Google’s Biggest Problem – Focus Part 3

Last time (read article Google’s Biggest Problem – Focus, Google’s Biggest Problem – Focus Part 2), I spelled out what Google was doing with Android. Today, I’m going to wrap it up and bring it home, providing a recommendation that I hope Google will listen to.  Unfortunately, given their track record, I’m not getting my hopes up. Unfortunately, neither should you.

Android is attacking the market en masse. It’s the only way the fragmented OS is capturing share. Its lack of focus provides for a quick product introduction cycle by its 3rd party supporters. For example,

T-Mobile USA currently offers 16 Android smartphones from 6 different manufacturers.
AT&T offers 22 Android smartphones from 7 different manufacturers.
Verizon offers 34 smartphones from 6 different manufacturers.

Most of these phones are either running FroYo (Android 2.2.x), or Gingerbread (Android 2.3.x). Very few of them will run or officially support Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0.x). Each manufacturer has added their own launcher and customizations on top of the OS. Nearly all have provided customized versions of some system level apps or components, originally developed by Google.  This has unfortunately created a bigger divide between stock Android and what end users actually use on their devices.

What does this mean, exactly?  In many cases, Google provides the shell and relies on the 3rd party developer to complete the structure. Until recently, and by recently I mean the last 12-18 months, Google resisted the development of an ecosystem. It provided an operating system that would allow users to organize their lives, communicate with the outside world, run apps, listen to music, watch video and read books.  However, it failed to provide a way for users to purchase, organize and manage that content on those devices. Their philosophy – we provide the means, YOU (meaning the hardware OEM or 3rd party developer) provide the way. In the process they’ve lost out on potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in sales and royalties.

It finally recognized this when it introduced Google Music.  From there, you could buy and then stream music directly to your Android phone.  It also modified its Android Market allowing for the sale of not only music, but books, movies as well the standard and familiar device apps.  Music purchased there could be copied to your device and your PC and then synchronized with Google Music’s online music locker.

While this signifies a move in the proper direction, not only for Google and its partners, but for users as well, it doesn’t completely solve the problem. Google needs to further lock down the platform – hardware manufacturers and OEM’s shouldn’t be allowed to have devices with up to three different revisions of the OS in active support at the same time, and shouldn’t be allowed to introduce new products with outdated OS revisions, as they have in the past.

Google is developing focus, but it’s taken approximately 4 years to get here. Frankly, I think Google’s gotten very lucky. Hopefully, they’ve seen the error of their ways, have seen the success their major competitors have in their own ecosystems, and continue to stay focused.

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Google’s Biggest Problem – Focus Part 2

I’ve been watching Google over the past few years and they have one major problem – focus.

Google has a lot to look forward this year – a reincarnation of GoogleTV, Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich, the LTE capable Galaxy Nexus, the list goes on and on really. Its clear, the company is moving and shaking. However, they have one big problem in my opinion – they lack consistent, company-wide focus. (see article Google’s Biggest Problem – Focus)

Last time, we took a very quick look at a number of different products that Google extended a great deal of effort to plan, develop and then introduce and then eventually abandoned due to lack of focus. I bring this up for one important reason – Android.
Of all the products that Google has introduced, those that really seem to have staying power, are mostly connected to Android; or Google has found a way to hook them into Android. Those that didn’t have traction either didn’t fit, or weren’t meant for Android.

Android is an interesting animal in that its focused enough to be adopted by major hardware manufacturers and OEM’s. The problem, however is not adoption, it’s the focus and guidelines Google has placed around the use of its mobile OS that concern me the most.

Just about anyone from the hacker down the street to Samsung and HTC can get ahold of the Android source and SDK and cook a version of the OS. They can modify it most anyway they want, with launcher options that are only limited by the developer’s imagination and available hardware.

While this may seem like a great win for open source and end users everywhere, it really isn’t. It’s a huge problem, actually. All of this openness has led to a great deal of version fragmentation. Google has little to no guidelines on what can or cannot be done with the OS. It also allows multiple revisions of the OS to be actively used at the same time, so any device manufacturer or OEM can use FroYo, Gingerbread or Honeycomb on its devices at the same time. It also hasn’t provided any guidelines on upgrades, and moratoriums for any specific versions.

Come back next time, and I’ll bring it all together, explaining exactly WHY Google’s lack of focus is a problem not only for the market, but for end users as well.

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Nexus Prime – First Ice Cream Sandwich Smartphone

The Galaxy Nexus had the working title of Nexus Prime, taken from a backstory for the Transformers movie series. It’s an appropriate name as Google is hoping the device will continue to help Android transforming the smartphone market. The Nexus is produced by Samsung but will be specifically marketed by Google itself, following on from the Nexus One and Nexus S.

One of the key elements of the Galaxy Nexus is that it will be the first commercial phone to run Android 4.0, the latest edition of Google’s mobile operating system, with the odd marketing name of Ice Cream Sandwich (previous updates included Cupcake, Eclair, Gingerbread and Honeycomb.)

The most significant development in Android 4.0 is that it is specifically designed to be suitable for both smartphones and tablet devices. That’s led to both an overhaul of the system’s design and a series of new and revised features that will feature on devices including the Galaxy Nexus/Nexus Prime.

The two most dramatic additions are both the stuff of sci-fi movies. There’s a voice recognition system that, although scooped by Apple’s new Siri feature, stands out by allowing unlimited dictation. Even more impressively it’s now possible to use a photo of yourself as the phone lock: facial recognition means that you and you alone can unlock the phone.

Speaking of the camera, the Nexus Prime will be able to use new features that include built-in image editing, the ability to take static images while filming video, and an automated panorama feature that means you simple move the camera round and don’t need to worry about lining up each “shot” so that they stitch together.

Using the Galaxy Nexus should be a breeze as Android 4.0 includes several revisions to the user interface, similar to the way Windows gets updated every few years. You can now organize apps and shortcuts into folders on the home screen, there’s a special favourites tray at the bottom of the screen (similar to the taskbar in Windows), you can adjust the size of widgets (displays of information such as weather updates or stock prices that are updated in real time), and there’s even a graphical display to show exactly how much data you are using — a must for those on contracts with tough data limits. Check the leaked video:

The Nexus Prime’s hardware makes the best of this update: it has two cameras, one which can record HD video, 16GB storage, a dual-core processor (which means fewer freezes or slowdowns), a true HD screen, and even the ability to connect the phone straight to a TV set through a special adaptor cable.

The phone’s unveiling was delayed briefly as a mark of respect after the death of Steve Jobs. It’s now scheduled for release in the UK on 17 November and, as with its predecessors, is only available in unlocked form: that means users must pay the full, unsubsidized price but don’t have to sign up to a mandatory service contract. The phone will be around £550 including VAT from major networks, though Amazon is selling it for £520.

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Install CyanogenMod 7 on rooted Samsung Galaxy S – the easy way

Are you a Samsung Galaxy S owner looking for some oh-so-cool Android 2.3.4 ROM? Good, you’re in the right place. Just in case you’re quite unsure if you should do it, let me tell you a few reasons of why you should install custom ROMs, especially CyanogenMod 7. In my opinion, CM7 is hands down the fastest and most functional ROM I have ever flashed on my SGS, plus it has many great standout features and customization options which makes it so much better than the stock ROM. About the visual elements, features and performance, you should take a look at the video below…

Convinced? Let’s proceed. The most preferred and the simplest way to install CyanogenMod on your device is via an app called ROM Manager which you can download from the Android Market. Go ahead, download the app and run it.

Note: ROM Manager requires a rooted device.

From ROM Manager, choose the first option: Flash ClockworkMod Recovery to update the app to the latest version. Select Galaxy S (MTD) > select Yes > select ClockworkMod 2.x > select OK. After this, select the Download ROM option from the main menu > select the CyanogenMod option, and then choose the latest version of CyanogenMod from the menu.

Note: When you select the latest version of CyanogenMod, check the Google Apps option. You’re going to need this in order to have the Android Market and some other Google apps which doesen’t come preinstalled in CyanogenMod.

Once the ROM is finished downloading, it asks if you would like to Backup Existing ROM and Wipe Data and Cache – I highly recomment you to do so – just to be on the safe side in case something goes wrong. If Superuser prompts for root permissions check to Remember and then Allow. The Samsung Galaxy S will now reboot into the recovery, wipe data and cache, and then install CyanogenMod. When it’s finished installing it will reboot into CyanogenMod and you’re done! You’ve successfully instaled Cyanogen Mod.

Note: If something goes wrong and your phone doesn’t work anymore as it should, do this: power off your device completely (remove battery if there is no other way). Press and hold Volume Up + Home Key and while you continue holding those buttons, press and hold power. Your phone should boot into recovery mod. From there, just select the recovery option and select the backp which you just made.

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Samsung Galaxy S gets Android 2.3.3 Gingerbread (I9000XXJVB) through Kies – build date 8 April 2011

Samsung finally rolls out Android 2.3.3 over Kies for Samsung I9000 Galaxy S owners.

If you want to update your firmware to this version via Kies, you’ll have to:

– install the latest version of Kies, or update it.
– remove all lag-fixes from your phone
– backup your phone contacts, calendar and other stuff
– update your phone through Kies
– factory reset your phone
– restore lost data, contacts, calendar and so on…

You can get the latest version of Samsung Kies from: here.

Note: Gingerbread is available yet through Kies only if your device product code is CSC XEE or NEE. Otherwise, you can update your device only with ODIN – however, this method can void your warranty and can brick your device (actually, the update procedure itself can do it), so update through ODIN on your own risk and if you know what you’re doing.

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