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

  • tomstandage

    But surely there will be many excellent Google Wave clients for the iPhone, just as there are for Twitter? And like Twitter, Wave will have open APIs. Google won’t be able to tie Wave to Android unless it violates its policy of openness. And Wave will only be adopted widely if it’s open.

  • Roger Baskerville

    Agree with tomstandage but for sure text messages are very yesterday. Why pay for a one to one text? All in all a very thought provoking blog. TX

  • Max Tatton-Brown

    Thanks for the comments guys.

    I’m sure the iPhone will have decent Google Wave apps but if Android handsets are released with strong integration throughout while Apple drag their heels, it would offer a new dimension to consider when comparing the two.

    If, as a Wave user, I knew that I could more easily access the enormous potential of the platform on Android phones, it could be a real deal breaker.

    I guess the big question is, how long until you average user switches to Wave? Will my Mum understand why she should sign up for something new just as she “upgraded” from hotmail to gmail or from IE to Firefox?

    Again, if we start to see ranges of lower budget (or free on contract) Android handsets appear and Wave is fundamentally built into them as an option, maybe this could lead market penetration as people started to realise the potential.

    Time will tell and I’m interested to watch this one play out. Could be an exciting new way of getting things out there that befits today’s advanced and influential mobile platform.

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