The Red Ferret Product of the Year for 2009 has in some ways been a fairly easy pick. The Google Android operating system platform has literally punched its way out of nowhere into the public consciousness, helped of course by the massive public awareness of the search engine colossus itself.
But what interests us more than just the marketing glam of front row products like the Motorola Droid and Nexus One, is the potential for the platform to really revolutionise the way we consume, process and transmit information around the world. It’s pretty fair to say that this is the first opportunity we’ve seen for the world to break free of the desktop shackles of the PC and start to enjoy real ‘personal’ mobile computing, and that is more than exciting.
It would be easy and cheap to say that the uptake of Android is happening because of the power of Google to meld minds, but in reality there are significant forces at work in the background which are also helping the technology to gain ground at this phenomenal rate. First and probably most importantly, it is based around open standards. The lack of a manufacturer lock in means more enthusiastic adoption by the developers and designers who see opportunity over the horizon.
It’s ironic that as fast as the other modern icon Apple moves towards even more proprietary technology – the iPad is just the latest example of the arrogance of a company swimming against an open tide – the more Google removes the shackles. Linux, Java, the Open Handset Alliance, the Apache open source code license and more, all point to the fact that community involvement is a crucial part of the platform’s development. Ultimately this is great news for the consumer, in the same way that having alternative browsers like Firefox on offer ensures that Web standards remain strong and vibrant.
The second driver for the technology is the rise and rise of the Web ecosystem. Massive advances in browser technology and web server power have created a fertile arena for sophisticated web applications, location based hybrid services and a huge number of other opportunities to leverage the power of the network and its global community. Google knows this ground intimately, and this is one of the reasons why we expect the search giant to extend its reach into the delivery of vital, valuable online and offline services for the individual over the coming few years.
We’re hugely bullish on Android here at Ferret Towers. It feels right, the development momentum has already proved to be stupendous and we suspect that by the end of 2010 we will see the kind of hardware adoption across a huge range of devices and industry sectors that signals a real paradigm shift in global computing.
Android is a mobile operating system running on the Linux kernel. It was initially developed by Android Inc., a firm later purchased by Google, and lately by the Open Handset Alliance. It allows developers to write managed code in the Java language, controlling the device via Google-developed Java libraries.