Tim O'Reilly A few thoughts on the Nexus One

Original author: Tim O'Reilly
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I bring to your attention a translation of the Nexus One review from a recognized expert Tim O'Reilly. He compares it with the iPhone and discusses the future of Google and Apple.

Now we are waiting for a lot of information about the appearance of the Nexus One, about the sensations of working with it, and so on, so I’ll talk with you about something else - that it’s the latest version of Android that changes the competition structure, which is also called the war for the web . This is the war, the most important front of which is the battle of Android and iPhone.

And here is the latest news from the front: for Android, a new era may begin. I have long been a big fan of the iPhone, but after working for several weeks with the Nexus One, I almost decided to switch to Android on an ongoing basis. I have not yet made a final decision, and this uncertainty depresses me.

The main determining factor of the new era is not the grace of the Nexus One, nor its subtlety and lightness. This is not at all packed up to the eyeballs with all conceivable and inconceivable functionality: here are the incredible capabilities of sensors, noise-canceling headphones, voice control, various home screens, automatic switching of modes depending on the position of the smartphone (in your pocket or in a car mount) . This is not a pleasant fact that the smartphone can be bought completely unlocked directly from Google, and whoever is used to the old fashioned way can choose between Verizon, Vodaphone and T-Mobile. No, the real milestone is something completely different - this is Google’s desire at all costs to make Nexus One as friendly as possible, native to the Web. As explained in today's press conference [January 5, Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show - A. Ch.] Google Vice President of Management Mario Queiroz, Nexus is a place where several worlds meet. Accordingly, “Nexus One is the place where the phone meets the web.” This device is much more complete than anything before it, embodies the concept of continuous connectivity.

Thus, the main advantages of Nexus One are the simplicity and completeness of integration in the cloud. Explain:

• Android Market is something. Compared to the iPhone App Store, this is truly a “one-click operation." You liked some application - you immediately put it on your phone. No intermediate synchronization. And there is plenty to choose from, and every day there is more and more choice. At some point, the process of finding and installing new applications captured me like never before with an iPhone. Very simple payment system. In general, I think that the Android Market should become the main driving force behind the Google Checkout service, increasing its customer base and turning it into a first-class and leading Internet payment system. Not to mention that even the phone itself can be bought on Google Checkout.

• I absolutely admire the security notification system - another interesting find. This system even before purchasing the application shows which settings and functions of the system it will be able to access. I really like that the Market shows how many users have installed this or that application: you can immediately see whether it is popular or not.

• Gmail on my phone works so well that for the first time I could completely do without a laptop.

• No need to synchronize your address book and calendar. Everything is always relevant.

• Multitasking brings the phone even closer to a real computer.

• Maps and navigation work perfectly, however, the voice of the routing system is worthless.

• In Android 2.1, you can enter information by voice into any text field, and not just into search or navigation. Honestly, voice recognition does not work as well as I would like, but, as I already wrote, when recognition does not work on the device, but in the cloud, it gradually improves as more people use it.

• Google Goggles - the application is still dank, but promising. I understand why Google did not preinstall it on the phone, but I still consider it absolutely necessary and very important to strengthen Google’s position. I am convinced that image and voice recognition technologies are the key to the mobile interfaces of the future, and I stand applauding Google for having been engaged in them for so long and selflessly even in the absence of quick results. When someone points a camera at you and she says: “This is Tim O'Reilly” - firstly, it looks absolutely incomparable, and secondly, it shows what a mobile device is capable of, when powerful information and algorithmic resources of the cloud platform. (Google removed face recognition from the serial version of Goggles, but a few months ago they showed me

Now about the minuses (how can without them). The main ones relate to the interface:

• iPhone has always been very intuitive, with gPhone you always have to learn something. But the more I master it, the more satisfaction it brings me, unlike some devices where you beat, bang your head against the wall, but in the end I didn’t solve the problem, and spoiled my mood.

• Visual voicemail is a real hit on the iPhone. After it, it’s so unpleasant to manually dial the number again to listen to the messages. Perhaps this is how our wonderful patenting system works, because it’s hard to believe that Google didn’t want to borrow this feature on its own.

• The single-touch interface can never be compared in simplicity and efficiency with multi-touch. I know that on Android there will also be a multi-touch interface, but now it is not there, and it is very lacking. I madly like pinching pictures on the iPhone with a pinch. Further, the Nexus One's screen sensitivity also leaves much to be desired. Dragging and dropping works well, but sometimes you have to put a lot of pressure on the screen to get the effect.

• Trackball notification - a good idea, but it's hard for me to imagine what benefit I could get from it. Different applications constantly send me notifications, and if I turned on this function, the trackball would blink constantly. I think developers should think more carefully about the colors for these notifications.

• I really miss my iTunes music collection and the ability to listen to audiobooks from Audible.com there. From this, I'm thinking of cloud-based music apps like Last.FM and Pandora. I also miss Rhapsody very much, because I signed up for it through the Sonos music center. Google pre-installs its own music application, but it has a limited selection, and even worse, it takes control of the headset. At least right now it is not available in other music applications: when you click on the pause button in Last.FM, the stream from the Google music application starts playing. Google should VERY seriously approach the issue of entering the music market, otherwise it would be more correct to abandon your own application and work with third-party developers.

• Google is not as good as I would like to solve the problem of integrating photos and videos with Picasa and YouTube. In words, Google claims that you can upload videos to YouTube with one click, but it seems to me that there is a wishful thinking. There is a hidden danger in Google’s attachment to its own services. Suppose I can decide to sync photos not on Picasa, but on Flickr. Q: what will prevail, Google’s commitment to open standards or the desire to further connect users to their services? The question is still open.

• Somewhat annoying are the lack of fairly simple features, such as the ability to take screenshots. E-mine, to install third-party screenshot programs, you even have to unlock your phone!

All in all, the Nexus One is good. It is so good that it is quite possible to expect a repeat of the situation twenty-five years ago, when Apple computers had unconditional leadership, but in the end they lost to a more massive platform, which, although it was not perfect, was aimed at the industry as a whole.

(Henry Blodget writes the same thing in his article “Apple, wake up, again the same thing!” But Mark Sigal gives another historical analogy in the article “Novell vs. Microsoft”, asking a different question : Could suppliers scare off the platform by the fact that Google has armed itself with its own official telephone and has gone quite far from its main business? At today's press conference, Google emphasized the openness of the Android platform, which shows that they also understand this danger. maybe it's worth working with a separate and partners, to share responsibility with them, in order to ultimately get the return in the form of a wide range of innovations available to everyone.)

It seems to me that Google’s success in promoting cloud-based, resource-dependent applications is due to a long tradition that Apple simply does not have. The legacy of Apple is a fundamentally different paradigm, in the center of which is the device. Yes, Apple is trying to catch up, trying to master the cloud infrastructure, building its own services, the same iTunes and the App Store, but this infrastructure is limited, especially in terms of algorithm-dependent applications, which I consider to be central to the computer technology of the future. Google has so many information assets and so much experience in algorithmic applications that it will be extremely difficult for Apple to compete with them even in the long run.

Or take the situation with hit programs. Apple's main programs, such as mail, calendar, and address book, are all rooted in the PC era. They live on a PC and require synchronization with the phone. Meanwhile, Google equivalents are native to the network and therefore are always relevant, there is no synchronization there simply because it is ongoing.

It’s playing into Apple’s favor that Google will be forced to either open some key resources for the iPhone or cede them to competitors. For Google it will be a serious blow if, for example, Bing becomes the default search on iPhone, and Google Maps becomes navigation. It’s easy to imagine a scenario in which Apple and Microsoft will form an alliance in areas such as search, geolocation, speech and image recognition, and others that are key competitive advantages for Google.

But there are important third-party applications that can both contribute to and hinder the success of each platform. They may not be as critical as they were before Windows, when Adobe's commitment to the Apple platform helped Apple maintain unconditional leadership in design, but they are nonetheless significant.

Google must aggressively form a partnership ecosystem in a number of areas: music, e-books, etc., so that partners can compete on an equal footing with the iPhone.

Apple should either increase its capacity in the field of resource-dependent applications, or be not afraid to aggressively cooperate with companies with more experience in this field. Apple needs to transfer its root applications, such as iPhoto and iMovie, to cloud-based rails, turning them into a collective intelligence database. Image recognition is available in both iPhoto and Picasa, but Google is actively training Picasa algorithms on billions of user photos, and Apple doesn’t move with its iPhoto. She should start the training procedure at least in small samples. As the chief scientist at Google Peter Norvig once told me: “We do not have better algorithms, but simply more data.” Collective intelligence is a special Web 2.0 sauce and the future of computer thought, and when Apple locks user data on individual devices, it cuts itself off from this future. Instead of offering MobileMe as a standalone add-on, Apple should link all its apps to the Web by default so that they can learn from other users.

Today we are witnessing a clash of paradigms. Perhaps, in its scale, it is comparable to the era of transition from symbolic to graphical interfaces on Mac and Windows. We are leaving the old era when the device was the basis, and the network was the complement, and we are entering a new era when the device with all its applications is fundamentally connected to the Internet operating system, which provides positioning, speech and image recognition, participation in social networks and other key services.

And this journey is extremely entertaining!

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