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Could Android Suffer The Fate Of Windows?

Posted by tomwiles at 7:21 PM on June 22, 2010

Windows AndroidThe beauty of Google Android is that it operates on a wide variety of devices that appeal to differing market segments, yet those devices can utilize the Android Market Place and run general apps written for Android. This is similar to what happened with Windows on personal computers. It’s an analogy worthy of exploration, however there are a few noteworthy differences that are actually rather revealing.

Android is nimble, stable and solid, unlike many attributes of the various versions of Windows. Over the years, something went horribly wrong with Windows. Is it possible that Android could eventually suffer the same fate?

Perhaps one difference is that phone manufacturers have a direct incentive to make certain that each Android phone model has a solid implementation. After all, phones simply have to work. Computer manufacturers, on the other hand, have often had a tendency to churn out new computer models without always fully vetting the hardware/Windows OS combination. Google seems to have taken the approach with Android of providing a basic, bare bones phone OS, whereas over the years Microsoft has taken the kitchen sink approach with Windows.

Another difference in the Android/Windows/open hardware analogy rests in the fact that Android is an embedded OS. Hardware manufacturers are forced to make it work. The better it works, the more phones they can sell. If a particular phone model is buggy, word spreads quickly and the model is a bust.

If a particular computer model has problems, its manufacturer often points the finger of blame at Microsoft, and Microsoft typically points back to the manufacturer, leaving the troubled consumer with a spinning head.

The consumer is also partly to blame. If you think about it, we tend not to look at particular computer models running Windows in the same way we look at particular phone models. We tend to look at boxes running Windows as just that – a box of hardware based on price.

4 Comments

  1. From teemark at 10:02 am on June 23, 2010

    I smell a Linux fanboi. The whole article comes off as little more than some Microsoft-bashing and Android-loving tenuously strung together.
    What point, exactly, are you trying to make? That Windows should be embedded? That Microsoft should remove features from Windows and force all hardware manufacturers to “make it work”?
    I completely disagree with your supposition that “something went horribly wrong with Windows.” Windows works with more hardware than any other OS, has more software written for it than any other platform, has better driver support and programming APIs than any other platform.
    The level of support and documentation Microsoft provides for the Enterprise market is unmatched.
    Microsoft and Windows are far from perfect, and there are many things they can be rightly bashed for. I found none of them in this article.
    Go read the latest Joe Wilcox article at betanews.com. He loves to beat up on Microsoft, but at least he has some facts and substance to put behind it.

  2. From teemark at 2:00 pm on June 23, 2010

    OK, perhaps you’re only referring to Windows Mobile, since your Android references are to smartphones. I will definitely concede Windows Mobile is/was the biggest suck to ever land on a phone.
    I spent two years with a Motorola Q, so I speak from experience.
    I have high hopes for Windows Phone 7 OS, it looks very promising, and has excellent development tools.
    I am holding off on an Android phone until I see if the Windows phones live up to the anticipation. It’s hard, the EVO is looking like the best smart phone out there right now.

  3. From tomwiles at 7:08 am on June 24, 2010

    I fear you are reading a bit too much into what I wrote. I was simply thinking out loud, going through a logical objective progression of the similarities and differences between what is happening with Android versus what happened with Windows on PC’s. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve had numerous Windows PC’s over the years. I currently have 4 active Windows PC’s, plus an HP Windows Home Server. I also have a Mac Mini, a white 13″ MacBook and a 17″ MacBook Pro. I have a Windows XP virtual machine I run on this MacBook Pro 17″ as well as yet another Windows XP installation I can run natively via Bootcamp on the white 13″ MacBook.

    I have experimented with Linux two or three times for about 5 minutes over the years, and each time I come away with the same conclusion that it’s not ready for prime-time. Linux on a PC is like buying a car kit and assembling it yourself. When it rains one is going to get wet because there are no amenities such as drip moldings in a kit car.

    There is no such thing as a perfect operating system or computer company. These things are always in the process of evolving. I still believe that something did go horribly wrong with Windows in regards to security and the flawed way in which a Windows installation will become corrupted over time with custom DLL files. It’s simply a dispassionate observation of reality.

    If Windows is so flawed, then why do I still use it? It does have its strengths. To get around its problems, I do two things. I avoid using Windows installations to browse the Internet. It goes without saying that the installs are behind firewalls. Secondly, I install only what I need on Windows machines and avoid the constant install/uninstall procession of programs that inevitably corrupts every Windows installation.

    I’ve had two Windows mobile phones over the past 4 and a half years. They did the job, but with the first one (an HTC PPC-6700) I learned the hard way that Windows Mobile still suffers from potentially becoming corrupted by installing/uninstalling too many programs. With my second Windows Mobile phone, an HTC Touch, I was very careful about only installing programs that I needed and trusted not to corrupt the OS, and nothing else. The strategy paid off. Additionally, it was a good idea to reboot the phone about every 24 to 48 hours depending on how heavily I used it. I’m driving around in my truck constantly, so my phone is constantly switching cells. Constant cell switching can cause the same memory leak effect as starting and stopping programs over and over. Again, the fix is a periodic preemptive reboot.

    I have had the HTC Evo for coming up on about two weeks at this point. I’m using the built-in WiFi hotspot feature as I type this response via my MacBook Pro. I’ll likely write a brief review of the Evo at some point in the near future.

    As of right now, here are my observations of Android and the Evo. Surprise, Android has some flaws. Android’s biggest flaw is that there is no clear built-in way to know what programs and processes are running and which aren’t. Many Android apps have no clear way to close them, other than getting a third-party app to kill the program/process, or reboot the phone. Fortunately, the phone reboots much quicker than my old HTC Touch, so my solution to keeping the phone working well is to simply reboot it once a day depending on how much I’ve used it. If I start a bunch of apps on it during the day, then a quick reboot is a good idea.

    Also, I have ran into an Evo problem that I could have well been the cause of myself. I find that if I run a number of apps and then start the WiFi hotspot feature, the battery circuit MAY quit charging. In order to avoid that problem, if I’m going to use the hotspot feature for several hours at a time, I simply reboot the phone first before starting the hotspot feature and avoid going in and out of a bunch of apps.

  4. From teemark at 11:39 am on June 24, 2010

    Hi, Tom.
    After reading back my post, it does come off sounding a bit hostile.
    I enjoy your call-in comments on the podcast, and look forward to your future GNC articles.
    If you do as much traveling as I suspect you do, you’ve probably built up some expertise on wireless connectivity and devices. Thanks for the feedback.