It’s All About the Software, All of the Software

It’s All About the Software, All of the Software

I have been using a Samsung Nexus S/Google Nexus 2 with Google Android for the past couple of weeks. The unit was provide to me by Google to get me up to speed on Android 2.3, also known as Gingerbread.

Here are the specs:

  • Display: 4 inch AMOLED capacitive touchscreen display, 480 x 800 pixels.
  • OS: Android 2.3 Gingerbread
  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 1 GHz processor
  • RAM: 512 MB RAM
  • Camera: 8 MP camera with autofocus and LED flash
  • Connectivity: GPRS, EDGE, 3G HSDPA, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0
  • GPS: GPS with A-GPS

First, I have to say I really like this phone. It is fast, sleek and easy to master. It feels good in the hand, has a great display and the software on it is pretty intuitive. This is a phone built for a Google experience, though. The problem is the phone doesn’t recognize the investments people have made over the years in their music and movies,  and offers solutions for those investments only through third-party software, if at all.

We don’t live in a purely cloud world, but this phone assumes we do. Which is why I say its about all the software, not just the software on the phone.

My experience

Within a couple of hours time, I was able to configure the Android phone to mimic the functionality of my Apple iPhone 3GS. Most of my apps, from Dropbox to WordPress, from Twitter and Facebook to Skype and Evernote were all available in the Android Market. Once I paired it with my Jawbone I was set. Well, almost set. E-mail and music and video and podcasts and iTunes University aren’t an option for the Android phone, at least not easily.

Here is where all of the software matters.

When you connect an iPhone to a PC you connect through iTunes. iTunes recognizes your phone, figures out your relationship and let’s you synchronize contacts, all e-mail accounts (if you have Outlook) and movies and music to your hearts content.

The Nexus experience remain in the realm of the technology initiates, not the consumer. First, if you want contacts on your phone, you have to export them from a database and import them to Google’s web apps. If you want a calendar sync, you can do that with Google’s calendaring syncing program. So right of the bat, you have two very different experiences for something that is very seamless for most phones in the past. If you want other data stored in Microsoft Outlook or on other e-mail systems, you will probably need to buy or download additional software. Given I was just reviewing the phone, I did not go into this process—I stuck with what was available pretty quickly from Google.

In order to mount the Nexus to the PC, it takes a combination of Java JDK and the Android SDK. Now, I’m not your typical consumer, but I know a lot of typical consumers and most of them have little knowledge of Java and have no idea what n SDK is (software development kit, BTW). Why not a simple driver that at least mounts the phone as a USB drive (which it does appear to do, according to  Web reports, if the device has a removable Secure Digital (SD) card, which the Nexus doesn’t) ?

Apple gets that it’s the software. All of the software. If you just want a phone, and if all of your entertainment, media or communications experiences are Net-based,  then the Google Android platform is an adequate solution. If you want a consumer experience, that include all of the things you care about in a mobile platform, then you need to look to Apple or Microsoft (yes, the Microsoft experience is better than the Android experience as well).

Conclusions

I wrote yesterday that the future was about devices. I think that is true. What this has shown me is that the iPhone isn’t all that unique as a device. Samsung as created a good device, and Google has created an operating system that is a worthy competitor to iOS. What Google doesn’t get, nor does Microsoft, is that the device and its software is only part of an overall experience. Apple gets that. iTunes as well as the iTunes store, and the various agreements with music and print publishers gives Apple the edge. iTunes and Apple devices present a total, connected experience, from opening the box, to connecting to the PC, to downloading your information, to getting apps, to looking at photos, to competing in games, to listening to music and watching movies. Fortunately, as devices, all of this can be fixed with software. The simpler and more intuitive the better, BTW.

That chain of perceived value is a strategic differentiator that Google doesn’t understand, and if it does, it hasn’t acted on that understanding. Microsoft gets the software side, including enterprise e-mail, social networking and entertainment (and gaming), but they are more Microsoft over engineered, with features like the social hub that break the ability to differentiate work-life and social-life (they did, however, include wireless Zune sync, which is something Apple hasn’t delivered yet). Microsoft and Google both loose when they put their software in other company’s devices. They give up control of the experience. It shatters and fractures, from junk software on the device to skins to terrible hardware designs. It appears HP and RIM plan hold on to the hardware experience as well.  Apple controls all of those aspects, and yes, they get grief from it at times, but they also create the most holistic experience, and arguably, attract the most loyal customers.

Note: I downloaded the Java JDK and the Android SDK and they allowed me to connect the Nexus. Please note that you must change the mode of the phone to USB device, which the 2.3 software suggests automatically. It you want sync music or iTunes playlists you will need software like AirSynch from doubleTwist. Even with this, the synchronization does not support, so you only get your ripped songs or iTunes Plus songs (no DRM). To me this should have been included in the package. And of course, part of Apple’s strategic differentiation includes proprietary DRM (as well as their leadership in the creation of downloadable, unprotected music for a premium).

Daniel W. Rasmus

Daniel W. Rasmus, Founder and Principal Analyst of Serious Insights, is an internationally recognized speaker on the future of work and education. He is the author of several books, including Listening to the Future and Management by Design.

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