Nate's Straight Talk Express: Improve Android's productivity services

Nate Allen
Columnist from  Indianola, IA
| April 14, 2010

Improve Integration of Google Productivity Services

I'm absolutely baffled as to why Google hasn't better leveraged their productivity services to gain even more marketshare, especially from the Windows Mobile holdouts (what few of them there are left) and Blackberry users who are looking for that one extra business-related feature to pull them out of their Blackberry fanboy stupor.

Don't get me wrong, Google has done a great job making sure services like Google Reader, Google Docs, Google Tasks, and Google Photos (Picasa) look good and are easy to use (mostly to read, not create) via Android's web browser in their 'mobile' view.  In fact, Google Reader and Google Tasks are two of the services/apps I use most frequently on my HTC Droid Eris.  I've placed a shortcut to both mobile websites on my Eris' homescreen because I haven't found apps in the marketplace that integrate and sync as well with my activities on my desktop computer.

The opportunity that I think Google has not taken advantage of is in creating great quality apps for these services or otherwise integrating them into the operating system.  Think for a moment of Gmail.  The Gmail app comes standard as a part of the Android OS.  It's simple, straightforward, and ultra-useful.  The calendar app that comes on any variation of the Android OS always allows the user to view and add events to the Google calendar, in addition to any other calendars the device may be capable of syncing with (e.g. MS Exchange or Outlook).  There is also an app for Google Talk (or GTalk), which is simple and works very well.  I love using the apps that Google creates and maintains because for the most part, they are very stable, quick to access, and very easy to learn and use.  The one exception to this is Google Voice which has been a bit 'buggy' for me, but I can forgive that to a point because the service is still evolving and isn't even available to the general public yet. 

I don't understand why Google hasn't created an app that allows for the creation and editing of documents via Google Docs.  It honestly seems like a no-brainer.  Microsoft's Windows Mobile platform held the torch as very business friendly for years partly because they bundled the ability to create and edit Word and Excel documents via pocket versions of the Word and Excel programs. Granted, Microsoft has lost marketshare in recent years because they didn't/couldn't keep up with their competition, but that had nothing to do with the base features that are important to business users.  It seems like Google could easily do for Google Docs what it did for Gmail on Android and take it from an afterthought for business users to a great selling point.  I'm just sayin'. 
Something that makes me shake my head every time I think about it is that Google has integrated Flickr more fully into Android than its own photo site Picasa (a/k/a Google Photos).  Sure, with Android 2.1 you can share photos with Picasa one-by-one, but that's just painful.  These devices should save time, not take more of it. There ought to be a setting to allow an automatic upload of photos and video from the phone to Picasa.  This might not have been a very desirable feature when phone cameras were really crappy (like on my old Blackberry Pearl), but many smartphones now have 5+ megapixel cameras with autofocus and dual flash. Photos and video taken with these devices will be high enough quality that users will start using them more and more for quick photos that are meant to be kept and treasured. 
If Google can create an app as awesome as Google Maps and Navigation, there isn't any reason they can't create a feature-filled Google Docs app.  If nothing else, the least Google could do is provide a downloadable web-shortcut in the Market so users can have a good looking homescreen icon.
Now that I've aired some of my grievances with Android, let me know in the comments what else you'd like to see added to added to Android to make it a more complete package. 

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