Part Four of a five-part series, "Top 5 ways for Android to close the gap." See also:
1. Get Another Killer Phone to Market
2. Serve Up Some FroYo
3. Get Nexus One Into Stores
4. Make Android Entertaining!
Not everybody wants to play games, read books, watch movies, or listen to music on their smartphones. Apparently though, a lot of people do.
Apple's made a killing off of selling games, streaming radio apps and other entertainment goodies in the App Store. T-Mobile's new HTC HD2 is more notable for its giant 4.3" display, Barnes and Noble E-Reader and Blockbuster streaming video apps, and inclusion of both Transformer movies pre-loaded into memory as it is for its Windows Mobile-related smartphone capabilities. Even much-beleaguered, now for sale Palm showed off 3D gaming demos at CES with major partners like EA Mobile sharing the stage with them.
Android, on the other hand, is still relatively lacking in the high-profile mobile entertainment department. Sure, some Android phones come with carrier multimedia offerings pre-installed as aftermarket upsells, and there are a smattering of games available in the Android Market, along with emulators and ports available to the geekier set. But Google doesn't yet have a big time entertainment presence on Android that's marketable to the average consumer in an, "There's an app for that," kind of way.
No, that doesn't meant I think Google should sell Android devices like iPhones. But yes, it means that in order for Android to make major marketshare strides in the US they do need a bigger and better set of mobile entertainment offerings to appeal to the masses:
Now that Apple's thrown its hat into the E-Reader market with its iPad and iBooks bookstore, doesn't the time seem right for some kind of Google-Amazon partnership? Think about it: Android phones already work with Amazon's mp3 store, Amazon seems interested in building some sort of a next-gen Kindle with Web and multimedia features comparable to iPad, and Google's shown plenty of historical interest in E-Books. So get a super slick Kindle app - complete with an attractive, easy to use storefront - onto Android 2.2, and build the next-gen Kindle on a custom install of Android. I'm sure I'm missing something obvious here, but doesn't it sound like a Win-Win for Amazon and Google ... with another shot fired across Apple's bow as a bonus to sweeten the deal?
Just the other day Goole took a potentially big step forward in its game development efforts by hiring Mark DeLoura as a "Developer Advocate." DeLoura is a longtime veteran of the gaming industry and seems pretty psyched to be working with Google on its Android and Chrome-related gaming initiatives:
I'm looking forward to working with both traditional games companies and new game developers to talk about how Google can help, and the platforms and projects Google is working on.
Good stuff. Google's working on the APIs, memory limitations, and other technical issues that stand between Android users and serious mobile gaming. Rest assured once the technical stuff is sussed out, big time game dev houses will jupm at the chance to port their titles to run on the new wave of Snapdragon and Hummingbird-powered Droids.
Mobile TV and Streaming Media
After hearing about it at trade shows and press events for years now, it seems that the notion of the cell phone as "the third screen" (after TVs and computers) is finally coming into its own. Slingplayer runs on mobile phones and AT&T recently showed off a forthcoming smartphone app that will enable users of its U-Verse TV service to connect to their home DVRs and watch recorded programs on the go. Verizon offers an Android app for FiOS users, but it only supports program scheduling, and not remote viewing of content. Add to that successful iPad apps from ABC and Netflix and FLO TV having entering the fray with standalone products for watching - and timeshifting - digital television content, and it's make-or-break time for the third screen.
Google should work with Verizon to get that FiOS app for Android up to snuff with support for mobile viewing of content stored on a user's home DVR. They should also partner up with Sprint for some kind of whiz-bang mobile TV experience to take advantage of the massive screen and faster download speeds coming this summer on the HTC Evo 4G. I know, the device is already slated to support Sprint TV, but c'mon, have you watched Sprint TV lately? Evo will have an HDMI-out port capable of sending hi-def video to plasma display. Surely Google can figure out something nicer looking that Sprint TV to take advantage of WiMax and HDMI.
Content is King
Between Evo 4G and Samsung's Galaxy S, two high-powered Android phones with huge, vivid displays have already been announced for the US market this year. Obviously, more multimedia-friendly Android devices are sure to follow (just today, Dell's Android-based tablet plans were leaked). Samsung made no bones about the importance of high-profile entertainment content and partnerships when they launched Galaxy S at CTIA. Google needs to make sure that the rest of the coming fleet of high-spec Android devices are similarly backed by gaming, e-book, and multimedia partners equipped to deliver state-of-the-art entertainment to end consumers from the word go.
Specs are great, but Content is King. Even an engineer-dominated company like Google knows that. Now's their chance to leverage all of that engineering know how by lining up some great content partnerships to help the next wave of Android devices close the gap on competitors like Apple who've long known the value of entertainment in selling consumer technology.