Poor MG Siegler. He’s a writer for TechCrunch, which is pretty bad in itself. Two words: Mike Arrington. When your site’s founder isn’t hyping a tablet project that ended up getting yoinked by his partner, only to have it launch DOA, its filling its RSS feed with doth-protest-too-much entries about maintaining its journalistic integrity after selling out to AOL. So, you may ask, what’s worse than writing for TechCrunch? Writing the de facto Apple beat and liking the company you’re writing about. Perusing the comment sections of one of his articles is like watching a predator-prey scenario unfold on the Serengeti, except in this case the hyenas are retarded.
What do Google and Julian Assange allegedly have in common?
They have no qualms about injecting their DNA into unsuspecting vessels without protection.
Things just got a lot worse for smartphone manufacturers and carriers who thought they were getting a steal with Android’s low, low $0 sticker price. Florian Mueller’s FOSSpatents blog is running an entry depicting at least 43 instances where Google’s Android source files appear copied straight from Oracle/Sun’s. Google’s already been targeted by Oracle for copyright infringement, but that hasn’t kept the iPhone knock-off OS from being gobbled up by HTC, Motorola and Sony. In addition to Google’s bursting pockets, Oracle’s case to go after these fat cats just got a lot stronger.
Maybe some aspiring Android developer could create a Morning After app?
Google announced that they’ve received their very last shipment of Nexus Ones, the only phone that currently runs the latest version of the Android operating system. It also happens to be the only phone that doesn’t include craptastic UI overlays like “Sense” and “Blur”.
Google is no longer interested in cutting out the middlemen and selling directly to consumers. The reasons for this are not Eric Schmidt’s:
“It was so successful, we didn’t have to do a second one. We would view that as positive but people criticised us heavily for that. I called up the board and said: ‘Ok, it worked. Congratulations – we’re stopping’. We like that flexibility, we think that flexibility is characteristic of nimbleness at our scale.”
The real reasons that don’t sound batshit stupid:
1. Customers are a pain in the ass. Google “gets” customer service about as much as they “get” intuitive UI.
2. People are still buying Google-infused phone despite manufacturers’ OS meddling and the fact that their over-the-air updates aren’t current.
Why spend money on bullshit like selling and customer relations when you can have HTC or Motorola handle the meatbags while you grift their identity and online habits for free?
Tech’s most popular head-to-head pairing, Apple vs. Google, is a battle originating and fought mainly on the mobile phone battlefield. The iPhone OS and hardware are made by Apple, and despite its problems with AT&T in the U.S., its carrier relationship is the envy of every other phone maker in the industry. This integration of hardware and software, leveraged relationship with its carriers and the closely-curated nature of its App Store allow Apple to deliver a consistent, fluid user experience.
Contrast this with the relationships Google has with its Android partners. Google supplies the OS, HTC or Motorola provides the hardware and any one of a number of carriers provides the service. Its App Store is a loosely-managed free-for-all of copyright-challenging ringtones and mostly minor titles from fringe developers.
So what’s the worst that can happen? Motorola’s recently-released Droid X provides some insight. Gizmodo, who I generally despise precisely for its gratuitious fellating of Google, absolutely panned the device as a giant (5″ x 2.6″, 5 1/2 oz.), spec heavy, performance retarded amalgmation of Android 2.1 (even though the vastly superior 2.2 has been available on the Nexus One since mid-June), Motorola’s Blur social networking overlay and enough pre-installed crapware to make Sony blush.
On paper, the Droid X is one of the best Android phones ever made. But unlike Apple, who controls every facet of the product experience aside from the carrier, the up-and-coming OS’s implementation is a victim of several unleveraged relationships. God help me – I’m about to quote Gizmodo:
The software—a discordant melange of the not-so-fresh Android 2.1 and various bits of the Blur “social networking” interface from Motorola’s lower-end Android phones—is the shudder-inducing poster child for the horrors that can occur when most hardware companies try to make software. It’s ugly, scattershot, and confusing. It feels almost malicious.
If Google had manufacturer and carrier control, they wouldn’t have to deal with this shit, which is why I imagine they took a shot at selling the Nexus One themselves. This phone would ship with Android 2.2 and be stripped of both the crapware (which I suspect was not Google’s idea) and Motorola’s joke of an OS overlay. Instead, a device that’s a specification juggernaut is transformed into a Frankensteinian shitshow that makes everyone involved look stupid.
And that’s what I mean about 2 degrees of fragmentation – and if the carrier was actually responsible for any of the crapware pre-installed on the X, that would be 3. There’s the experience of the Android OS from Google, which has limited control over it (which is why there are 3 major versions of Android in circulation) and there’s the Blur overlay forced onto the device courtesy of Motorola (HTC also has the Sense overlay for many of its Android devices, but it’s not nearly as obtrusive or shitastic).
So when people ask their friends about “an Android phone”, they might get the enthusiastic answer version from a geek running Froyo on a Nexus One or the serious buyer’s remorse answer from someone who was marketed a superior device that’s hamstrung by an old OS and an aneurism-inducing faux UI provided by their meddling manufacturer. And despite what Google execs would have you believe, fragmentation is not a fairy tale. It pisses consumers off and makes people wipe their asses with your brand. Then again, as long as people are granting Google the right to exploit their search habits and identity, I don’t think they care how many different versions of their derivative OS exist – as long as all of them keep pumping the ducats into Google’s coffers.
This is what TMA gets when he fusses around with Verizon phones (aside from better 3G service in NYC):
Those are the two “Clock” apps in the HTC Eris and the iPhone, respectively. Aside from the passing similarity between the 2 Timer tabs themselves, the 4 tabs across the bottom, World Clock, Alarm Clock, Stopwatch and Timer, use the same text and almost identical icons. Wow.
Now I realize the freetard chuckleheads want to scream about how the patent system sucks because such nebulous things like “naming a World Clock” and “sliding Hours and Minutes placeholders” get undeserved protection and that the winner is always the person with the biggest patent portfolio and litigious crappy blah, blah….
Excuse me while I reassemble my head.
As I was saying, kudos to the Obvious Brigade and their comments about the patent system. The shittiness of the system itself belies a pretty important point. Someone – probably a team of someones – spent months developing a way to represent 4 important things you might want to do with time on the iPhone. They came up with the names, the icons and the functional elements of each individual tab – in short, they put more work into it than anything you’ve ever worked on. Android 1.5 comes along and says “that’s pretty cool” and absconds to a degree that’s almost comical: 4 almost identical icons in the same order, with the same names. Android’s “cut and paste” routine also extends vertically: notice from the top down the input for the timer, the alert sound when complete, the “start” button and the 4 icons are all in the same order.
There are a lot of things short of this comparison that would make innovation more competitive and less litigious. This exceeds that point. This is theft, plain and simple.
I had attributed a lot of the negative press around “Apple vs. Google” as just a way for hacks to drum up page hits (which it still is) and perhaps a little bit of the Jobster pissing on the fence posts along his property line, however poorly the USPTO lets him define it. When I see stuff like this (which is not one of the documented claims against HTC by the way), I can understand why Apple is dropping napalm too.
This Time It’s Personal
Steve Jobs was not leading Apple when the company lost the infamous “Look and Feel” lawsuit waged against Microsoft. Based on the existence of an ill-advised licensing agreement struck by then-CEO John Sculley, the courts ostensibly gift-wrapped the Macintosh UI for Microsoft to pillage. When you listen to Jobs talk about the loss, he absolutely seethes. All of the marketing about Apple’s role as the innovator that Microsoft copies stems from something that was entirely out of Steve’s control. It was much worse than if Jobs himself had lost the Mac’s GUI. But he didn’t. The person he personally recruited to put a Mac in every household – the person who ultimately betrayed him gave it away. This theft may not be all there is to Apple’s assault, but it’s definitely present. Consider the phalanx of patents cited, the unannounced nature of the attack (according to HTC) and Jobs’ own words about the lawsuit: they all suggest some of this came from a place that wanted to avenge a loss – and prevent another. To some, the “belligerent-feeling” nature of the suit is enough to detract from its virtue. It feels “evil“, “bullying” or “unnecessary“. The core of this sentiment, made by some of the smarter people on the tubes, is that this kind of whack-a-moling inhibits innovation, which leads me to my next point.
Apple is not Microsoft
Apple is not motivated by market share, earnings per share or number of markets entered. Apple’s motivation begins and ends with the design of excellent user experiences. The perception that Apple will get to a place in the industry where it stops innovating, sits on its cash cows and perpetuates its existence by bludgeoning more dextrous upstarts with its patent portfolio is simply never going to happen, at least not while Jobs is alive. Jobs relentlessly whips the crop at Apple, pushing innovation like WiFi, Firewire and DisplayPort to the point where comfortable technologies like floppy disks, serial connections and removable media drives are phased out with pundit (and occasionally fanboy)-wrankling regularity. Apple outpaces any other computer or consumer electronics maker in terms of version hustle. Anyone who believes that Apple is capable of laying off the gas at the expense of bleeding-edge innovation does not know the company.
Which, as usual, focuses the discussion not on the playa, but the game. The patent system is busted, but it’s the only game in town. If you’re in the computer business, if you’re not playing, you’re losing. This isn’t a case of Apple vaguely threatening *nix users with unspecified patents in an attempt to ward of people from using open-source OSs (*cough* Microsoft *cough*) or Apple trying to leech innovation and cash from competitors (*cough* Nokia *cough*). Jobs said “We’re not in the technology-licensing business”, which is different than “We’ve always been shameless about stealing great ideas”. If you listen to how Jobs describes what his company is about, you’d have no trouble understanding why Apple is defending its IP. That doesn’t stop pundits from slapping other companies’ motivations on the things Apple does, but then again, without drama, there are no pageviews.
In the 1990’s Jobs had to watch from the shore as his rudderless ship was boarded, plundered and almost sent to the bottom of the ocean. Regardless about how you feel about the means or the intent, he sure as hell isn’t going to let it happen again – not on his watch.