So while Microsoft didn’t do itself any favors, I’d argue strongly that all these machinations and flailings weren’t a response (or weren’t only a response) to the iPhone. The real enemy was the company that had set its sights on Microsoft’s phone ambitions since before the iPhone was released.
That company was Google, of course, and it only tangentially wanted to take on the iPhone. Google’s real target was always Microsoft, and it hit the bullseye.
This article looks at the past, so let me take this opportunity to posit something that might come as a surprise to some.
Android is a dead end.
I really want to write a far more detailed and in-depth article explaining why I think Android is a dead end, but I can’t yet fully articulate my thoughts or pinpoint why, exactly, I’ve felt like this for months now. All this doesn’t mean Google is going to get out of mobile operating systems, and it doesn’t even mean that the name “Android” is going away. All it means is that what we think of today as “Android” – a Linux kernel with libraries, the Android Runtime, and so on on top – has served its hackjob, we-need-to-compete purpose and is going to go away.
Android in its current form suffers from several key architectural problems – it’s not nearly as resource-efficient as, say, iOS, has consistent update problems, and despite hefty hardware, still suffers from the occasional performance problems, among other things – that Google clearly hasn’t been able to solve. It feels like Android is in limbo, waiting for something, as if Google is working on something else that will eventually succeed Android.
Is that something Fuchsia? Is Project Treble part of the plan, to make it easier for Google to eventually replace Android’s Linux base with something else? If Android as it exists today was salvageable, why are some of the world’s greatest operating systems engineers employed by Google not working on Android, but on Fuchsia? If Fuchsia is just a research operating system, why did its developers recently add actual wallpapers to the repository? Why does every design choice for Fuchsia seem specifically designed for and targeted at solving Android’s core problems?
I don’t like making broad predictions based on gut feelings and spidey senses, since they can be incredibly misleading and hard to read, but I’m still pretty confident on this one: over the coming two to three years, Android will undergo a radical transformation. This transformation will be mostly transparent to users – their next Android phone won’t actually be “Android” anymore, but still run the same applications, and they literally won’t care – but it won’t be a Linux device, and it won’t suffer from Android’s core problems.
In a few years, Google’s Pixel phone will have a fully custom, Google-designed SoC, and run an operating system that is Android in brand name only.
What you are perceiving is a side effect of the Oracle litigation. If Oracle was out of the picture Chromebooks would fully embrace Android apps. The Chromebook world would become a windowed Android system and a lot of innovation would occur. But the Oracle litigation prevents Google form doing much in that direction.
If that world was allowed to exist (Oracle is stopping it) XWindows might wither away and Linux users would switch onto this new GUI system. I’d love to develop Android apps as if they were native apps.
Updating Android is an orthogonal issue. Google should just lay down the law and tell their OEMs to mainline their kernel code or no Android license. Then Google would be able to build their images and push updates to the devices. The OS is not the problem, vendors closing up source code is real problem. Then when the vendor fails to act no one can do it for them.
Edited 2017-07-17 00:00 UTC