Unless you were vacationing this past week on a remote island without newspapers or internet, then we can safely assume you know that the tech news world is universally abuzz over the newly-released Android smartphones from Verizon: the Motorola Eris and Droid. Some reporters have hailed the phones, specifically the Droid, as the long-awaited “coming out” device of the Android OS, suggesting that it’s the first to offer the interface and functionality that legitimize the hype that’s been building around the new open source operating system and will start giving Apple a run for its money.
With bullish enthusiasm, Brian Heater of PC Magazine finished his commentary on Friday by saying, “Android has arrived” and Michael Arrington of Tech Crunch simply said in his review, “It’s droid day; enjoy the moment.” A more optimistic reception comparatively than most reviewers gave the first Android handset, the T-Mobile G1, in October of last year, which many felt showed Android’s potential, but lacked the “wow” factor they knew consumers needed to see.
No matter your personal opinion about the phones, these new devices—and the hype around them—represent a growing and increasingly lucrative opportunity for Android developers. The open source operating system is a new frontier for innovation, allowing faster time to market and acting as a “muse” to promote and push the bounds of creativity.
Yet, with this opportunity comes challenges, too. Open source applications can be open to criticism when it comes to quality and reliability since it’s a largely fragmented and self-regulated frontier. Tricia Duryee of MocoNews puts a fine tip on this point in her article last Friday when she reminds readers that:
“…there are now three different versions of the Android operating system currently for sale, which is raising red flags that the platform could become fragmented…. developers will have a difficult time developing applications that could run smoothly on each platform…since Google is relying on an open source platform, it could be affected by the platform splitting off and having multiple threads, which causes confusion.”
To overcome this challenge, developers need a cost-effective means for testing with handset accessibility, but also the full range of support from automation to recording to management and monitoring capabilities. Open source OS’—without their rigid management and restrictions– have so many more variables than proprietary systems for developers to adjust to that it’s more critical than ever that developers’ time is freed from testing constraints, and instead they can remain focused on creating original applications. After all, consumers don’t choose operating systems; they choose devices that give them the wow factor, and right now they’re facing almost too many options in the marketplace.
Innovation is what’s really going to drive consumers to Android and give it a run at becoming the number two operating system in three years time behind Symbian as Gartner predicts (see our blog post from October 23). Hot apps, streamlined design, an intuitive interface—all offered by multiple handset manufacturers and wireless carriers. Eliminating redundant application testing can pave the way for this to happen.