Google versus Apple

Let the heavyweight fight begin in ernest…

Apple has the purist on its side, but it’s economic model depends on doing most in-house while Google can enlist the intelligence and design acumen of third parties. It’s just producing the operating system, leaving phone design to others.

November 6th: The Day Android Broke

It wasn’t the Kennedy assassination or the moon landing or 9/11 or the election of Barack Obama, but I remember exactly where I was the moment the iPhone first launched. Granted, I work at a computer Web site, so I spent the day chasing it down, taking pictures, shooting video, and generally fawning over what, at the time, was lovingly referred to as the “the Jesus phone.” If you’re a tech geek, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It was a big day—arguably the biggest single day in consumer electronics of the past decade.

In the year plus that it’s been around, Google’s Android hasn’t had anything near an equivalent moment. Sure, there was plenty of buzz around the operating system when it was first announced. After all, it confirmed, to some degree, the existence of the long-rumored “Google Phone.” We spent the subsequent weeks digging around for any piece of information about the OS, and were soon vindicated by the release of the first handset, the T-Mobile G1 back in October of last year. The phone was exciting, sure—but primarily because it was the first. It was cool and had potential, certainly, but I know the iPhone, and that, sir, was no iPhone.

And then, silence. Back in April of last year, mobile expert Sascha Segan wrote a column titled “Has Android Already Failed.” He opened up the piece with, “I’m starting to get seriously worried about the fate of Android, the open-source smartphone OS that was supposed to bring democracy, uniformity, and competition to the mobile world. Instead, it’s just bringing a lot of vaporware.”

And you know something? He was right. Now, more than half a year later, the operative word, fortunately, is “was.” In recent months, we’ve seen the launch of the Motorola Cliq, the T-Mobile myTouch 3G with Google, and the Samsung Moment—good phones, all of them. Still, none of them brought Android its iPhone moment.

That moment is now. Today marks the launch of the Verizon Droid line, with the availability of the Droid by Motorola and the Droid Eris, the former of which is, unquestionably, the strongest Android handset to date. The debut of these phones marks the beginning stages in delivery on Verizon’s promises of more openness—long a sticking point for the network that is, by nearly every other account, the nation’s best. These phones are a far cry from the crippled, locked down, V-Cast–drenched handsets of Verizon’s past.

And the response has been proportionally enthusiastic. I can’t remember the last time tech geeks and non-tech geeks alike were as excited about a piece of hardware. PCMag’s traffic numbers have been through the roof on nearly every story featuring the word “Droid” in the headline. Verizon issued an announcement that it would be opening stores early this morning to tackle demand—and people responded by lining up at some locations beginning at midnight. When the devices were still in the rumor stages, leaked, blurry photos were being treated as if someone had glimpsed Bigfoot—or the Apple tablet.

Software manufacturers have responded as well. Adobe and Slacker, amongst others, rushed to announce the release of apps for the Android Market. With its recent announcement that more than 100,000 apps have been developed for the iPhone, Apple certainly has the leg up on all other smartphones, but a watershed day like today will almost certainly mark a coming of age for Android’s available apps.

So take a break from the frenzy to make a mental note. Today, November 6, 2009, is the day that Android really broke. What began as a geeky obsession is now a household word, much like the iPhone. Android has finally arrived.