Sunday 23 November 2008

Future of Mobile 08: Android and Gears for Mobile

Rich Miner — Google

Rich used to work for Orange before he co-founded Android.

Tom Hume also has good notes for Rich's talk.

  • We have hit a tipping point with openness being a major catalyst
  • Mobile phone operators tend to behave somewhat like lemmings…
    • (re: unlimited data plans)
    • Have probably been pushed a little faster & harder than they would have liked it (iPhone)
  • Rich spoke about history of working at Orange, trying to launch SPV
    • Difficulties sorting out bugs — HTC didn’t have access to code, Microsoft said it would take months to fix…
    • App discovery was non-existent
  • Fragmentation:
    • Compared number of mobile phones to number of cars, PCs, landline telephones…
    • Unsurprisingly, there are more mobile phones by several orders of magnitude
    • Even for Google, it was crazy to get apps signed on lots of operator networks
    • Google Maps for Mobile should be able to launch directly from your address book, but this is not possible in J2ME
    • It’s possible to access your address book, but only on a subset of phones that support the relevant API, and even then you have to implement your own search
  • Showed slides from Android (the company) when being bought by Google:
    • Hardware costs going down but software costs staying the same
    • Existing Smartphone OSs aimed at enterprise & high-end, Android aimed slightly lower
  • Android architecture — all available as open source:
    • Linux kernel for hardware drivers
    • Libraries on top — SQLite, WebKit, OpenGL…
    • Android Runtime on top and to the side
    • allows access to all the data and services on the phone
    • App framework on top of both
    • Then actual provided apps on top of that
  • Android marketplace is totally under control of developers
    • No human intervention between developer publishing and appearing on the marketplace

Mauricio Reyes recorded the Q&A if you want to see the video.

Q: What about the UI?

  • Need to focus on consumer focussed user interface
  • He didn’t quite answer the question, other than say it’s an important issue…

Q: What are plans to generate as much hype as iPhone?

  • Not looking to replace iPhone — iPhone is already a good Google experience
  • This is a 1.0 device from HTC and T-Mobile
  • There are lots of others in the pipelines — there will be lots more arriving soon

Q: Once there are lots of different handsets, how will apps run on all handsets?

  • cf. JavaME from Sun — there was no reference implementation, so each JVM behaves differently
  • Instead Android has a single reference implementation so each device will have the same underlying software stack and apps will make the same calls
  • Are working on a conformance test — for OEMs to run and carriers to use before accepting a test
  • Google are also going to pick reference apps that challenge the platform (in a good way) and will highlight those as app tests

Q: WebKit and Gears

  • At the moment, Gears is tied to browser app, not WebKit core
  • This was a mistake and will be changed
  • Will therefore be able to have a WebKit component in your app and still access Gears stuff

Q: Widgets for home screen not in current SDK

  • Home screen is just an app
  • Just ran out of time in development — have had lots of requests to add them
  • Haven’t made a roadmap yet
  • Since it’s just an app — can replace with something else — and some OEMs may do so

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