Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Android (or how Google has out-Microsofted Microsoft)

We used to think, as perhaps the Japanese might think, that androids would resolve all kinds of future needs. In a country where ingenuity drives a progress of a kind, replacing a certain kind of human figure - that which mainly carries out drudge and caring functions, I suppose - with an electro-mechanical substitute could only ever be seen as a positive.

Those sorts of androids are here, at shows and in glossy magazines - and, yet, we still do not really see them in our own homes.

However, all of a sudden, at the hands of Google, we suddenly discover that an android of sorts is taking over.  For years, Microsoft reaped the benefits of realising sooner than anyone else that there was more money to be made in software than hardware - and thus succeeded in dismantling IBM as the paradigm of IT corporations.

Everyone else since has tried to dislodge Microsoft from its pedestal.  Some have stalked Office - my favourite open source program being just one example - whilst others have stalked Windows; in such cases with only varying degrees of success.

In the meantime, Microsoft has - most curiously - decided it needs to get back into the hardware market.  From its sad foray into music players Zune to its unreliable game console the Xbox, it really hasn't hit the spot. I suppose having all that money makes you believe you can cover all the bases - an error Google itself may one day be in danger of committing, if it ever decides to move into hardware.  But at the moment it would appear that Google has learned the lesson that Microsoft has forgotten.

This article on Google's new operating system Android, e-readers and e-books nominally takes us for a stroll around the whys and wherefores of this conjunction of technologies, and the cross-gadget implications for those of us who like publishing.  But - by the by - it also seems to explains the immense power Google is unleashing against Microsoft.  There are so many companies and individuals out there who in tight economic circumstances are looking for a free killer application to service their software needs, that the simply laying out of the ground rules makes them truly slaver in anticipation - though probably not too obviously.  As things stand, they dare not as yet say no to Microsoft's licencing demands, business methods or etiquette.  But, like the grip of a very 21st century vice, Google is slowly doing to Microsoft what Microsoft did to IBM - becoming that replacement paradigm of IT organisations.

And it's not even being original about it - it's just following Microsoft's late 20th century lead, only in this case using the search technologies and their related income to lever an operating system takeover through the back door.  High-powered desktops will matter less and less.  Clever little palm-helds, those mobile phones we've become so accustomed to, are where we're all migrating.  It's a metamorphosis of functionality and usage on an untold scale.

And here Windows, Office and all the other Microsoft brands count for very very little.

I tell you what - the day it's as easy to print an email from a mobile phone as it is from a desktop PC is the day Microsoft will have finally lost the battle for the early quarter of the 21st century and Google will have finally won.

The sad thing is that like New Labour and the Thatcherite Tories before, the battle may eventually be seen to have been won on Microsoft's terms and using Microsoft's methods.

Let's hope not.

Let's just be aware of the dangers.

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