By Eric Pettifor
2010 could prove to be the year of the iPhone killer, but, if so, Apple’s bereavement will simply be collateral damage in the ever-raging battle between giants Microsoft and Google. Google’s Android on a Google phone won’t deliver the death blow, but it will be a sign of the end times.
Android is an operating system for mobile phones. Rather than come out with a device of their own, Google created an operating system and waited for device manufacturers to snap it up. An interesting strategy, but somewhat flawed, given that manufacturers didn’t exactly stampede over one another to release Android-based phones.
Perhaps compensating for their over-optimism, Google has now decided to release a Google phone. The official announcement is scheduled for tomorrow, January 5th, but Engadget is offering a sneak preview.
In terms of geek chic, I predict that this will be the phone to have in the first half of 2010, especially while it’s hot, new, and unavailable in Canada. But an iPhone killer? At the risk of sounding jaded, I have to say, no, it’s just another smart phone. A great deal of its geek appeal will be simply that you can’t get a googlier Android phone than one from Google themselves.
The real iPhone killer will emerge towards the end of the year, or perhaps in 2011. Peparing the way will be Google’s own operating system, Chrome OS, scheduled for release mid-year. While not quite the same as the Chrome web browser Google recently released, it might be regarded as a natural extension — a completely netcentric OS.
Initially Android OS and Chrome OS will exist as independent operating systems, but eventually they will merge. At that point it may not be any specific hardware that kills the iPhone, nor even Chrome OS. It will be the so called “cloud” of cloud computing, where all your apps are “out there.” No need to buy little apps from app stores, all will be free, whether from Google Apps or other cloudware providers. Chrome OS will merely be the harbinger, the herald trumpeting the new day. Well, not that new, actually, since Google Apps has been around for some time now. But to the desktop user, Google Apps is just more free stuff from the fine folk at Google, whereas with Chrome OS it will be The Way.
So, the main contenders in the OS wars of the future will be Google and Microsoft, and Apple and Linux merely unfortunate bystanders. All a mobile phone will need to access the cloudware universe will be net access and a good browser. Opportunity for device mystique will be diminished, possibly even to the point of neutralizing Steve Jobs’ reality distortion field. Meanwhile, the netbook niche will be even more challenging for Linux if it has to compete not only with whatever Microsoft comes up with to replace XP on netbooks, but also with a new contender, Chrome OS.
Of course, this only so much speculation. What seems certain, however, is that once the dust settles on the Google phone, if it looks like success, count on seeing a Microsoft phone as well, perhaps as early as the end of this year. Microsoft always comes late to the game, but then makes up for it by leveraging their virtual monopoly on desktop operating systems. Given that this has little to do with the desktop and that Google has a significant lead, it will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next couple of years.