Microsoft: Android is “Free Like a Puppy”

ANDROIDDOGThe seemingly premature introduction of the HP Slate at CES proved that Microsoft was definitely on the defensive at CES 2010, but not just against the fabled Apple Tablet. Android-powered tablets, eReaders, and smartbooks were really the big story at the show, with devices being shown off by everyone from HP and Dell to Notion Ink and Spring Design. So it came as no surprise when James DeBragga, General Manager of Windows Consumer Product Manager, poo-pooed Android during a netbook panel I moderated at the show. What I found most interesting was his choice of words.

When I asked the CEO of Entourage, maker of the Android-powered Edge eReader/mobile Internet device, why Android was his platform of choice, he cited its versatility and the fact that it’s free among the primary benefits. DeBragga took issue with this statement, saying Android “is free like a puppy.” His point was that Android sounds cute and cool on paper, but when you get that device home it can be a hassle. He emphasized that Microsoft’s customers count on it for support and that it works hand-in-hand with its partners to make sure that they can troubleshoot effectively. Guess what? The man has a point.

Many owners of the Nexus One, the first Google Phone powered by Android, are complaining that the device is randomly switching between 3G and EDGE, and some are frustrated that Google’s support is limited to e-mail inquiries. PC World is reporting that customers are being bounced between HTC and T-Mobile, even though neither entity should really be responsible for support. Will makers of Android devices of all types going forward be able to keep customers happy, and what level of support–if any–will Google itself provide?

DeBragga’s other main point during the panel was that the world wasn’t ready for devices that were “always-on, always connected.” He was referring to so-called ARM-powered smartbooks and Tablets, many of which will be based on Android. The problem, according to the Microsoft exec, is that you’re relying on the unreliable cloud for basic functionality, whereas Windows-powered tablets and netbooks are able to do much more offline.

In other words, you’ll need to keep that Android puppy on a leash of connectivity, whereas you can trust a more mature dog. The dog in this case, Microsoft, also offers thousands of applications that work across all of the devices that run its OS, whereas larger screen Android devices usually have either limited or no access to the Android market.

So what do you think? Is Android a puppy that needs to be housebroken or is Microsoft just frightened by the prospect that we’re entering a post Windows world?

Mark Spoonauer
Mark Spoonauer
Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.
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  1. Kye Says:

    Well, even though I agree that he does have a point, Windows isn’t exactly the most stable thing on the planet now…is it? – he didn’t say anything about your precious ARM-powered netbook/tablet being infected with malware of anything; which of course could mean you could have your ‘offline data’ stolen.
    Windows is quite obviously scared about us entering a post-Windows age, It’s their own fault really….they haven’t done anything truly innovative and ‘Apple-style’ for a while now, they truly tried with Windows 7 but they’re really out of touch now; I mean…a Windows 7 launch party…seriously, unless it was Microsoft’s intention to create something extremely lame to add to the general Windows 7 ‘hype’ they’re really running out of ideas, Microsoft has to do something fast before Apple, Google, Ubuntu.etc takes over…once that happens (we all know it will, Microsoft can’t be on top forever, and they’re already starting to slip) it’ll all go downhill from there, for the better, in my opinion.

  2. Crash Says:

    I agree with Kyle. Microsoft has gone the way of the big 3 auto makers. Too long Microsoft has stood still while the rest of the industry has innovated and pushed the technological boundaries.

    Microsoft needs the massive support effort for all of their devices because they’re so unreliable. The speaker made it seem like their massive support is a benefit for Microsoft consumers. Maybe if they made a decent product, they wouldn’t need so many support centers.

    I’ve already upgraded many of my Microsoft devices, and won’t be using any of their devices or OS by the end of the year – unless at work, which I really can’t control.

    It’s like Specialized Bikes motto – “Innovate or DIE.” And surely Microsoft hasn’t innovated anything in a while – the latter is simply the consequence of the industry they’re in.

    R.I.P. Microsoft. 1975-2010

  3. Damon Says:

    “He emphasized that Microsoft’s customers count on it for support and that it works hand-in-hand with its partners to make sure that they can troubleshoot effectively. Guess what? The man has a point.”

    Have you ever called Microsoft for support? Aside from activating software they charge you a fee per call. Calling Microsoft for support is a joke.

    Google’s “customers” are in fact HTC and T-Mobile and their communication might not have been perfect…but let’s put this into perspective. Microsoft has been selling hardware for over a decade (two?) and surely has a handle on its vendors, whereas this is the first Google branded device in the wild. The Nexus One early adopters should expect some bumps when it comes to a product like this.

    My bet is that the support problems are a matter of money. Who is going to foot the bill for the support people? Google assumed that it would be the vendors. Besides, is the phone that different from other Android phones?

    The real test will be how Google handles the support requests and the level of support it gives for it’s next product. Something tells me that they will be even more solid on support.

  4. David Says:

    But Windows operating systems are “expensive like a pure-breed puppy.” Expensive and just as much trouble as the free ones. (Honestly more. Most pure breeds have more health problems.) So you need all that support.

    Windows is so very 2003. That’s why my house is now filled with OpenSUSE, Moblin, and OS X.

    MS knows it’s starting to slip but they don’t know what to do about it except to bash the competition. Windows 7 is an improvement over the Vista disaster but it’s not enough. But hey, this is what I wanted for a long time for me and my friends on Windows. Without competition there’s no strong push for innovation.

  5. Chahk Says:

    Android is like that little bulldog puppy. Sure it’s small, clumsy and hardly has any sting right now, but give it some time and it WILL grow up to bite your @$$ off.

  6. Mike Says:

    I agree with all the comments. That’s typical Windows management style, “bash the competition” for coming up with something innovative. Microsoft is slipping and we are entering an era where people have choices other than Microsoft’s dull devices. People are choosing the cool innovative stuff, that is also cheaper, than the boring, virus prone Windows OS options. Microsoft needs all the support people because let’s face it, their OS is not up to snuff. I dumped Windows when MacOSX first hit the scene. It wasn’t perfect then as you still had to boot into OS9 to do certain things like play a DVD, but Apple worked out the kinks. I’ve had my Titanium for almost 8 years and it still runs better than most newer PC’s. And I never once caught a virus on it. I’m going to get a new one to get on the Intel platform. I said, if Apple came out with a phone I’d buy it. My iPhone is the only mobile I have ever bought myself. All my other phones came from work. I know I’m Apple centric, but the gear works well. I love the fact that Google is out there innovating as well as other companies. Competition drives innovation. Apple is not perfect, but they continue to innovate. Everyone sees what is happening to Microsoft. You can’t rest and think your installed base will prop you up forever. Google has just launched their first phone. Give it time, they’ll work the kinks out. Microsoft is now Big Blue, and we all know what happened to Big Blue.

  7. ALex Says:

    I really wish they’d focus on making better products. I really shouldn’t have to explain the POS of Windows Mobile but had I been there I might have been so inclined. That tops my list of most frustrating doesn’t work as expected, no tech support available operating systems in existence. It is however an interesting question about where people should be going for Android support, I think the manufacturer of the device has to take more responsibility, which they may not be used to, but that’s the nature of open source.
    Note: we’ll have to see what happens with the device coming straight from Google to really test how well the community support structure can work in this field.

  8. Don Montalvo Says:

    Oh please, Microsoft is soooo 2000’s.

    Helooooo OpenSource and OSX!

    Don Montalvo, TX

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