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June 24, 2008

Apple Guy John Gruber: Rooting For Google Android, But Expectations Low

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john-gruber.jpgWe're saving Wired's lengthy profile of Google's (GOOG) Android mobile phone project for our subway ride home, but Daring Fireball author John Gruber has already read and digested it into an excellent post.

Gruber is an Apple geek, and many of his readers are Apple geeks. So we assume many of them want Gruber to hate/bash Android, which will compete with Apple's (AAPL) iPhone. Not happening, Gruber says. "My obsession is with wonderful, thoughtful software and gadgetry," no matter whose brand is stamped on it.

So what does he think about Android's chances to beat Apple?

If things work out ideally with Android, it's easy to imagine how Android, as an overall platform, could wind up being better than the iPhone, or at least could force Apple to open the iPhone software platform further. But that's an enormously big if.

The big advantage Apple has with the iPhone is that they control the entire product, top to bottom. The case, the chipsets, the OS, the user interface. Apple knows exactly what the screen will look like when a brand new iPhone is turned on for the first time. Google's dependence on hardware and carrier partners puts the final product out of their control - and into the control of companies whose histories have shown them to be incompetent at design and hostile to users.

His hunch: That Google will have to go back on its word and make a top-to-bottom Google phone, presumably because it's frustrated with the mediocre crap its partners are making. "That doesn't mean Android won't still be successful in some sense if it remains on its current course," he says, "but that I don't expect it to be successful in the 'holy shit is this awesome!' sense that the iPhone is." Well put, John.

In the meantime, we'll bring Android back into perspective. It's an interesting project for Google, and if it works out well, there's a lot of upside: It could help push smartphones to many more people, which will give Google more places it can sell ads.

But as we noted yesterday, even if Android is flawless, not everyone's going to have an Android phone -- soon or ever. So Google's bigger-picture focus will always have to be on getting its mobile Web sites and apps -- and ads -- on as many phones as possible, with as many wireless carriers, in as many countries -- not just on Android.

See Also:
Why Google's Android Delays Don't Matter
Apple's Gift To Google: Hungry Android Developers?
"Expert": Google Clueless About Mobile

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