Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Android and the Big Bang at the Edge of the Web

Linux proponent Stephen Vaughn-Nichols is having an argument with long time Microsoft shill and Windows defender David Coursey about Google Android. Of all things. Stephen argues that the Linux based Android OS is going to make that magical transiton from smartphone to netbook to desktop OS. And do so with stunning rapidity. David Coursey counters that Android can't touch Windows without first figuring out how to perfect file format compatibility, interop with Windows applications and services, and integration into Windows business networks.

Coursey makes an excellent point. No doubt Microsoft knows the competitive value of the impossible barriers they have erected, and the shills have their talking points down to a T.

I agree with Stephen that there will be Android OS netbooks, laptops and desktops. I wonder though whether or not we will see Google OEM products? My thinking is that Google will pursue a course similar to what they did with Android smartphones: build an independent OEM manufacturing base around the open source Android OS, and compliment that manufacturing and distribution channel with a webkit/chromium developer network.

This of course is the "Intel Inside" approach to building a platform for the long run. A Google device would discourage independent OEM's.

But perhaps this is hairsplitting. Where it counts, you are right. Coursey is wrong. He does however make a good point when he says:

"Give most people a netbook that is compatible with the file formats they use, whether for work or entertainment apps, and they will be happy. Especially if the price is right. ....."

"As for desktops, however, all of the reasons that Android could be a fine netbook OS, basically the lack of a requirement to run Windows applications or participate in Windows business networks, makes it an unlikely choice for a desktop OS. ..."

"Windows is and will remain King of the Desktop until something really dramatic happens. That's not Android."

He's right about file format compatibility and the difficult barriers competing applications and services must overcome to integrate and interoperate with MSOffice productivity environment bound "documents and embedded business processes". For Google, Cisco and SalesForce.com to get inside the workflows of MSOffice workgroups, with a level of interop competitive to MOSS, the EU is going to have to do a lot more than forcing the Windows network and the MOSS collaboration protocols into the light of day.

That said, i do think the big bang has happened. But it's not Android. It's WebKit, and the incredible revolution that is taking place at the edge of the Web.

I'm surprised Coursey has not yet recognized this. The WebKit layout engine and document/application model rolled across the edge of the Web with iPhone-tsunami force, and is now spashing back into the greater Web as other Open Web browsers adapt, and Web designers race to upgrade their pages to be iPhone ready.

Just for yuks, the next time you find yourself at Google Docs, check out the HTML+ source code. And say hello to the emerging WebKit document model. Still in it's infancy, yes. But nevertheless, making it's stand for the future of the Open Web.

IMHO, Microsoft has lost their bid to dumb down the Open Web using the dominant marketshare of a 1998 browser. They have lost the battle for the Web's document model because of this WebKit surge coming from the edge of the Web. This will in turn threaten Microsoft's bid to establish a proprietary Web of rich documents and applications based on WPF technologies like XAML and Silverlight.

Android is coming. And with it comes the real big bang- the next generation WebKit document/application model.

~ge~

Some comments that discuss this further:
Is Google Chrome a Dud? Or is it the second coming?
Did Microsoft Just Screw the Pooch?

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