to take place without some baseline configuration taking shape… at which point Android will lose its flexibility. So it’s a catch-22 as far as commercial third party developers are concerned.

Of course, the nerds and cheap people will buy en masse, because they refuse to pony up for an iPhone and its multitude of (god forbid ) commercial apps in a “walled” garden App Store. But for everyone else who just wants a smartphone that just works without hassles, that’s the iPhone. Of course, what would the fun be in reliability and the same normal interface that they can’t tinker around with? How boring, they would say.

32 Ajay { 10.28.09 at 3:10 am }

What a disappointing article Daniel.

Some major mistakes that take away the foundation of your view.

# Symbian is crusty and inflexible and that is why Nokia is investing in Maemo platform. Symbian will die a slow death, and Nokia has already found a way out of symbian grave

# Android is opensource, and manufacturers are under no compulsion to ship google apps with their handset. They can ship with Bing as the default search engine and yahoo maps for location finder. Infact, google apps are closed source and manufacturers require a license from google, as a android modder discovered

# Android apps run on top of a JVM, and this allows android to be customized without fear of losing the apps. Which is what Motorola has done, by building a custom UI that adds integration with social networking sites like facebook.

# Apps can be loaded onto android phones without requiring a key from google. Google is evil? no problem. Uninstall google apps you got with the phone and load alternatives you trust

# Distrust google completely? No problem again! Just load a modded android firmware from a third party!

Sadly, this article reads like a rant from a pro-apple shill!

Daniel, wake up!

[I don’t address an audience of people who download and recompile the kernel in their mobile phone to achieve ideological purity. The rest of the reasons you cite for my being wrong and stupid all seem to be irrelevant. Symbian doesn’t have to achieve anything to be wildly more successful that Android currently is. Android is a dream. And there are plenty of alternative realities that offer the same things, including Symbian Foundation and Maemo. Interestingly, Nokia is pretty successful, while Motorola (the current Android white knight) has been a bumbling idiot of a company. Let’s withhold judgement on who is the shill until Motorola actually achieves some success on the order of Apple or Nokia.

Portions of Android are open source. The valuable portions aren’t. Like Google’s apps. A device with an embedded distro of Linux that shipped with IE wouldn’t really be much of a value for FOSS fans either. Motorola’s customizations to Android are the problem, not the solution. See also HTC Sense, Sony Ericsson, and so on. There is not one Android, there’s a bunch of ineffectual androids competing against each other for attention.

The point of the article was not that Android or Google is bad, but that Android’s delusional fans will respond to any real criticism of the platform with a hailstorm of personal attacks and moralizing outrage rather than a rational defense or acknowledgment of its flaws. Kind of like your comment here.

I’m sorry, I don’t know how to make this simpler. – Dan ]

33 FreeRange { 10.29.09 at 2:03 am }

Daniel – Broken link in the article at “Japanese “hate” for iPhone all a big mistake” – readers can google it to read.

34 Khürt Williams { 10.30.09 at 4:07 am }

But the “the ideologue freetards” do not mean free as in “free beer” or “free lunch” they mean free(dom) as in speech or rights. The challenge I have with all that “you can use the code and look at it” arguments is that like most people, I have neither the time nor the incliniation to look at the code and change it to my needs. I have no intention of becoming an expert on internal combustion engines just so that I can get to work and I suspect most people are the same way. When I do use “free” software I use it because it is “econonically free”. That’s not a business model. That’s a political model.

35 Why Apple’s iPhone is still not coming to Verizon — RoughlyDrafted Magazine { 10.30.09 at 9:38 pm }

[…] Google fans fail to contemplate why Android is free […]

36 botik { 10.30.09 at 11:08 pm }


You may not benefit directly from free software, but indirectly you do. If you bought a netbook recently, its low price is due to competition from free software. If you bought an Apple computer, it is due to FreeBSD guys giving the kernel for free. I used MacOS 8 for a brief while in 1997 and it crashed more often than Windows did back then. It was a horrible piece of crap.
The internet you are using every day is due to free software. So, the benefits to you are immense, it is just that they are not immediately apparent.

[Just to add some accuracy, while Mac OS X incorporates lots of FreeBSD and other FOSS code into its kernel and Unix subsystem, it does not use the FreeBSD kernel itself, and Apple has done huge amounts of work to develop its own Darwin kernel (based on Mach and BSD sources) in a unique branch of the Unix kernel family tree. – Dan ]

The thing is, free software is not directed at end users. It is directed at developers, who have the necessary tools to produce something good and offer it to end users. The result may not be free as in beer, but it gives the required substrate for companies like Apple to build good things upon it.

You guys miss one important point. It is like arguing that tyranny is better than democracy because it allows for security. Well, some people prefer freedom to security.

[True, but most people also prefer centrist-style security than teabagger anarchy. There is not a binary choice between “tyranny” and “ideologically pure freedom.” Actually, the closer one gets to the extreme fringe in opinion, the more they have in common with the fringe on the other extreme of the spectrum. Which is why I like the middle: you get hate from both sides, but they largely cancel each other out. – Dan ]

Daniel, you seem to argue the benefits of a centralized vendor over a bunch of competing vendors. Well, Android is not at fault here – it just enables those competing vendors to compete better against each other and against Apple, by offering a customizable platform that Microsoft failed to provide. If the whole idea is wrong, well you argued it before, that a focused hardware maker is better at providing a polished and useful thing than a bunch of competing rivals, but nothing stops one of them to focus on quality and polish and compete directly with Apple. The fact that it has not happened yet probably means that Apple is unique in its attention to user demands, but it could still happen.

[I’m not arguing for a world dominated by Apple (the late 80s were no paradise); I’m arguing that competition is not achieved by having one monopoly in software. I’m happy to see multiple competitors (Symbian, RIM, Apple, Android, WebOS, WiMo, plus new independent entries) and multiple hardware makers. It gives me more to write about. – Dan]

You also argue that the customization options of Android are bad. But that is exactly what allows device manufacturers to differentiate between themselves and offer better interfaces due to resulting competition. This is what WinMo sorely lacked.

Another point you did not mention is FireFox took 5 years to re-write the old Netscape code to come with something useful. Imagine how long it will take for open source people of Symbian to re-write all that code they got.

[Netscape was almost completely worthless by 2000. Symbian has a polished kernel and Nokia’s s60 is functional. There’s a ton of people who know how to code for Symbian, even if its not exactly pleasant. You seem to be arguing that Linux will trump Windows Vista because there’s issues with Vista. Well, in this case, Vista (Symbian, obviously) is being open sourced and given away for free. Which makes it harder to argue that another Linux distro is going to spectacularly change things. Keep in mind that Android is just trying to be a free WiMo that sort of clones elements of everything. It isn’t really cohesive or original, and it doesn’t have a single party pushing it. It has, as you describe, lots of squabbling hardware vendors trying to steal it and run in their own direction. When has this worked in the past? – Dan ]

37 The Mad Hatter { 10.31.09 at 10:31 am }

Khürt Williams

But the “the ideologue freetards” do not mean free as in “free beer” or “free lunch” they mean free(dom) as in speech or rights. The challenge I have with all that “you can use the code and look at it” arguments is that like most people, I have neither the time nor the incliniation to look at the code and change it to my needs. I have no intention of becoming an expert on internal combustion engines just so that I can get to work and I suspect most people are the same way. When I do use “free” software I use it because it is “econonically free”. That’s not a business model. That’s a political model.

Khürt, You don’t get it, do you? For all Daniel argues against “FREE” he understands it. No one cares if you compile it yourself, or if I compile it for you. What matters is that you have the right to do so.

38 mysocialbrain: 02-11-2009 : protagonist { 11.02.09 at 4:36 am }

[…] Google fans fail to contemplate why Android is free — RoughlyDrafted Magazine dan writes another great article […]

39 Khürt Williams { 11.03.09 at 4:50 am }

@The Mad Hatter, @botik
I make these argument against and idealogue of free and open source (FOSS) software because I use it every day and because at one point it was the main software in my home. I made a good living in the 90s developing on the Linux Apache MySQL Perl (LAMP) stack. A few years ago, in my home I have a Linux server for myself, a Linux laptop for my wife, and a FreeBSD based file server. I do log analysis as part of my job and all my applications run on Linux. I’ve never once looked at the code.
But … while I found Linux useful to me, my wife hated it after a year using it. When it worked, it worked well. When it failed, she turned to the only support she had me. And I in turn spent more time in forums and chat rooms looking for answers. I was like one of those guys who spends all his time “fixing up” an old car.

In 2005, I bought my first Mac because a work colleague mentioned that since I liked UNIX/Linux I should take a look at a Mac. He let me borrow his Mac mini for a few days. I bought one a few weeks later. In 2009, I ejected the last non-Mac/OS X computer from my home.

I don’t care that I don’t have the right to compile my software. Most of us “normal” human being don’t care either and lack the skills to do so. I’ll take the compiled OS and software thank you.

The only people who care whether their software is FOSS or proprietary are the geeks. Everyone else just wants to surf the web, check email, balance the checkbook, edit vacation videos and photos, and get business done.

Android’s openness has nothing to do with “better”. It has to do with Google needing to attract hardware manufacturers so that they could jump start their “mobile advertising eco-system”. I’ll believe the Android hype when I can be assured that ANY app I buy to run on one Android phone will run on ANY other Android phone.

40 The Mad Hatter { 11.03.09 at 9:22 am }


As I said, it’s about rights. Whether you choose to exercise those rights doesn’t matter. What matters is that you have those rights.

As to whether you decide to use Free Software or not, that’s your choice. No one is forcing you to. No one is forcing you not to. It’s a choice.

As to Google, I suspect that they may find that they are going to get more than they bargained for…

41 Samsung Bada unveiled as new iPhone, Android platform rival — RoughlyDrafted Magazine { 11.10.09 at 3:17 pm }

[…] Windows Mobile Omnia as its flagship offering, but followed up this year with the Omnia HD using Symbian instead, a move identical to Sony Ericsson’s release of the Windows Mobile Xperia X1 followed […]

42 Apple vs Google: it’s all about who pays — RoughlyDrafted Magazine { 12.18.09 at 10:09 am }

[…] Google fans fail to contemplate why Android is free […]

43 gctwnl { 04.09.10 at 5:54 am }

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