Why Android will crush the iPhone

The iPhone was a nice preview of next-gen mobile. But Android is the real thing, and will make iPhone and BlackBerry yesterday's news

I love the iPhone. But love isn't the same as getting along in a work environment. When it comes to business productivity, I predict Android will be the mobile business platform of choice, while the iPhone, even more than the Mac, will be relegated to a niche when it comes to business use.

In his preview, InfoWorld's Tom Yager gave high marks to the first Android device, the T-Mobile G1, which goes on sale Oct. 22. Manufactured by HTC, the G1 has a businesslike (and very usable) swivel-out keyboard, but also sports its own sexy consumer appeal, complete with iPhone-style gestures for navigation. And unlike the iPhone, the G1 lets you cut and paste among different applications -- plus you get Google Apps shrunk to fit.

Now lemme think. On which device am I going to get more work done faster, the G1 or the iPhone?

[ Check out Tom Yager's preview for a nice overview of what the T-Mobile G1 has to offer. Tom's report from the launch event provides pricing and availability. ]

Then there's the obvious fact that HTC and T-Mobile are only the first lucky duo to ship an Android device (months before the pundits, including Tom Yager, predicted one would roll out). There will be many, many Android devices and carriers and pricing options.

You see, Android is an open platform. Like, really open, as in Google will publish the source code in full. And although developing on Android requires that you learn proprietary extensions to J2ME, the development environment of choice for Android is the ubiquitous open-source Eclipse IDE, which should provide a comfortable home for millions of Java developers.

There's no denying that Apple has been very effective in bringing developers on board. But as Contributing Editor Neil McAllister points out, developing for the iPhone requires developers to learn Objective-C -- fine if you're already an Apple developer, but quite a learning curve if you're not. Moreover, to use the SDK, you need an Intel-based Mac and membership in the Apple Developer Connection. This is an exclusive club.

[ Read Neil McAllister's concise comparison of the iPhone and Android SDKs. ]

The real question, I suppose, is how long it will take for Android devices to overtake the BlackBerry. For enterprises, RIM has that secure mobile server infrastructure going for it. But when a bunch of competing Android devices and options arrive, it's going to be tough for BlackBerry to withstand the wave, unless it takes a leap beyond its niche of a proprietary mobile e-mail appliance.

The next wave of computing is going to center around cloud-based applications, open platforms, and mobile devices. Android is a mobile portal to Google's ever-expanding cloud. Add a commitment to open standards, and Android's first steps may be the start of a computing juggernaut the likes of which we haven't seen since Microsoft's glory years.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.