The 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?