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Android: Waterfall?

A new report claims the Android platform may be further delayed. Money quote:

Specifically, one of the handset makers that is thought to among the first to deliver a device, HTC, is “having structural problems to incorporate Google’s demanded feature set,” Global Equities Research analyst Trip Chowdhry says.

I forget where I posted this point (here, O’Reilly, JavaPosse mailing list, whatever), but the biggest difference I see between Android and the iPhone is that Android did a Big Design Up Front: they’ve written up a big Javadoc of how the platform works, and handset makers are obligated to deliver that functionality (or, perhaps, degrade out of it gracefully). Compare to the iPhone where the SDK is specifically tailored to what the existing hardware can deliver.

Is there an analogy here to waterfall versus agile? iPhone certainly comes from a unique situation, where the already-existing OS X and Cocoa could be adapated and tailored to the device. But then again, couldn’t Android have just been “Java ME on crack” (or Java SE with decent media support) running atop embedded Linux, two known and proven technologies? Actually, it kind of is: notice how many of the classes fall under the java.* and org.apache.* package hierarchies. So what’s the problem?

Actually, the real problem is that Android can’t just be “as good as the iPhone.” If it really slips to early 2009, it will be two years after the iPhone announcement. To compete, it will need to be wildly, obviously better than the iPhone, in the same way that the iPhone kicked the ass of the RAZR, BlackBerry, and other contemporary devices. Google had better hope that Apple is sitting on its laurels like Motorola and RIM did.

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