Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Is Android a "Tower of Babel" OS?

That's the question I'm thinking about after reading an in-depth and excellent 3 part series of articles titled Inside Google's Android and Apple's iPhone OS. 

The series analyzes the Android OS and how it compares to and contrasts with Apple's iPhone OS in three main areas. The first article is a comparison of the OS's as core platforms. The second article compares the business models Google and Apple are implementing for their mobile OS platforms. The final article looks at how each platform manages software updates and delivers platform advancement in the form of new operating system features and bundled apps. If you want a deep analysis of both platforms in these areas and have some time to dig in, the author 'Prince McLean' does an excellent job of covering a lot of ground. 
The biggest takeaway from the series for me was the many ways each Android handset maker is going to be able to make custom modifications and changes to Android. Each vendor is naturally going to try and make the end user experience the most attractive it can. This means user experience from one Android device to the next could be VERY different. Now on the surface that sounds great! More choice for consumer's is always a great thing, right? On the surface that IS true.  

But there is a devil in the details underneath the variability of the flying windows on your Android handset. That devil is the difficulty this creates for SW application developers to develop Android apps that run across many devices on all the different variations of Android deployed on all the various devices from competing vendors. The testing permutations will boggle the mind of even the best mobile app development company. Developers have been promised "write once, run anywhere" many times in the past and every time it's ended in a mess. No matter what Google promises I'm pretty certain the Android model will not achieve, "Write once, run anywhere."  

Imagine trying to manage your 4 or 14 mobile apps you've written for mobile phones when there are 20, or 50, different Android handsets from a dozen different handset vendors and you have to test and certify that app to run on all 50 devices? Then imagine having to retest on every device every time an OS update gets pushed from Google. Then you have to retest and certify AGAIN every time the handset vendor issues it's layer of changes on top of the latest Google Android release.

Now compare this to the effort for the iPhone App developer of retesting and re-certifying each time Apple issues an iPhone OS update. Then take into account the likelihood that Apple is going to move away from it's ATT exclusive and sell through other US vendors and all the major global vendors. As an App Developer, whether you love Apple or hate them, you'll have to think hard about how you spread your limited SW development resources between iPhone and Android.  In the long run is it sustainable from a business perspective for the mobile app developer to take on the headaches building and scaling the Android "Tower"?

This devil has the potential to make the Android community suffer the same fate the builders of the Tower of Babel suffered in trying to build a tower that reached the heavens. There may be just too many Android "languages/dialects" to effectively sustain a combined effort to disrupt and compete with Apple's "iPhone Hegemony".

I'm a big believer in the benefits of competition for consumers and for the businesses who are competing. So I hope Android is a success. That success, if it happens, will certainly drive innovation forward and improve the health of the industry as a whole.

But to do that Google and it's vendor partners must do something to make sure App Development for Android is not going to be a mess? If they don't, SW Developers are going to feel like they are SW developer versions of Bill Murray in "GroundHog Day"; redoing the same SW tests over and over and over and never getting it right? Am I missing something here? I'm curious to hear what people think.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Power to the People: Flipping Your Business Communications Polarity

As enter into 2010 we are going through a huge revolution in how "business communications" affect "business productivity". The changes happening in this revolution will empower people (your customers and your employees) more than ever before and fundamentally  change how your company does business. 

The biggest and most visible reason for this is the Social Media/Social Networking explosion and it's effects on how employees of your business interact with their coworkers and also with your customers, vendors and partners. Before the internet, business communications consisted mainly of telephone calls, mailed letters and traditional paper, radio or TV advertising. The internet added email and 'web-pages with mostly static content' to that mix. These changes increased the speed of communications but not it's fundamental nature. So the core model for businesses communications, and business organization, remained mostly the same. People still made phone calls, sent mail(email) and published content for customers (advertising and manuals on webpages). 

But recently, something new is happening that is going to be much more disruptive to the model for business communications and business operations. That something is the rise of "Realtime Social Media" communications with social networks like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and a hundred other niche social networks designed to serve specific communities. This change is something http://twitter.com/jeffpulver calls "The State of NOW"

Take a moment and watch this short, stunning YouTube video on Social Media, and you'll see just how important it is that your business recognizes this fundamental change. 

This "State of now" model brought on by realtime Social Media solutions is highly disruptive to the way you will do business. Instead of just enhancing the old model of what "critical business communications" looks like, Social Media is turning the old model on it's head. Instead of the most critical communications happening inside your business and flowing from the top your business down through the organization and out to the customers, the flow is reversing directions. The most critical communications for your business are now happening out in the customer communities on social networks like Twitter and other targeted specialized networks.  

Conversations about your business and it's products in these forums can have large and immediate influences on the purchasing behaviors of other customers of your business. This makes it critical that your business monitor these conversations in realtime and engage in them. Your business needs to be in that social network in order to help or clarify or balance that conversation about your brand and products so that those conversations don't result in lost business. 

Then after engaging in the conversation, the "State of Now" information you gather on your brand/products must efficiently flow back toward the top of your business so it can be acted on by company leadership. This critical "State of Now" information is naturally gathered in lower levels of the business hierarchy by "in the trenches" employees assigned to focus on social media. In the future that will not only be people you think of as "customer service" or "contact center agents". It will include every employee in your business because they all will have access to and engagement in social networks.

This "bottom up" versus "top down" polarity change in the model of enterprise communication flow and teaming is possibly larger and more disruptive than all the changes in the fundamentals of business communication that happened in the entire 20th century. What's stunning is these changes have happened mostly in the short span of 2000 to 2010, with the majority happening just in the past 4 years!When you combine these recent Social Media-based changes in how people interact and communicate with other cultural changes in the enterprise work culture (e.g., high employee turnover, multiple B2B partnerships, distributed "virtual" workforces, reduced workforces, rapid changes in market requirements, etc), the result is a near complete change in the old model of medium/large enterprise communication and productivity.

If your business is going to survive and thrive through this "Power to the People" Revolution you need to recognize this change and act on it. Flip your Communication Polarity from the top-down model that dictates to employees and customers to the new bottom-up model.  It's time your business starts living, working breathing and succeeding in "The State of Now".