Game over: 3 reasons why Google Android will fail


Google has released the SDK software development kit for its mobile application, the first images hit CNET — and it sucks. The screen shot above shows a prototype for the Google cell phone software, poised on an old, circa 2007 cell phone with plastic buttons. Sure, it’s early in the game, but we see a man down on the field. In fact, the field is on fire and the crowd in the stadium is running for the door. Here are the 3 looming failures.

1. Hardware design counts. And Google can’t do hardware. Mobile phones are migrating to 4-inch-by-2-inch touchscreens, and there is only so much you can do with a GUI that size. Google is a genius at indexing and sorting content, but that is not why consumers lust for cell phones. The image inside the screen is only half the battle; the rest is the cool yin and yang of plastic and glass in our hands. We buy them for the same reason we purchase $3 coffee or $300 jeans or $30,000 cars — because some products project our identity, and with phones we want the coolest integrated mobile gizmo of all. Motorola’s Razr didn’t take off because it had a killer interface. The original Razr screen stunk, riddled with broken pixels and poor resolution. But it was thin, it had little hard edges that resonated on the thumb and index finger, and when you flipped it, it swiped open with a wrist-resonating thunk. The interface was thought through, and it felt right in the hand, like a pistol on the range in Montana or the rubber tip of your pencil on the first day of school.

2. Microsoft will be back. And Microsoft is ticked off. Redmond, Washington has been absent from this recent dialogue over new cell formats, but you better believe with the future billions of mobile ad dollars at stake, Gates & Co. are revving up a new, improved Vista Mobile for cell phone systems. The current Vista is a joke, chocking PCs with its GUI gumbo, but we have to believe Microsoft will not cede mobile communications to Apple and Google. Microsoft has screwed up royally, relying on PC software (soon to be obsolete) and dragging out a horrible release of its new OS. In the magical Potter-esque tale of technology, you know Lord Micromort will be back.

3. Apple is ahead of the pack. And Apple runs fast. Cell phones require content and look and feel. Look and feel are most important. That’s why your kid owns a Razr and you still want the iPhone. Design is not about consensus, it’s about vision. Some say Steve Jobs is a jerk, but he’s also a genius, because somehow he pushes design through.

Good luck Google, with the design consortium. But here’s betting your stock doesn’t hit $1,000 and that we never use your cell phone.

18 thoughts on “Game over: 3 reasons why Google Android will fail

  1. 1. Hardware design counts.
    HTC, Motorola and recently Nokia will do the hardware

    2. Microsoft will be back
    Did they go away? Will they do a vista version in mobile? Do you like vista by the way?

    3. Apple is ahead of the pack
    Are they? Is iphone release everywhere? Is symbian the head of the pack, i mean everywhere you go there’s a nokia phone but not an apple phone or iphone.

    Your jumping in conclusion too early, remember that its not just google doing this its the open handset alliance(which include hardware, media, design, support, services companies) and the open source community helping to build this thing with the $10 million at steak.

  2. You raise fair points. Google’s cell phone software will probably become very popular … but I think the real future of mobile devices is the integration of the hardware and software, and the companies (like Apple) who manage this will have an advantage. Tx.

  3. Get one wise guy to crack his phone and put android on it, and you’ll have an epidemic…

  4. I think the odds on your bet are stacked well in your favour. The buzz suggests Google will do well, but unless they’ve got a hidden je ne sais quoi between their butt-cheeks it’s looking like it’s gonna be an up-hill struggle for Google with Steve Jobs chucking old brick-like iPods and redundant, non-3G iPhones at them from the top.

  5. In hindsight articles like this are absolutely laughable. Oh how wrong some people were. I bet they to this day still won’t admit they were wrong.

  6. LOL .. Android took off way better then Ben thought… now didnt it .. hahahahhahah .. in your face

  7. Dont you feel dumb now? Yeah Android will fail… With the inminent releases of the HTC T-Mo’s MyTouch and Samsung Houdini plus rumors of a G1 v.2 out there…. I wouldnt call Android a failure, if anything i just gave you 3 reasons why you were wrong.

  8. Thank you all for the mature comments. Snorting anonymous laughter does make me rethink the original point of view.

    Google of course has billions to throw at everything, and the error of this past post was not predicting how mobile OS would become more important than the hardware design (which drove most of the mobile handset sales for the first decade). As the devices converge into rectangular glass screens, the physical heft of the phones becomes more commodity… so OS GUI becomes more important. This is something the Google team has in the past 18 months put together well.

    Now, angry anonymous commentators, please go back to snorting your Mountain Dew.

  9. You defend your wrong prediction(no big deal in technology land,it happens) by saying google just threw money at it? Maybe they did(i dunno truly) but I believe reason for the success is the people that believe in open source rather than svelt marketing aimed at making us feel cool.As is, I still like WM more, its more powerful without hacking, but I went to the G1 because I have faith in Open Source, that it will eventually always end up better.

    Come out of the Apple orchard, the future is open! And No, you are not cool because you have an iphone and apple tricked you into buying a new phone when they should have had 3g to begin with(the tech was there in current “lesser” phones) Smart, secure, people that dont need to buy their cool get sick of that.

  10. Thanks, Gigafunk. You raise good comments on open source. I’ve been exploring the benefits of crowdsourcing recently and may do a BusinessWeek column on it next — it has pros and cons, but open source can evolve systems in incredible directions, agreed.

  11. Hi Ben I wouldnt want to be in your place, with a post about how Google OS will fail, its almost like saying that hybrid cars and green tech will never be important, haha. 2009 will see a lot of new Android phones from different manufacturers, and you’ll still be defending your stupid prediction, and dont get me wrong, even smart people say and do stupid things.

    I know that the G1 is ugly, but the HTC Magic is just beautiful, and I would rather have an Android phone than a WM any day. And like you said Apple still got the lead, but dont focus your mind on just one brand, look further.

    Think back about your 2007 post when some great new idea comes up, think for a minute, and dont write stupid things.

    Have a good day. 🙂

  12. Anonymous said…

    Get one wise guy to crack his phone and put android on it, and you’ll have an epidemic…

    prophet?

  13. Just to add to the pot…
    Motorola, Nokia, LG etc, they have variety to choose from, Google phone? well, G1 was first one, and already there are on market phones other than G1 with android OS.
    Apple? you either going with iPhone or not… not a lot to choose from to express yourself…

  14. Wow. Looking back two years after writing this post, this was wrong. Obviously open-source creation and Google’s strength pushed Android over the hump. And now designs have caught up with the iPhone.

    I’m leaving it up as evidence that forecasting the future is hard. Part of thinking is being willing to take risks with trains of thought, even when they come off the tracks 😉

    Ben Kunz

  15. Although Completely off base with the first post its very nice to see a man big enough to admit being wrong kudos sir

    has it ever felt so good to be sooo wrong

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