The Android Dilemma
Tight control (Fight Fragmentation) v/s Open Source Innovation – That is a dilemma that Android has on itself.
A connected world of device systems running on seamlessly on a single platform. Embedded systems in the back end are evolving the definition of connected devices. Definition of device connectivity is migrating from Netbook, Smartphone, Tablet, Car, TV to complex enterprise/industrial systems and critical utility infrastructure which are stitched together by a complex network of NFC, RFID, QR Code Readers, Motion/activity sensors and more (the list is quite large here). In the later case, Linux has dominated the market for good cause: it’s lightweight, networked, reliable, standards-based, and cheap — a perfect combination that has stymied competitors.
What Linux does well, Android does better
Android pushes these benefits several notches further, adding a graphical user interface and modern mobile networking support, which are huge assets for embedded devices that might be mobile and require increased redundancy or frequent interaction with users who find menus and icons far less intimidating than command prompts or low-grade web interfaces.
One of Android’s greatest assets, and one of its critical weaknesses from a tablets perspective, is that Google essentially provides a blank slate upon which others can build compelling, integrated applications. Google’s desire to deliver a platform might be perfect for embedded devices, but it’s become a hindrance for enterprise tablets.
A solution for embedded devices is unfortunately Platform fragmentation on the other hand
Even while there are concerns about Android hardware fragmentation, the rapid release cycle has muddied the waters on the software front, especially as it pertains to tablets. Add in Android’s ability to be enhanced and modified by manufacturers, which a great strength on the embedded device front, and you have different hardware providers doing everything from superficial “skinning” of Android on their particular device to providing a unique and different OS shell.
Google shouldn’t take an Apple-like approach to locking down hardware, software, and application distribution, but Android does need to be more tightly controlled by Google in order to achieve tablet success. A significant asset that Google has over Apple is that there are Android tablets available in every conceivable size, shape, and price point. Hardware manufacturers understandably don’t want to be forced into commodity status, but at this juncture, an average user could pick up three random Android tablets and find an inconsistent interface and experience among them. This is not a recipe for a successful enterprise device.
Its an interesting toss up and a marketers dilemma at Google – Maintain course and run out of favour for devices today. Or change course today and loose out on the what appears to be a great future in connected devices