Sudden Movement on the Android Front

Not long after my, and plenty of other people’s criticism of Google’s last six months of silence on the issue of Android. Google claimed that they didn’t want to take developer’s away from moving forward in order to prepare for release, but as I said last time, it was a concern because they were being more open with the few people who’d won the Android Developer’s Challenge I.

However, with the recent FCC approval of HTC’s Dream, and the impending release that this foretells, Google has finally started to move again on Android. Android 0.9 Beta was released yesterday, and having only had a brief chance to play around with the new emulator, it’s fairly exciting. The new UI is clean, and seems pretty intuitive. Even cooler, they released the source to the old dashboard UI, which goes a long way to show that truly, almost every piece of infrastructure on the phone can be easily replaced if you don’t like it. Awesome.

However, it’s not all chocolate and roses. Some Analysts are claiming the HTC Dream will come pre-installed with Google’s advertising software. Currently, I have to view these rumors as unsubstantiated, as Google, nor any Open Handset Alliance member, has said anything to that effect, and the SDK doesn’t contain anything to that effect. However, Google’s CEO has made it very, very clear that he feels that Mobile Advertising is the future of the company. And no doubt he’s right. He thinks advertising could eventually pay completely for the mobile phone.

But at what cost? The only reason this would work, is that Mobile Phones know basically everything about you. Where you go, how long you spend there, who you talk with (and again how long), where you go online, what you say, what you search for. More than enough information for Giants of Data Mining to target you pretty directly. The privacy invasion implicit in this sort of world is really quite disconcerting however.

Still, due to the current openness of Android, and the future openness once the source is fully released, any undesirable parts of the platform can be excised. Admittedly, I dislike that the default may well become insane tracking, but at least a way out will be availble. Mobile phones are expensive, far more expensive in the US than they need to be. As users we’ve allowed a service providing culture that thrives on double billing and price gouging to develop. That’s going to take a lot of work to rectify at this point, but I don’t think giving up privacy to advertisers is the way to do it.