For some time Google has been perceived as the darling of the net, the tech company that can do no wrong. Yet the company's controversial Android mobile platform venture threatens to seriously dent this notion.
Bad timing: iPhone and Symbian steal the show
Whether or not Google made the right decision with its SDK release, the company could have hardly selected a worse time to tick off developers. With Apple's iPhone 3G grabbing sales records and headlines, the recent news that Symbian is going open source, and the fact that Android remains months away from release, Google is facing the possibility that its platform may become nothing more than a follow-up act, lost in a sea of mobile OSes.
Persistent rumours that Google and Nokia may soon merge Android with the now-open source Symbian platform has also done little to warm many developers' hearts.
"Within the next six months, Symbian and Android will combine into a single open source OS," predicts Gold. From the viewpoint of many developers, such a move would undercut the basic reason for Android's existence while threatening to trash months' worth of development work.
"Combining code bases isn't exactly a trivial task," Gold says. "On the other hand, it would be much easier to do now than to tackle it in the future when developers are that much farther down the road."
Analyst Enderle doesn't expect a Google-Nokia hookup anytime soon. "To tie Symbian and Android together would require an awful lot of heavy lifting between Google and Nokia, and to do that kind of an agreement would be problematic," he says.
"It would have been easier while Symbian was small and independent, but now that Symbian is basically a subsidiary of Nokia, it's going to be pretty difficult."
Symbian aside, Novak believes that developers who are serious about addressing the largest number of potential customers will ultimately decide to create both Android and iPhone versions of their products.Enderle agrees.
"If you develop for Apple, you've got a ready market," he says. "If you develop for Android, it's a crapshoot because there's no assurance that the Android platform is even going to sell."
Google may still be able put its Android development house in order, but time is running out. Enderle notes that the company will have to work hard over the next several months to assure developers that there are good, financially rooted justifications for creating Android applications. But he acknowledges that Google faces a tough sales job as it feels its way through its first major mobile software venture.
"While Google does simple well, this is Google's first device, as opposed to Apple, which clearly has been doing devices for a while."
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- Has pushing back the SDK angered the development community
- How the 'Androidsphere' has reacted to Google's announcement
- Bad timing: iPhone and Symbian steal the show
- Limited distribution alternatives