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razorNot since Apple stunned a developer/media crowd by giving away free iSight video cameras has a company gone to the heart of what Jonathan Schwartz calls the tendency of not just software but hardware to trend to free. Google’s giveaway of 4,000 Android phones and 30 days of 3G answers the musical question: is that an Android phone in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

Google’s HTML 5 pitch got a whole lot more interesting when developers realized the company was moving into the kind of viral marketing Apple seemed to own until recently. The App Store has created an always-on version of the developer evangelism connection, and we’ll see how effective Google is in building on the momentum created by the phone toolkit. The iPhone 3.0 release continues to keep Apple ahead in lining developer pockets with money through increased monetization scenarios. Now the differentiator will come on the media side of the equation.

Google has maintained good relationships with both mainstream and blogger press, but free phones will need to be backed up with the only coin media respects, namely access. Tim O’Reilly released a wrap-up post that quoted several of the keynoters before they actually delivered those remarks. Scoops are scoops, but this takes the concept of live blogging a step further. But that kind of media sequencing is not how Apple turned the press into a subsidiary.

Instead, they did it by capturing the imagination of the bit-stained wretches. As users, we’ve accepted years of incremental development – the long evolution of Windows from a band-aid on top of DOS to NT to something indistinguishable from most of OS/10. Then the browser – from a crippled container firewalled off from Office to an iteratively updated application framework that, with HTML 5, makes Java an irrelevant stub on the desktop and Flash in big trouble on the phone. Today’s free phone is the razor for creating the HTML 5 habit, and video is the nicotine.

Battery life will continue to be the great leveler here, but even that bolsters the free phone as a backup when the iPhone dies, or vice versa. As planes adopt WiFi, I’ll use my MacBook Air as a charging station, and switch between the smaller devices for as much of the communications time as I can lay off. Streaming video servers will become the gas stations of the near future, parking enough bits to finesse the look-ahead of new video as it hits the network, perhaps caching your favorite sites or follows based on your and your affinity cloud’s behavior.

Though much is made of open versus closed in the messaging around these technologies, in fact these are all very savvy serious commercial players. All is not exactly as it seems. Google challenges Apple, but releases advanced versions of Gmail on the iPhone to build demand for that type of app as it proliferates across the other platforms. Chrome is the overt browser play, but Firefox is the stalking horse through which Google seeds the broader market. Microsoft may seem to be the odd man out, but there is ample room for Redmond to adopt enough of the HTML 5 characteristics as to make staying with Windows Mobile attractive to the larger audience. Again, Java… look out. Nokia too.

  • New Gadgets | Free as in Android

    […] Original post by TechCrunchIT […]

  • Derry Quinn

    Not to sound like an asshole and I don’t think I’m drunk, but I’ve read over this article twice and I still have no idea what it’s supposed to be about specifically…

    • PRC.

      …a noticeable pattern in the comments on any Gillmor piece.

    • marc

      I think it’s a crystal clear & well written piece.

    • Foobar

      Seconded. Giving away Androids, HTML 5, battery life, App Store…. WTF?!?!? How are any of those related?

    • DaveZatz

      I don’t get it either. Where are these 4,000 phones? I want one!

  • chloe

    i’m trying to lighten up on gillmor and give him a chance, but i have no f’ing idea what this is about.

    • Derry Quinn

      Hehe, join the club :)

      • Synack

        A club of idiots. Gilmore is writing about a developer conference from a developers perspective. If you can’t see such simple concepts, go comment on the idiots club blog where you belong.

      • Derry Quinn

        We know that, it’s the fact that the article is a pile of shit that we’re talking about.

  • Hal Leach

    It’s referring to the Google I/O today – they handed out 4000 Androids and a month of data service to the devs in attendance.

    • Derry Quinn

      I know that much, but the point behind the article is… what? It’s written in a very bad and confusing way.

  • Joshua Cyr

    Android Apps = Java. FYI

  • Schick

    It’s a product placement ad for the Schick corporation.

    Gillmor, as many of us Canucks know, is a big Carolina Hurricanes hockey fan and like any good hockey fan, you don’t shave while your team is in the playoffs.

    If you saw any of the Canes games on Versus you would’ve seen Steve (and his HUGE beard!) 2 or 3 rows behind the Canes bench for all 4 games.

    Now that the Canes are out of the playoffs, I guess this his Schick Quatro was the 1st thing he used this morning.

    Which is surprising since Gillmor is actually heavily vested in Philips (click here for SEC filing.)

    Sorry. Forgot to include link. Try this link-> HERE.

    Ok. I pulled all of that out of my arse but that’s bleepity bleep bleep exactly where Gillmor got his crap from!

    Err…his own arse that is..not um mine.

    Sorry. Don’t schwing that way.

    And if you really did click on the TEXT “Here” please close the browser and go read a book. Or menu or something.

  • Andy

    Yeah this is amazingly awful.

  • commentator

    Ok so what just happened here? What point were you trying to get across? Do you understand that you dont understand anything about anything related to tech?

  • Jon

    Can someone over at TC just delete this post before more people see it and waste their time?

  • Michael

    Does someone have a Greasemonkey script to get TC without Gilmor and Twitter articles?

  • Derry Quinn

    I feel kinda bad for starting this whole whinge-fest, Mr Gillmore self-esteem can’t be great right now…

    • Steve Gillmor

      You’d be surprised

      • Derry Quinn

        Glad to see you’re hanging in there xD

  • DotComGuy

    It’s a definite pattern. Google used Yahoo! to take over search. They’re using Mozilla to take over Microsoft IE. Since there wasn’t an incumbent in mobile OS that they could use they made their own “open” platform- Android. I don’t think any of this is bad, evil, malicious, or anything else negative, just a repeat of a pattern that has proven successful to Google time and again.

    • Derry Quinn

      That’s an interesting point, now that you bring it up!

      • Synack

        It’s nowhere near an interesting point, it moronic pseudo logic base on false assumptions.

        I’m geussing that your name is actually Larry and you just haven’t learned to spell it yet.

      • Derry Quinn

        *one raised eyebrow*

      • DotComGuy

        What false assumptions? Google is very smart and should be admired for this strategy. Look at yesterday’s debut of Wave. The only way to change communication protocals (email, chat, etc…) is for everyone to change. That will either happen over decades of committee meetings that go nowhere or overnight through grass-roots (cynics might call it Astroturf) development and adoption. I’ts a bit like the concept in Co-opetition

  • Brandon Watson

    Steve, can you comment why you think that Java is going away? I can’t seem to grok this point vis a vis the notion that Android is native Java dev platform. Further, I am confused by the AppEngine roll out of Java, the pursuit of GWT (which cross compiles Java to JavaScript), and muxing that with all of the talk of how important JavaScript is as the “simple” (Vic’s words from this morning, not mine) solution for web app development.

    • Steve Gillmor

      Mostly in the context of Java as a transport for streaming down updates and new code to the installed base, i.e. on the client side. As a programming language, it has never been stronger in the Google tooling from AppEngine to GWT to Eclipse. Apple has blocked Java and Flash on the iPhone and HTML 5 promises to continue that trend.

      • Shonzilla

        Java client applications on the desktop never really caught up. That’s true. Everywhere else, it’s prominently used alongside heavier frameworks like .NET and lighter ones like Rails (hm… Grails).

        Google is a clear proponent of Java and is contributing to Java community quite a lot – from Joshua Bloch (Java features) to library authors like Bob Lee (Guice), Bruce Johnson (GWT) and several others.

        With improvements to JVM and script languages we’re can also recognize Java as the core language for developing libraries used by more agile script languages.

        On the mobile client, Java programming language is used for Android which is getting its fair amount of limelight.

        In a nutshell, with Google alive and kicking Java (and Java software developers) has nothing to be afraid of. :-)


  • Tim F.

    That’s actually the most coherent post by Gillmor I’ve read. Not saying much. And he’s mostly wrong as usual.

    Steve is giving Google credit for HTML5 which will have a future on Android and in Google’s own services. This is supposedly brilliant for Google (even though the companies who will benefit from HTML5 are legion — just not Microsoft — and Google’s by no means responsible for it — thousands have contributed to the long-in-the-coming HTML5… Android has it because of WebKit which is maintained by Apple — in fact, one could say Apple benefits more than Google from HTML5 even though they don’t play in the web services business very much, etc…) Because HTML5 and Cupcake are so brilliant, Google kicks ass and gives out free phones (not because they have a bunch of unsold boxes sitting around approaching the value of zero, but because happy developers is more profitable than paid services and expensive devices so you might as well give it away).

    I say HTML5 still has a long row to hoe. And many will benefit if it does achieve critical mass. Apple and Google’s web standards goals are perfectly aligned, and they are working well to make it happen, with all of their strategies, services, products applying pressure. (Conversely, I see Mozilla flagging and perhaps losing despite their own contributions to the web’s advancement.) But there is still plenty of inertia and lack of creativity in a broad market still dominated by Microsoft and those uninspired by taking the web to the next level.

    Apple and Google definitely have the advantage of having the best toys, services, APIs, and RDF to spread around and bribe people. That used to be Microsoft.

    • Steve Gillmor

      where exactly do we disagree?

  • Amit Kumar

    I agree with all the above commenters…I can’t figure out what this article is trying to say. Gillmor has only a superficial grasp of tech concepts. He tries to wow his readers with strained, confused metaphors and “clever” references to a bunch of buzzwords. What’s a “musical question”? What’s “media sequencing”? What the hell are “bit-stained wretches”? “Firefox is the stalking horse through which Google seeds the broader market”–you can seed through a horse? Goddamnit man, just give us some clear information about what’s going on. Or at least a concise, coherent opinion about what’s going on. TechCrunch, don’t you edit your writers?

  • Jim Simpson

    Anything I’ve ever read by Gillmor is profoundly incoherent and rambles on without purpose. Remember his recent assertion that RSS is dead? Cutting edge? No. Challenging convention? No. Insightful? No. Plan bad? Yes.

    I am sincerely intrigued by what motivates Arrington to provide Gillmor a platform here on TC. It dilutes the quality of the articles and is an insult to the much more competent staff writers TC has.

    Gillmor tries to dazzle with bullsh*t intermingled with acronyms and industry terms that he does not comprehend. I am now convinced that he penned this wonderfully technical scene from CSI:

  • Scott Charles

    Steve: I’m going to tweet this article. I took the article to be about the competitive dynamics in play among Google, Apple and Microsoft as they all jockey for position in their spaces, e.g., hardware platforms, OS platforms, software platforms.

    But the real reason to tweet the article are the comments. Hoots, jeers, catcalls, some faint praise, and some insight. What fun!


  • Jay Cuthrell

    I’m at the event. As I got in late I only now appreciate this in review of what was handed to me at my checkin today. I was handed a phone. An HTC running Android.

    Excuse me? Yes. I was handed a phone. Free.

    I’m reading this after opening my Android phone. It’s not the old G1. It’s not got a keyboard. It’s virtual keyboard made sense and was accurate. I was prompted to sync to my Google account when I signed in for the first time. Clever. Useful. Stable. I was able to browse to the comment website for the I/O event on both 3g and WiFi with ease.

    My iPhone sitting next to it as I documented some of this made me wonder what I’ve been carrying around since late 2008. At lunch, another iPhone user that develops for Android said he estimated I’d be using my iPhone first as primary and then later come back to play with the HTC.

    The OTA upgrade to 1.5 and reboot just “worked”. I was able to get into the Market easily. Maps worked far better than I expected.

    What really brought it home was how well Gmail worked. Previews. All of it.

    I’m tapping in my thoughts in response to this article from an HP netbook. I’m using Windows XP and Firefox but today I took the Chrome plunge and will be coming back to review it more. As the lunch group broke up to head to more sessions, his parting shot was “you just don’t know you’re going to give up the iPhone yet”.

    One of the things I loathe is the spawning of Flash or a Java applet and watching my machine crawl — and today I get to imagine a world where neither of these clunkers are mandated for the future of what I consider to be Web access interfaces. Neither of these show up on iPhone today. If it comes to a wait period, if it comes to a choice in development platforms, I can only see Google generating greater returns for this investment today.

    My next plan is to get Android apps running on my Ubuntu laptop once I get back to dig into that. While I am comfortable on various platforms, my Apple world has been questioned today but not as much as my Flash and Java world.

    So many things will have to change as this plays out but it’s the only progress that makes sense. Flash and Java are bridges to expectations and not reflections of the path for progress itself.

  • Aron Michalski

    Those that don’t want to, do. It would make sense if they didn’t. Those than can, can. Is anyone holding a gun to your head when you surf the internet or do you truly enjoy getting filled with ire and writing comments? Do you always watch TV channels you despise all day long as well?

    • Jim Simpson

      You raise a very good point. If only my television featured a comments option! I would embrace the ability to let each and every broadcast agency, host, and general douche on television know what I think as a viewer. How empowering that would be…

      I do not enjoy getting filled with ire; well, ok, maybe a little (don’t we all). In the case of this “article”, Gillmor forces it upon the reader. I have concluded it is humanly impossible to read his meanderings without experience “ire”.

      It is in the spirit of altruism that we, the public, speak out and express our opinion, and, dare I say, DISAGREE with someone’s take on things. You see, it is not selfish motives that drive my comments, it is a heroic attempt to protect the public from Gillmor’s insanity. You are welcome.

      Shall we avoid speaking passionately about subjects that matter to us lest we risk bruising one’s delicate ego? Fuck no! If you speak brashly and without caution, be prepared for the response.

      • Aron Michalski

        I’m glad to know you’re a public service. Thank you for your selfless sacrifice. I’ll leave you be while you make the world a safer place.

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