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The Androids are coming!
May 28, 2008 11:37 PM   Subscribe

Google's Android goes live for demo. Lots of video and stills. Cache.
posted by loquacious (62 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
The zoom isn't as slick as a multi-touch system, unfortunately. But it does look a lot better then some of the original demos.
posted by delmoi at 12:03 AM on May 29, 2008


I'm much more excited about the announcement of Open Signups, Expected Pricing, and two new APIs for Google's AppEngine.

I've had an account since the first announcement — I've been working on an oddly novel blog engine to host on it, and was worrying that I'd not be able to put images in the datastore without it getting expensive eventually (though the pricing raises further questions).
posted by blasdelf at 12:35 AM on May 29, 2008


I'm with blasdelf on an non-beta AppEngine being more exciting to me, personally (you can run Pylons on it!). But the built-in compass and the Street Views app that rotates as the user does is pretty awesome, and the general openness of Google vs Apple on a phone is promising.
posted by whir at 12:44 AM on May 29, 2008


I'm finding that using a framework like Web.py, Pylons, or Django (which is included) top-to-bottom to write a new AppEngine application is a somewhat foolish idea. URL routing will be duplicated in even more places, and your applications will not be terribly portable if they are designed to AppEngine's strengths anyway.

I'm using the built-in webapp framework, design-wise it's basically Web.py with better routing. I'm cherry-picking a few Django features, but I'm not drinking it's kool-aid at all. For my purposes BigTable is awesome in every way.
posted by blasdelf at 1:22 AM on May 29, 2008


Here's what I'd like to know: From my point of view, smartphones are very expensive. How much cheaper could smartphones be if their operating systems looked and performed more like Mac OS 7 than Windows Vista? Would there be a significant difference, or are the costs of low-end and high-end mobile hardware closer to each other than I would imagine?
posted by Anything at 1:24 AM on May 29, 2008


Would there be a significant difference, or are the costs of low-end and high-end mobile hardware closer to each other than I would imagine?

Google doesn't really have a prayer with this because they are confusing a mobile communications network built using IP transport with an IP communications network. These are totally different animals.

At the end of the day, there are very few mobile operators who will open up their network to the mischevious designs of app writers. It might be a good idea, but Google was not prepared to test its theory with real money. If they were, they would have bid more for the spectrum.

Apple takes risks, Google does not.
posted by three blind mice at 1:48 AM on May 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


Apple could really use the competition, but this isn't it. Is there anything in there that isn't already in the iPhone?

Android, show me something that demonstrates you're not just a follower. Hell, even cut/copy/paste on the phone would qualify.
posted by DreamerFi at 2:08 AM on May 29, 2008


This is really interesting. I had heard the rumors about this, but just that it was going to be an "APPLE KILLAH!!!!!" and the truth, as it sometimes turns out, is much more interesting.
Thanks

posted by From Bklyn at 2:13 AM on May 29, 2008


@DreamerFi: Don't confuse the demonstrated UI with the phone's functionality. Android is open in a way the iPhone certainly isn't. Cut/copy/paste? Yeah, that's there now, as a side effect of the fact you can send messages between processes and share data providers (including the native ones like the contacts and SMS databases).

I'll admit that it's going to be a tough slog to convince anyone of what Android is capable of before they give us phones we can install applications on and show people -- not just in the 'look at this shiny iPhone'esque UI ' way, but the 'look at me selecting a contact from within my application and sending them an SMS without going through the native SMS manager' kind of way.
posted by Reto at 2:20 AM on May 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Android: Show Me The CC&P! (or, what DreamerFi said)
posted by finite at 2:23 AM on May 29, 2008


Anyone know if any of the big handset manufacturers has promised to release android phones?
posted by ilike at 2:31 AM on May 29, 2008


HTC and Qualcomm have both announced plans to get handsets out by the end of 2008. LG has plans for Q1 2009, while Sumsung and Motorola have promised to release but haven't said when.

Notably the big Symbian-based manufacturers (Nokia / SE) aren't planning on switching to Android any time soon.
posted by Reto at 2:40 AM on May 29, 2008


Don't confuse the demonstrated UI with the phone's functionality

I won't - but then again, I'm a software developer so I know the difference. But with a device that size, the quality of the UI has a direct impact on the (perceived) functionality. In modern smart phones, the functionality is often just a long checklist of things the average owner will never use because the UI is too complex.

I'd *love* to see a good competitor to the iPhone, and if Android is going to be it, great. Look at what the iPhone has done with the competition; there's tremendous progress in UI and usability the last 12 months, and if Android can keep the fire of progress burning, I'm all for it.
posted by DreamerFi at 3:11 AM on May 29, 2008


Fair call DreamerFi. I think the iPhone has a massive advantage in terms of marketability as it's an atomic consumer device obviously targetted at end-users. I think Google are struggling to market Android because the primary audience right now is potential developers -- many of whom won't be interested until there's a sizeable user-base for actual devices.

I think the idea behind demos like yesterday's are to convince developers that the devices will be slick enough to make people buy it -- but the boys and girls at Google don't know how to sell slick the way Jobs does.
posted by Reto at 3:27 AM on May 29, 2008


If they were, they would have bid more for the spectrum.

They had no interest in buying the 700 MHz. They bid up to force the 'open access' rules of the auction. They did everyone a favor.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 4:09 AM on May 29, 2008


HTC and Qualcomm have both announced plans to get handsets out by the end of 2008. LG has plans for Q1 2009, while Sumsung and Motorola have promised to release but haven't said when.

Samsung is the only one that matters, but it doesn't matter what the manufactuers do. Operators won't want this they way they want the iPhone whose "closed" architecture fits in with the overall architecture of the mobile network.

An truely open architecture would mean that a user can, for example, install a SIP client and bypass the operator's voice services which would cannibalize revenue in a huge way.

For example: I pay 199 SEK per month for a 3G data connection giving me 7,2 Mbps of unlimited data. My "phone" bill - with the same operator - is several multiples of this although the amount of data transported is but a fraction of my monthly data use.

If I could run Skype on an AndroidPhone, the operators would see this situation reversed.

One of the reasons the iPhone has been so successful is that Apple's business model is right in line with that of the existing operators. It's called BUSINESS SENSE.

This synergy isn't there for Google and they didn't have the guts to put up enough coin to give it a chance. This is a lack of business sense.
posted by three blind mice at 4:17 AM on May 29, 2008


Apple is in line with today's business model; Google is in line with tomorrow's.

Android has nothing to do with competing with the iPhone. The entire point is to bring down the walled gardens and force carriers to open up.
posted by sdodd at 5:05 AM on May 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


If I could run Skype on an AndroidPhone, the operators would see this situation reversed.

Indeed. Carriers, particularly in the US, have been doing whatever they can to kill mobile VOIP. Eventually it's going to happen regardless, and when it does they're going to get stung.

If Android is the tech that brings it to reality remains to be seen.

Regardless, there's little reason to believe that the carriers won't start applying the same 'shaping' algorithms to mobile VOIP traffic that other providers are applying to Torrents...
posted by Reto at 5:18 AM on May 29, 2008


Google doesn't really have a prayer with this because they are confusing a mobile communications network built using IP transport with an IP communications network.

Yes, this is likely to be a mistake that Google would make. Totally. If there's one thing Google is clueless about, it's nuances network communication.

Apple takes risks, Google does not.

The first part of this is debatable, the second part is not. Both parts are irrelevant. Apple is in the business of filling ecological niches. Google is in the business of creating new ecologies.
posted by DU at 5:19 AM on May 29, 2008 [9 favorites]


Here's the deal: Google wants to A) own mobile search, and B) make Google apps run on phones. That's it -- that's all they care about. But Google's usual approach doesn't work on mobile because of the carrier cartel's anti-competitive, walled-garden, locked-up status quo. In order to achieve those two goals, Google will: build an OS, build handset hardware, buy spectrum, build cell towers, and create a new national carrier from scratch. In other words, crack open the marketplace by force.

But they don't want to do that if they don't have to. What you see with Android and with Google bidding against itself in the spectrum auction is simply Google spending capital in the most efficient way possible to level the playing field.

Google is going to bring to our phones the kind of vigorous competition and innovation we've enjoyed on the Internet for 15 years and in the PC hardware and application software marketplace for 25 years. And that means dragging along the carriers, kicking and screaming.
posted by sdodd at 5:42 AM on May 29, 2008 [6 favorites]


Here's what I'd like to know: From my point of view, smartphones are very expensive. How much cheaper could smartphones be if their operating systems looked and performed more like Mac OS 7 than Windows Vista?

I doubt there would be a big price difference. The CPUs are cheap. A desktop Athlon processor can be had for $20 now. The real price is probably the screen, storage, but most of all the 'luxury factor'. And actually you can get a blackberry for free these days from some providers if you sign up for a data plan.


Apple could really use the competition, but this isn't it. Is there anything in there that isn't already in the iPhone?

Well, for one thing the phones might be cheaper. Just because apple does something doesn't mean it's not worth doing anything else ever. And the Android is open source, and open platform for people to play around with. It might be locked down by phone providers, but some phones might not be. That's a huge change, and a huge improvement over the iPhone, which is locked down as much as an Xbox or play station as far as development goes.

Operators won't want this they way they want the iPhone whose "closed" architecture fits in with the overall architecture of the mobile network.

Maybe not in the U.S, but there are plenty of countries in the world with sensible wireless access rules. The new spectrum in the US (the old TV spectrum) will have open access rules, and Net Neutrality advocates have wireless spectrum in their sights.


For example: I pay 199 SEK per month for a 3G data connection giving me 7,2 Mbps of unlimited data. My "phone" bill - with the same operator - is several multiples of this although the amount of data transported is but a fraction of my monthly data use.

And yet, for $99 you can get a sprint 'unlimted plan' in the US that includes unlimited data and unlimited voice. They make the same amount of money no matter what system you use, so they would have no reason to want to restrict voice (and users would have no reason to try to cheat the system)

Oh, and as sdodd mentioned, google is a huge company. They really can afford to build an entire Cellular carrier network from scratch if they feel like it. Their market cap is 178 billion, which is more then Sprint and Verizon combined (25 billion and 107 billion respectively)
posted by delmoi at 6:19 AM on May 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Everything Google does is half-assed, half-baked, and undeveloped. Why will this be any different? The company is fundamentally selling advertising - that is its core competency. Anything else they try to do is window dressing.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:32 AM on May 29, 2008


Everything Google does is half-assed, half-baked, and undeveloped.

Oh, I don't know, I like this search engine they've been demoing.
posted by jscott at 6:49 AM on May 29, 2008 [13 favorites]


KokuRyu: "The company is fundamentally selling advertising - that is its core competency. Anything else they try to do is window dressing."

You could say the same thing about Wired Magazine, NBC or the New York Times. Or thousands of other enterprises that make most/all of their revenue from advertising.
posted by octothorpe at 6:52 AM on May 29, 2008


Everything Google does is half-assed, half-baked, and undeveloped.

They've also got this electronic map thing, it's not bad.
posted by anthill at 7:20 AM on May 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm not really sure why people think that this thing requires buy-in from the carriers. If they just sell it as an unlocked GSM device, the carriers don't have a whole lot of say in the process, unless they decide to try and actively block its use for some reason (which would probably open themselves to a lawsuit).

The Android would be doing the U.S. wireless market a huge favor if it became the first phone that wasn't sold through the carriers, with a subsidy and all that subsidies entail (crippling, ETFs, branded firmware, etc.).

Yes, it would mean you'd never see an Android for Verizon or the other CDMA networks, but you can't get an iPhone for CDMA either; users of the non-GSM carriers know -- or ought to know, at this point -- that they're not going to get cool phones; they're stuck with whatever shoddy bits of broken crap the suits at Verizon HQ decide to let them play with.

And in the rest of the world, just selling the phone as a standalone device that you plug your SIM into wouldn't be unusual.

The carriers don't have end-to-end control of what runs on their networks; they haven't had it in a while. Heck, right now I can get a mobile card for my laptop and run all sorts of services over their network if I want. (Including Skype, although they bleed lots of ink in their TOS saying you can't use it, for obvious revenue reasons.) And any phone that has a JVM on it isn't really a hermetically sealed platform anyway -- although there isn't a Java version of Skype right now, there could be; there's already a Windows Mobile version that lets you make Skype calls over 3G or WiFi, and there's a Symbian version in the works.

Eventually, mobile communications in the U.S. is going to move forwards, and nobody's going to ask the carriers for permission.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:21 AM on May 29, 2008


I'm accumulating "I told you so"s on the complete unreliability of the general MeFi consensus regarding game changing devices.

For what even I think is just about the smartest community on the internet, it sure seems like much talk of trees and little discussion about forests.

However, unlike the trainwreck of the Kindle discussion, at least a couple commentators seem to have it this time.

Even the US carriers see flat rate data as their exit strategy. They are now just trying to milk the metered voice and sms cow for all it's worth until the 2G and 3G networks are put to pasture and they can get their backhual situation ironed out.

Especially with struggling carriers like Sprint, they will bless their cold blackened little hearts if they can get $99.99 flat a subscriber, any subscriber. They're even willing to cannibalize current ones because they're deathly afraid of them jumping ship next month.

So, once it's a data network, once it's just an over the air version of the internet (with some traffic shaping, I'm not starry eye'd) - Then it's a different game. It's a bit of a redo of the web game, from the ground up. Except this time, Steve isn't playing by the same rules. He doesn't want Adobe to have the best image processing app on his platform, he wants it to be Apple top to bottom. You see this in his current desktop strategy, but we don't worry about it there because we say, well, the Apple app's are better. FCP is the best NLE, Aperture and Garage Band and Front Row and (...) - They kick ass, so who cares if he's excluding the others. Besides, it's not like he's the only game in town, their is that whole other ecosystem (cough, Redmond, cough)

But, the new mobile world isn't going to be like that. Redmond is out. RIM is on the ropes. If Steve plays it right, it could be all him. Remember that other company that went down this direction on the desktop side. They made sucky apps, but the strategy is the same. Well, on the mobile side, Steve doesn't even want the other players to have a chance. So, if your going to make an app, you have to live in a walled, restricted API. And sure, some of it is [scare quotes]Security Restrictions[/scare quotes] - But, some of the legal mumbo jumbo, that's just to insure that the best apps on the iphone are always the ones that come with it.

But, google doesn't want to sell you hardware, they don't even want to sell you Android phones, they just want the entire ecosystem to be open because they think they kick such ass that if the playing field was level, they'd stomp on everyone. Arrogant? You betcha. I like that kind of arrogance. It won't be true forever, it might not even be true now, but damn, when was the last time you saw a company strive for a "fair game".

Love them or hate them, if in 5 years (or 10) - your mobile device is an all in wonder computing device rather than a closed in version of a gaming console, thank the current managers at google.

And then come back and tell the poo-poo'ers at MeFi - "I told you so"
posted by PissOnYourParade at 7:22 AM on May 29, 2008 [6 favorites]


look at me selecting a contact from within my application and sending them an SMS without going through the native SMS manager'

Oh yeah, that'll knock the hot pants off the party girls who drive the "must have latest cell phone" market. Seriously, which of these do you think sells more phones?

(a) "Omigod you totally circumvented the native message manager! I have to buy that."
(b) "Omigod it's so cute and SHINY!"
posted by rokusan at 7:53 AM on May 29, 2008


One of the reasons the iPhone has been so successful is that Apple's business model is right in line with that of the existing operators.

Actually, it was a pretty major step away from the normal carrier business model. The way it works for most phones is that the manufacturers make phones that they think the carriers will like, the carrier buys a massive amount of them to put in their stores, and the carriers discount the price of the phones heavily in order to get customers to sign up for a long service contract.

So, up until recently, the cellphone business was all about making cheap, cool-looking phones that have impressive-sounding features for salesmen to refer to (5 MEGAPIXEL CAMERA!). The iPhone was kind of a game changer because Apple said "Hi, we made this phone that people will want, if you want us to put it on your network you have to agree to these terms". Verizon declined, but AT&T (Cingular) went along with it because they knew it would make them money, even though the carriers in general have always been afraid of Apple and iTunes.

It's pretty obvious now that when someone figures out a way to put a phone out on the market that can do cool stuff, people will buy it and everyone involved will make money. As the iPhone showed, it only takes one carrier to step out of line with the others in order to let the genie out of the bottle. I doubt that the carriers will be able to stifle the kind of innovation that Android is trying create, no matter how hard they try, because the bottom line is that innovation sells phones and phones sell service contracts.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:57 AM on May 29, 2008


@rokusan: People were complaining that they were just copying the iPhone -- 'Show me copy paste!' -- they cried. If you're trying to impress the party girls, copying the iPhone is a sound strategy that requires no additional justification.

The example I gave was to show the additional power it offers to developers; my example's not a sexy one, but those with imaginations more successful at impressing those in hot-pants might conceive of something more likely to knock said pants off.
posted by Reto at 7:59 AM on May 29, 2008


What does Android offer that's so much better than windows mobile? Love it or hate it (I do both) WM is a close approximation of an open desktop-like OS. You can write apps using C++ to do nearly anything you want. It has TCP/IP over wifi or the cel network.

I'm willing to admit that the Android might have the latest and hottest API but it's not a fundamentally different form of phone.

The iphone will sell hundreds of times more apps than either WM or Android for the next 5 years. It's not just the UI, though that's huge. It's also the fact that there's 1 iphone (maybe a few later) not the tens of configurations of WM and presumably Android soon enough. It's the STORE. Who is going to step up and compete with itunes and the store? It would be hard for google to do for all of Android because they're going to free this thing in the sense that handsets can run modified versions.
posted by Wood at 8:44 AM on May 29, 2008


Everything Google does is half-assed, half-baked, and undeveloped. Why will this be any different? The company is fundamentally selling advertising - that is its core competency. Anything else they try to do is window dressing.

I'm not quite sure what to say, Android was 'released' in an undeveloped form, but so was the Linux kernel because it's an open source thing. A lot of their free web apps do come out when they're useful but don't stand up to MS Word but they are free.

Remember, people at Google get to spend 20% of their time on side projects, so a lot of the stuff they do put out for free is just things people at Google thought would be interesting, not necessarily things done for window dressing. But a lot of the stuff is well done (obviously the search engine, but also Google Maps/Earth)

Oh, and by the way AT&T's market cap (the value of all outstanding shares) is less then what Google paid for YouTube. I looked up T-Mobile and they are a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom (so no independent price). U.S Cellular's Market cap is $5 billion.

So Google could easily buy U.S. Cellular or AT&T. The idea that these cell companies are going to crush Google's hopes and dreams is absurd.
posted by delmoi at 9:01 AM on May 29, 2008


delmoi that's the wrong ticker, AT&T is T and has a market cap of 237 B which is like 200+ times what you were looking at. T has a larger market cap that Google. This is an extremely tough business. It's about all of those trucks and wires. Google has a machine that mints money, you don't get free money hiring union workers to drive around and fix broken wires.
posted by Wood at 9:08 AM on May 29, 2008


Ah, I thought that number seemed small when I looked at it. Weird.
posted by delmoi at 9:10 AM on May 29, 2008


Google is in the business of creating new ecologies.

Not to bash Google, but they embody the Microsoft strategy of buying out other companies and repackaging their products (Picasa, Docs, Blogger, Android, etc.) or getting rid of competition (Keyhole).

They throw the Google Beta sticker on their purchase's former product (if they don't destroy it) and then market the hell out of the result, to see what sticks in their advertising model.

They don't really create new technology so much as market existing technology to further ad revenue. With respect to their extend-or-extinguish business model, they are the Microsoft of the web generation.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:37 AM on May 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


delmoi: And yet, for $99 you can get a sprint 'unlimted plan' in the US that includes unlimited data and unlimited voice. They make the same amount of money no matter what system you use, so they would have no reason to want to restrict voice (and users would have no reason to try to cheat the system)

No - bandwidth isn't free for carriers, either. The less bandwidth used by a customer with an unlimited plan, the larger their profit margin. So it's in their interest that you don't use more bandwidth by using VOIP instead of traditional calls, even when both data and voice is flat fee.
posted by uncle harold at 10:11 AM on May 29, 2008


Not to bash Google, but they embody the Microsoft strategy of buying out other companies and repackaging their products (Picasa, Docs, Blogger, Android, etc.) or getting rid of competition (Keyhole).

They still suck significantly less then Apple. I'm not saying they are an ideal company by any means, but they're not in the business of selling locked-down sandbox devices to consumers. But I bet we will see locked-down Android phones, since the handset makers can configure the devices however they please. It will be interesting to see.
posted by delmoi at 10:14 AM on May 29, 2008


If you're trying to impress the party girls, copying the iPhone is a sound strategy that requires no additional justification.

In response to the advocacy theme in your post and comments, if you think the iPhone is only capable of "impressing party girls", you're a little ignorant of what it can do that other phones cannot. Android isn't even a finished product, and by the time v1 hits, let alone makes it on to a cell phone, Apple will be two or three iterations ahead.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:17 AM on May 29, 2008


but they're not in the business of selling locked-down sandbox devices to consumers.

So they are giving these away for free?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:19 AM on May 29, 2008


They still suck significantly less then Apple.

This non sequitor aside, Google certainly doesn't create "new ecologies" and anyone who favorites that comment is quite ignorant of how Google actually operates its business.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:22 AM on May 29, 2008


So it's in their interest that you don't use more bandwidth by using VOIP instead of traditional calls, even when both data and voice is flat fee.

VOIP does not use a lot of bandwidth, back in the day dialpad would work fine over regular modems. But, with flat-rate everything most users would have no reason to choose VOIP over normal phone service.
posted by delmoi at 10:34 AM on May 29, 2008


VOIP does not use a lot of bandwidth, back in the day dialpad would work fine over regular modems. But, with flat-rate everything most users would have no reason to choose VOIP over normal phone service.

Yeah, it's much less than people think. I use fring to make skype calls from my mobile, it uses less than 10MB per hour of conversation.
posted by Olli at 10:43 AM on May 29, 2008


I've been looking forward to this, and I think no matter what, it will be a good thing. Diversity and competition drive innovation, and the more feature rich smart phones on the market, the better the likelihood that the good elements from one will eventually appear on the others.

But I need to know, will this software make my phone dream of electric sheep?
posted by quin at 10:43 AM on May 29, 2008


VOIP does not use a lot of bandwidth, back in the day dialpad would work fine over regular modems. But, with flat-rate everything most users would have no reason to choose VOIP over normal phone service.

True, but I understand voice calls use the long standing GSM network while IP traffic uses relatively new infrastructure still in need of expansion to accommodate widespread mobile data transfer?
posted by uncle harold at 10:49 AM on May 29, 2008


For example, UMTS shares bandwidth among users in a given cell, so there's an interest to keep bandwidth low, because saturating a cell means either lower quality of service for customers or new investments.
posted by uncle harold at 10:51 AM on May 29, 2008


getting rid of competition (Keyhole).

Didn't Keyhole actually get turned into Google Earth?

they are the Microsoft of the web generation.

This comparison is only superficially valid. They're both wildly successful in their space, they both buy other companies, they're both tech companies, but one might as well compare Microsoft and Oracle, Google and Apple, etc. The thing I think people see and assume is most significant is that Google does have something like the gravity Microsoft had to bend the business landscape a bit, and they do flex this. But they're far more competitive than anti-competitive -- Android's basically an example of this. And Google has far less of a stranglehold on the platform their services are delivered over than Microsoft had on their platform, and I'm not aware of any notable abuses.

Google certainly doesn't create "new ecologies"

If by "new ecologies" you mean the creation of entirely novel products, that's a statement I can agree with somewhat. But it seems undeniable they've done novel things with existing ideas and created new ecologies that revolve around their tools.

In this sense I think they *are* comparable with Apple, even if their aesthetic is different.
posted by weston at 10:52 AM on May 29, 2008


Actually, that's a good example. All the US carriers (except T-Mobile) have been dragging their feet on VoIP-over-WiFi (and on WiFi data to a lesser extent) because it's a disruptive technology that will dramatically alter their revenue model. Android cuts carriers out of the decision-making process, allowing VoIP-over-WiFi to dramatically reduce users' costs in many scenarios. That's just one example of the way Google will alter the balance of power in the Telecom Industry.

Think of it this way: in today's world, anyone with an innovative product, service, or technology has to first ask the carriers' permission before bringing it to market. Android (and open-access spectrum rules) will eliminate carriers as the gatekeepers in tomorrow's world.
posted by sdodd at 10:58 AM on May 29, 2008


"new ecologies"

Why are we even debating this? Of course they do -- Google's whole shtick is building platforms that others can play in.
posted by sdodd at 11:05 AM on May 29, 2008


All the US carriers (except T-Mobile) have been dragging their feet on VoIP-over-WiFi

I may have misunderstood this, but it looks to me like T-Mobile is:

(1) Asking you to buy a T-Mobile branded WiFi router to use this
(2) Use a specific phone rather than any handset (or other device) with 802.11x and a SIP client
(3) Charging an additional $10 monthly fee

If this is all true, I think it's worse that they're entering the market this way rather than dragging their feet. That's a pretty significant premium over the competition from Skype and Gizmo just for having a blessed method of having your IP routed calls ring onto your T-mobile phone. Unless you're a huge talker, you'll probably get more benefit out of just bumping up to the next highest cell usage plan.
posted by weston at 11:47 AM on May 29, 2008


Yeah, and T-Mobile is the best of the carriers for WiFi. Weak, huh?
posted by sdodd at 12:06 PM on May 29, 2008


Is there anything in there that isn't already in the iPhone?

The only thing new in the iPhone was multitouch and a nice display. Everything else was already done in Windows Mobile, etc. Thankfully other companies will be releasing phones with good displays (the new Sony Ericsson looks really nice, for example) , so one will be able to both have a nice display and an open platform.

(To those who say cellphone companies don't want people to run random software on their phones... Windows Mobile already disproves this. It's Apple who doesn't want people to do that, for the same reason they lock down their OS to Apple hardware --- the Apple experience is all about getting everything from Apple. Now, the benefit to that is things tend to work. The obvious disadvantage is in choice. If you're a tinkerer/programmer/geek like me, Apple is uninteresting).

Personally I don't care if I run WM, Android, whatever, as long as I can load stuff onto it and code for it myself.
posted by wildcrdj at 1:15 PM on May 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


To those who say cellphone companies don't want people to run random software on their phones... Windows Mobile already disproves this.

Windows Mobile disproves this (mostly) if developers don't have to have their applications signed in any way to participate on the network.

the Apple experience is all about getting everything from Apple.

This is demonstrably false with Apple's other products, and I think it will turn out to be demonstrably false on the iPhone. Apple *can* be really control-freaky, but there's a lot of evidence to suggest the motivation isn't financial lock-in.

Personally I don't care if I run WM, Android, whatever, as long as I can load stuff onto it and code for it myself.

That's the ideal state of things.

And even if Apple's been tight with their particular platform, I think they'll eventually be understood to have driven the market this way by popularizing the concept of the phone as a fuller-fledged computing device with its own vibrant market for 3rd party software. Maybe I'm optimistic about what the iPhone App store will turn out to be, though.
posted by weston at 3:49 PM on May 29, 2008


Google is iPhone telecommunications industry standard definition wireless hotspot swim trunks beef burrito!
posted by tehloki at 5:18 PM on May 29, 2008


I'd be down with an Android phone, if I can get a reasonable all-data plan. I might even give up my trusty pre-paid Nokia 6010 ... Nah. Backgammon is just too much fun!

re: iPhones. I can't believe any rational freedom-loving American would shell out $80 a month to the war-mongering, citizen-spying bastards at AT&T to use a handcuffed phone. /iphonetroll-yar
posted by mrgrimm at 6:06 PM on May 29, 2008


The iphone is pretty.
posted by empath at 7:21 PM on May 29, 2008


This is demonstrably false with Apple's other products

From their introduction, users of iPods, iPhones, and Apple TVs have had only one store at which they are able to buy DRM music and movies, and customers of the iTunes store have only one brand of player they are able to play their purchased DRM media on. This business model has worked well enough with DRM'ed media that, next month, there will be DRM'ed software titles on sale (from exactly one store) for the iPhone.

So, what makes you think that the AppStore won't eventually sell DRM'ed apps for Macs, too?

Question for weston and other Apple apologists: can anyone explain why that USB extender cable that comes with Apple keyboards has that little notch that prevents it being used with any USB devices other than Apple's keyboards? There must be a perfectly reasonable explanation for that, too, right...?
posted by finite at 9:35 PM on May 29, 2008


That's simply not true. You can buy mp3s from anywhere and play them on ipods. I buy a ton of mp3s from beatport.com and have never had a problem playing them on my ipod. And it's a relatively simple thing to get around itunes drm. Just burn the songs to CD and re-rip them. It's not even that difficult, you can do it all in itunes. I firmly believe that apple would prefer not to use DRM at all for mp3s.

None of apples software, as far as I know uses any DRM at all. I have a ton of pirated mac software on my macbook and i even get regular updates from apple from them without any problems. Actually, I take that back. Logic Pro has DRM, so I guess their 'professional grade' stuff is DRM'd.
posted by empath at 9:40 PM on May 29, 2008


From their introduction, users of iPods, iPhones, and Apple TVs have had only one store at which they are able to buy DRM music and movies, and customers of the iTunes store have only one brand of player they are able to play their purchased DRM media on.

As with the Zune, as with Amazon's Unbox, Netflix's net service, etc. which all require Windows Media Player, or the Xbox, which requires a Microsoft account. But no one on Metafilter complains about being locked into the Microsoft "ecology".

Let's see Android become something more than vapourware before we start lambasting Apple for a first-generation product that will see a final, freely available SDK release and a software distribution channel in two weeks.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:21 PM on May 29, 2008


That's simply not true. You can buy mp3s from anywhere and play them on ipods.

My comment wasn't about mp3s. I'm talking about DRM'ed media (and a significant number of releases are available for legal download exclusively with DRM). I wouldn't buy the stuff myself, but many people do and they are locked-in to their Apple hardware by it: after someone spends money at the iTunes store, don't you think they'll be disinclined to switch to a different brand of player (which won't play the stuff that they bought)?

I firmly believe that apple would prefer not to use DRM at all for mp3s.

Apple doesn't use DRM for mp3s (they don't sell mp3s; they sell AACs). If you believe that the DRM is just there for the record companies, why do you reckon DRM-free mp3 stores (like Amazon, EMusic, etc) have so many tracks available which are also on iTunes but not available without DRM on iTunes?

None of apples software, as far as I know uses any DRM at all.

iTunes has FairPlay, Preview enforces (some of) the PDF DRM, QuickTime player implements some DRM to prevent streams from being ripable (and for years, it wouldn't play anything fullscreen without a paid upgrade/serial number). And then there is the whole Mac OS X itself, which can actually be run on most modern PC hardware but is locked to only work on Apple's... And this is all before that code-signing regime that Leopard and the AppStore are introducing. Right now it is still relatively easy to circumvent the DRM that keeps you from copying music from an iPod/iPhone, but why should Mac OS X 10.7 be willing to connect to your iDevice (or more dangerous still, the internet) while your Mac is in the "developer" mode that allows (potentially illicit) unsigned programs to be run?

Back on the subject of "Open Handset Alliance" (Android) phones, I'll believe their claims of "openness" when I see a howto for installing a user-modified OS on a carrier-supported device (without sacrificing network access). I'm still not sure if that is actually going to be possible, but I have a suspicion that it might not be.
posted by finite at 11:40 PM on May 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Question for weston and other Apple apologists: can anyone explain why that USB extender cable that comes with Apple keyboards has that little notch that prevents it being used with any USB devices other than Apple's keyboards? There must be a perfectly reasonable explanation for that, too, right...?

General paranoia about using them to daisy-chain — did you notice that the male side of the extension cable doesn't have the notch? As someone who has five dozen of them, I know my first thought was to daisy-chain them! Both the keyboard and the extension also have really thick+shielded cables, because the USB ports on the keyboard are passively powered (you can charge an device from one).

It is certainly odd.

As for DRMed applications, none of Apple's consumer software has as much as a serial number! Their 'Pro' apps all have serial numbers, but no real copy protection. Logic used to have aggressive dongled copy protection (it was originally developed for the Atari ST by Germans), but it was just removed in the second Apple-developed version. OS X server has a serial number, checks for duplicates on the network, and also has a cheaper '5-client' version for use on cluster nodes.

The code signing stuff is elective on OS X, and always will be. It's intended for enforcing runtime security checks, because the dynamic nature of both Obj-C and the mach kernel expose a large potential for unauthorized third-party plugins — they don't want OS X to become another Windows wasteland as it's popularity grows.
posted by blasdelf at 1:30 AM on May 30, 2008


My comment wasn't about mp3s.

But it rebuts your thesis completely. If you don't want to be locked into Apple's platforms, there are plenty of choices you can make that will make it easy-peasy to abandon Apple's hardware at any point in the future. If there's "lock-in" at any point in the customer's purchasing decisions, it's not in the Apple Hardware, it's at the Apple store, and purchasing there is completely optional, even if you do choose to use Apple hardware.

I put "lock in" in quotes, because even if you walk down the Apple Store path because it's the path of least resistance, it's really not that hard to get out. I did it; made about two dozen purchases before I decided I didn't like the DRM. I un-DRMd what I'd bought and switched to other sources. No particular drama. Not locked in. Everything I've bought at the Apple Store can now be played on other devices as well as the iPod.

There are also apparently people who don't mind buying completely into the platform. Not for me, but fortunately, there are some clear choices there.

So, what makes you think that the AppStore won't eventually sell DRM'ed apps for Macs, too?

For some values of DRM, they already do. QuickTime Pro, for example. Download, must purchase and enter product key to use. And nearly all of their software (with a few exceptions, like QuickTime Pro) won't run on Windows or Linux!

However, if what you're specifically predicting is that Apple will eventually lock down the mac platform so that they and only they can deploy apps signed to it, then sure, on that day there will be a mass exodus of users, and I'll be among them. I'd lay some money down on the prediction that will not happen. In fact, I am laying money down on the prediction that will not happen.

(and for years, it wouldn't play anything fullscreen without a paid upgrade/serial number)

I agree that was a pretty lame revenue attempt.

And then there is the whole Mac OS X itself, which can actually be run on most modern PC hardware but is locked to only work on Apple

This is the one place where I'm sure that there is in fact an overriding financial motivation as well as the usual motivation people fail to see behind Apple's control issues (someone has a product vision and he doesn't want other people to screw it up). Begrudging it to them is fine if you want to begrudge them existence; it is not clear Apple would survive as a software company alone, and using software to sell hardware is one way they make things work.

I don't begrudge the tying because I find the integrated platform and to some extent the decisions Apple makes with their hardware valuable. I also find OS X valuable enough that I'd pay more for it than they currently charge. Other people have a more reductionist view, find the pricing too high, or the value too low. They will quite possibly be more content using Windows or whatever Linux distro works for them, and that's fine. "I like Windows or Linux better" seems like a perfectly reasonable statement to me. "I don't like >feature x< of Apple >software|hardware<" also seems reasonable -- I definitely have a list of those. But overstatements that imply "OMG DRM everywhere!" and paint picture of working on OS X as a continual mass of frustrations checked by draconian Apple controls are something I find ludicrous.

Back on the subject of "Open Handset Alliance" (Android) phones, I'll believe their claims of "openness" when I see a howto for installing a user-modified OS on a carrier-supported device (without sacrificing network access). I'm still not sure if that is actually going to be possible, but I have a suspicion that it might not be.

As the iPhone has shown, possible and blessed are two different things, even with network access.

Something else, though: there's a wide array of hardware out there that's far less locked down and that enterprising hackers could quite likely have written an open OS for right now, instead of trying to bring out new hardware like the TuxPhone or OpenMoko. Nobody's done it, for reasons that aren't entirely clear to me. I think it's partly because the hardware selection was both too wide and because most of it didn't meet a threshold of features for geek interest, but I don't really know why. I'd like to.

It's pretty clear at this point that a handset that generates enthusiasm and has a certain featureset at a minimum will attract a critical mass of hackers. But there's still no complete hacker OS for the iPhone, and there's still no equivalent of Linux or NetBSD for cell phones (yes, I know. There are handsets that run Linux. That's not what I mean. I mean a distro that you can install on even a significant subset of available handsets like you could install Linux on a significant subset of PCs 10 years ago). Why?
posted by weston at 11:13 AM on May 30, 2008


Any idea when we can get a hand on one of these gadgets?
posted by bargainhunter at 3:45 PM on May 30, 2008


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