Revised thoughts on Android

The post I wrote a few days ago about Android is all over the place. The right elements are in that post, but my composition and conclusions are somewhat incoherent. Perhaps I have been partly infected by the conventional thinking (of, e.g., various older, big corporations) and missed the obvious.

First, in a networked environment, it is common standards, rather than a single, common software platform, which further enable information sharing. So, Google may be doing Android for precisely the opposite reason than I originally suggested: to avoid the emergence of a single, dominant, proprietary platform. Chrome may exist for a similar reason. After all, Android serves a purpose similar to a browser, but for mobile devices with various sensing modalities.

Finally, mobile is arguably an important area and Google probably wants to encourage diversity and experimentation which, as I wrote in a previous post, is a pre-requisite for innovation. This is in contrast to the established mentality summarized by the quote I previously mentioned, to “find an idea and ask yourself: is the potential market worth at least one billlion dollars? If not, then walk away.” In fairness, this approach is appropriate to preserve the status quo. (By the way, in the same public speech, the person who gave this advice also responded to a question about competition by saying with commendable directness that “Look: we’ll all be dead some day.  But there’s a lot of money to be made until then.”)  But for innovation of any kind, one should “ask ‘why not?’ instead of ‘why should we do it?'” as Jeff Bezos said, or “innovate toward the light, not against the darkness” as Ray Ozzie said.