Tuesday, November 27, 2007

What is missing in the Android SDK

While recovering from the turkey, I spent some more time browsing the Google Android SDK. I focused more on what I felt was missing, rather than what is there (because it is more challenging and it helps fighting the tryptophan :-)

First thing I noticed is that it lacks a nice GUI. A year ago, I would have said wow. Now, I am expecting an iPhonesque experience, which is not in the SDK. However, since TAT is in the open alliance, I am sure there is something coming that Google did not want to share. Rightly so, I might add: it is just a preview of an SDK, you need developer to code, who cares about users at this point? You care about users when you ship a phone. I would bet the UI will look different on the first real phones. And it will be good for marketing.

Second thing I noticed is that it lacks support for JavaME. Yes, device manufacturers can get it from Esmertec (another member of the OHA), but - if you are a developer - there is no guarantee it will be there. And you can't test it today. The message is clear and it is everywhere: Google is trying to build the mobile operating system of the future. It is a new platform, it has a new paradigm (look at the concept of Activity, Intent and so on...). It is a bold move. Forget about JavaME, you have to build native. Port your app soon (and we will give you 10M if you do it ;-) Do not miss the train.

Last thing, and more significant, is the lack of an Advertising API. I do not believe Google did Android "to get more people to access their services with a browser". The browser is not the killer app on a mobile phone. Making the experience better than the current Safari on the iPhone is going to be nearly impossible. And browsing on the iPhone sucks. It is barely usable for emergencies. I probably do not spend more than 5% of the time I use an iPhone to browse. The rest are applications, starting with email. Or weather. Or stocks. Or music. Or video.

I do not believe Google is investing millions in Android with the hope you will click on an ad, while browsing (and getting to the ad might require panning and zooming...). Google is building the mobile platform for the future, that allows a developer to deliver applications integrated in the Google Ad System. As Google Adsense has made content possible (web developers need to grab a few lines of Javascript and they start making money), the Advertising API will allow mobile developers to build their applications and put in a few lines of Java code, to integrate them with the Google Ad System.

Ads will be also linked to GPS, so the context will be "where you are", not just "who you are". Since Google also knows "what you like" because of the searches, it will deliver the most interesting ads depending on your location. Developers will build the conduit to allow Google to make gazillions also on mobile, while they make some dollars and the users get all kind of applications for free...

Again, no need to put that API in the first version of the SDK, but I am sure it is coming. It makes a lot of (common and business) sense. Expect the Advertising API to ship quite soon.

BTW, I am running out of champagne. I opened another bottle today, after the announcement from Verizon that the Wall Garden is coming down next year. Open is finally hot. I have been waiting for it for a long time, it does not seem possible this is really happening so fast.