Does Android Dream of Electric Waves?

WaveDroidSince its announcement two years ago, Google’s Android platform has had a bit of an underwhelming start, at least until the last few months when the new HTC Hero handsets seem to have provided a proper backdrop to do it justice.

The platform itself has been bouncing along its Cupcake development branch and the 1.5 update offered a bevy of new improvements in much the same way that companies traditionally do. However, when it comes to features that place it noticeably head and shoulders above the competition, Android has been rather lacking.

Perhaps Flash is a killer feature for some but it’s not the revolution one might hope for.

Google Wave, on the other hand, could be.  

Tides of Change

The new platform quite convincingly promises to replace not only email and IM but all communication online, acting as a backbone to take over responsibilities for the likes of blog comments and integrating with Facebook, Twitter etc…

As long as its properly executed so as not to be baffling, this kind of consolidated functionality on a handset could be a serious dealbreaker and if Apple drag their feet and force Google to put out webapps rather than allowing proper integration, they’ll only alienate potential iPhone adopters.

Google knows how to enable good mobile access for their services, regardless of platform.  But if they can tie Wave into everything that Android does, the consequences could be far-reaching.

Wave goodbye to texts?

Currently, text messages cost the carriers basically nothing with no real link between volume sent and running costs.  Meanwhile, they’ve been having a great time raking in the revenues, only recently offering unlimited bundles at any reasonable price. Google Wave could change all this.

What’s the point in texting when Wave can put you in touch more directly and vitally, allow you to integrate your conversations with content like blogs etc across the web?  Add applications into the mix and it seems an area which could seriously shift the focus from minutes and texts to a data-driven model.

However, with iPhones setting the precedent of a single payment for unlimited data, how will providers scale between premium and standard packages?  This threat to networks’ profitability could seriously hold up the progress of technology like Google Wave and Google Voice and presents a subject that should stir much debate as we get closer to such a scenario.

Bobbing for Apples

All this may still be some way off but I think the situation presents a real opportunity for Google to carve themselves a powerful differentiator that benefits them on several reverberating levels of business.  These kinds of options, not forced or limiting  but simply offered as an option could represent a real and seductive alternative to Apple’s contrasting approach.

- Max Tatton-Brown

September 18th, 2009