Monday, April 14, 2008

Android to replace Windows on the desktop, too?

Android (wiki) is going to be using the 2.6 Linux kernel. The only reason Windows hasn't been replaced in desktop computers yet is that free software sucks - and part of what has sucked so bad about Linux for....forever...has been the Linux desktop - or, lack of Linux desktop. Don't even say 'Ubuntu'.

I don't know what all Android can do yet, but it does a lot - and basically seems to include everything you could ever want in a desktop operating system - well, minus some print drivers.

We could have been rid of Windows a decade ago if Apple had decided to license their OS to other hardware manufacturers, but Apple sucks.

So, can Google do what no free software has been able to do yet - provide a real alternative to Windows?

Technically, I guess Android is an 'open' platform that could be licensed to the likes of Dell, Gateway, Toshiba, etc.

I'm partially kidding about the 'free software sucks' stuff. Obviously it doesn't all suck. Really, I would just rather pay something for software that is less buggy, supported, etc., than go with free. I spend so much time writing, re-writing, configuring, and fixing free software, but I'd rather it just worked. Take Firefox, for instance. 'Awesome', right? No - 'not awesome'. It's difficult to say 'completely sucks' when it's free and it's better than the alternatives, but that seems to be where the market is at right now. I have to restart Firefox - and always have - every hour or so. Open 20 tabs and you're s.o.l. - restart city. Folks like Apple and 37Signals and SmugMug continue to pump out decent or better software - they can do this because they charge for their software - i.e. their developers can afford to eat.

Would anyone want to support Android on the desktop? Could someone commercialize Android? Will Android be a quality product when it is absolutely free to the end consumer? Or will it be absolutely free to the end consumer?

...Android on the desktop? Google says no. But with the rise of computers like the eee, you really have to wonder. Why run Android on an iPhone-like computer, but not an eee?


Sasha Chedygov said...

"Android" would not replace Windows because Windows has like 99% desktop market share. No one can compete, and it's going to stay like that for a long time. (Although, looking at Windows Vista, I think future versions of Windows might kill it.)

Google is not going to help make an operating system because there is no need for it. It would cost a hell of a lot more money than Google would get from it. They wouldn't benefit from it at all. Not to mention Google develops web applications...not operating systems...

Peter said...

I would disagree that 'Google is not going to help make an operating system', because, in fact, they have. It's called Android.

They bought the mobile operating system startup, Android, then pushed the operating system (which they decided to keep it named 'Android') into the Open Handset Alliance.

Looking at the OHA website, we are told in no uncertain terms that Android is, in fact, a full-on operating system, but it's much much more:

Android is a software stack for mobile devices that includes an operating system, middleware and key applications. This early look at the Android SDK provides the tools and APIs necessary to begin developing applications on the Android platform using the Java programming language.

Look at the intro video:

And this means that Google is not directly competing with Microsoft - instead, they've given angry hardware manufacturers a chance to finally tell Microsoft to get lost.

If I had the money, I'd start buying Google stock right now.

As a part-time hacker, I can't wait to get started hacking Android apps.

Anonymous said...

I think that mobile phones will become computers that you can insert into laptops etc to use more functionally, Android will get a foothold as consumers get used to using the software and then I believe there will be a big cat coming out of the bag!

Stephen said...

I think you'll probably see Android showing up on a Netbook at some point, thats probably where Google wants to take the platform after the get the phone business figured out. I don't know if Google really wants to get involved in the Desktop OS market though, I think they'd rather just continue making contributions to Linux distro's and focus on their cloud stuff.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately it seems that the writer of the article know nothing about free software or linux distros, actually I am writing this comment from an ubuntu desktop using a firefox browser which has been open for days :D

Anonymous said...

I agree with you Peter. But I doubt no matter how good Desktop Android will be, it won't replace Windows for quite a while. And Sasha, Windows has below 90%, it never had 99% market share.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Oh, where to start?

The problem of "killing Windows" isn't because Windows is "so good", no the problem is for a huge number of people all their applications run on Windows.

Think about the UI question for a moment, how long does a "typical" user spend in the "Windows UI" (I mean not using the UI of some application)? Really for most users that's not much time at all, you either launch an application directly or double click a file that launches an application. People don't spend hours staring at UI elements from the OS.

Linux's "desktop problem" is actually one of differing design ideas in the applications. This lack of central control over the design of application UIs makes it confusing for users. Add to this that many of the setup tasks aren't well thought out, and Linux's reputation for user hostility is easy to understand. But don't confuse this with "bad software", many applications on Linux are of fantastic quality - they just lack a commonality of UI design.

Many Windows advocates think that this is a fundamental flaw with Linux - but actually this "lack of direction" is one of the great strengths of Linux. If a product is headed in all directions at once, it must be headed in the "right" direction. Natural selection works in Linux's favour here. But sure, this doesn't help the noob.

Windows faces several challenges, one is the damage to its reputation caused by the public perception of Vista. Some of this is real. Vista displays too many alerts, they annoy users and are too numerous for proper consideration to be given to each. Some of this is Microsoft's own fault, there are too many versions of Vista, this is confusing for users and seems disingenuous. Some of this is the market, Vista makes many older drivers and applications fail, is this the fault of Vista or the software in question?

Another threat is the move from desktop applications to "web applications". Now this is perhaps somewhat over stated in the press, there is a real move here. Users are spending more time using a browser and less running traditional applications. The reduction in the reliance on desktop applications does represent a real threat to Windows over time. If users stop running significant desktop applications and work largely in the browser then Windows loses its relevance. Why use Windows if all I ever do is launch a browser?

So what is Android? Why did Google create it?

Android is a OS born of the Web, it expects users to spend significant time using applications that are web based rather than traditional applications running directly on the platform. For Microsoft, this is the nightmare scenario: a post Windows apocalypse. This is what Microsoft have feared ever since they went to war with Netscape. Google's nightmare is somewhat different. Google fear Microsoft will use their position to subvert Internet standards to their platform (Windows - in its largest sense, desktop & mobile) and be able to funnel users away from Google's services and toward its own offerings, starving Google of revenue.

Google created Android stop Microsoft from gaining a monopoly in the mobile space like the one they have in the desktop space. For Microsoft to be able to crush Google, they need to control BOTH. The importance of the mobile space is rising, any attempt to manipulate the market must include mobile.

Does Google want to kill Windows? I don't see it as a primary goal, but given the fact they fear they have of Microsoft manipulating the market against them, they would take the opportunity if it presented itself.

So I fully expect Android to have been designed in such a way that it could go "head to head" with Windows on the desktop, whether or not it will is quite a different matter.

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