January 07, 2010

The Google "Nexus One" Saga Turns Ugly

Greetings. Until now, I didn't feel any particular need to comment here about Google's new "Nexus One" Android phone. It's gotten plenty of press (by some standards, perhaps too much for its own good), and while it appears to be a very nice phone, it is in many respects essentially a souped-up MyTouch (HTC Magic) -- in fact like the MyTouch it's manufactured by HTC.

I make no secret of the fact that I'm a big fan of Google's open Android OS ecosystem. I carry a (rooted) G1 Android phone (HTC Dream) which serves me well, I do my own Android development, and I've never felt any need whatsoever to look back over my shoulder at Windows Mobile. And while I've noted that I'd happily work with a Nexus if it appeared out of thin air, it's also true that without a physical keyboard it's not a good fit as a primary phone for me, given my high e-mail volumes.

The current Nexus is a GSM-only phone (and the Verizon version will be CDMA only) -- and this GSM Nexus will work 3G domestically only on T-Mobile (not AT&T) -- exactly like the G1 and MyTouch. The price of an unlocked Nexus purchased from Google is in line with other unlocked smartphones, as is the discounted price with T-Mobile contract.

So again, it's a very nice phone. And if Google can get this much publicity out of its launch and is happy with the results, more power to them.

Unfortunately, much of the technical and mainstream media has treated this product launch as a key battle in an assumed Google vs. Apple (Android vs. iPhone) war -- which is to my mind a false comparison.

After all, the iPhone and associated Apple products (like the coming Apple tablet computer) are products of a purposely closed technical ecosystem, with hardware and software development tightly controlled by Apple. Android, on the other hand, is designed to run on a vast range of hardware manufactured by different companies, and it's difficult to imagine how its software development could be any more open without descending into chaos.

In significant ways (and I mean this in a very positive sense!) Android is positioned something like a free, open source version of Microsoft Windows. That is, unlike Apple OSes that only run on Apple hardware, Android -- like MS Windows -- is designed to run on lots of different types of hardware (not limited to phones of course) from a vast range of sources. And Android is well positioned to inter-operate and merge in very useful ways with various Google products and services, including the Chrome OS and other Google systems.

So while there's a natural tendency to try compare the Nexus One with the iPhone via various vectors such as screen size, number of apps available and such, these comparisons are really missing the point of what Google is trying to do -- so far quite successfully -- with Android in the longer run.

A couple of days ago, New York Times columnist David Pogue wrote what I would classify as a generally upbeat and essentially accurate (if not particularly enthusiastic) review of the Nexus One. I don't always agree with David, but I thought his review hit the salient points fairly well. He may not be as excited about Android overall as I am, but I certainly wouldn't have categorized his review as notably unfair or biased.

So I was rather dismayed to read his column today, where he recounted the blast of hateful comments he received in response to that review, leading him to write:

"... Android appeals to precisely the sort of frustrated, anti-establishment people who have no trouble writing abusive notes."

His reaction may be somewhat overwrought, but is completely understandable. There's no rational reason why anyone trying to deal seriously with these complex technical issues should be expected to put up with that sort of abuse. Nor do such juvenile outbursts directed toward reviewers like Pogue do anything to advance the interests of we who support Google's efforts with Android.

I won't belabor the old Rodney King "getting along" stuff here, but I will suggest that these issues are important enough that we would all be well served by at least trying to act like adults when debating such topics (and at other times as well!), and that a bit of respect goes a hell of long way even when you disagree strongly with someone else's opinions.

"Do unto others as you would have others do unto you" -- remember?

That's the "nexus" of the matter for me -- and I hope, for you as well.


Posted by Lauren at January 7, 2010 08:41 PM | Permalink
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