Every software eventually meets its end. New and better softwares surface and existing ones get major updates that send other existing programs and platforms spiraling into the abyss we like to call obsolescence. Sometimes the software simply has too many problems and users abandon ship, only for devs to soon follow.
Since the smartphone boom kick-started in 2007, we've seen this happen at least once with Microsoft's has-been mobile operating system, Windows Mobile. After the launch of iOS and Android, a pair of promising platforms that quickly caught the public eye with more finger-friendly interfaces and quickly expanding application stores, Windows Mobile was left in the dust. Microsoft was met with two options: they could work around the clock to get Windows Mobile back in line with the latest groundbreaking mobile software or they could abandon ship and start fresh. Obviously, they chose the latter path and brought us Windows Phone.
While no one can anticipate the arrival of an entirely new platform or updates that will propel others into the dark ages, some people have predicted that Android, currently the most popular mobile platform in the world, will reach its peak in the coming year, presumably followed (at some point) by an untimely demise.
From the time Android first launched in late 2008, it has been on a steady rise to the top. It is now dominating US smartphone market share and its popularity is quickly taking over the globe. In this time, Android has undergone six major and minor updates from the first release. For those keeping count that is: Cupcake (1.5), Donut (1.6), Eclair (2.0-2.1), Froyo (2.2), Gingerbread (2.3), Honeycomb (3.0-3.2) and Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0). Each one of these updates have brought improvements in usability, interface design, and performance. James Kendrick of ZDNet, however, claims that despite all of these improvements, Android should have come further than it currently has. And Ewan Spence, a contributing editor at Forbes, claims the "sales will continue, the brand name will live on, but the time for great leaps in usability and functionality has passed."
While it's impossible to ignore that there are still the occasional hiccups in day to day use with Android, whereas Windows Phone and iOS go mainly without a hitch, claiming that, currently, "Android is as good as it’s going to get" is simply short-sighted and baseless.
It has been only three very short years since the Android operating system made its way to consumer hands, and it's come further than I ever would have imagined – maybe not in flawless performance, but in every other way possible. Who's to say that next year's assumed software update (obviously accompanied by next generation hardware) won't make Android just as smooth as iOS? Is it likely? Hardly. But to make the assumption that a software such as Android – which has come from nothing to be the most popular mobile platform in the world and come to power and dominate a large number of wireless providers' smartphone lineups around the globe in a matter of three years – will hit its peak in the foreseeable future is a bit silly, to say the least.
My point? Who could have ever expected Android would be as popular as it is today? There were people claiming Android would soon die out after the release of the T-Mobile G1. Trying to predict the future of Android is pointless, especially when it comes to software updates.
Remember that former Android intern who explained why Android is laggy on Google+? Remember that in-depth rebuttal by Android framework engineer Dianne Hackborn? Well, these two went back and forth a few more times clearing up and revealing a lot about exactly how Android handles graphics and why things might not be as smooth as iOS, Windows Phone or webOS, even. I'm no expert, and I've read them in full, trying to understand and be interested in exactly what goes on when you swipe back and forth between home screens. But through all of the code-talk explanations, there is one point brought to light by the former intern, Andrew Munn:
"She [Dianne] clarifies things about Android that I got wrong, and fundamentally rejects the thesis of this post by suggesting that the increased security and flexibility of the Android platform over iOS is a cause of performance overhead and that increasingly fast hardware will help resolve the issue."
Will Android ever be as smooth as iOS or Windows Phone? It's hard to tell, honestly. And I wouldn't bet on iOS-like performance within the next several updates. But if you just take a second and recall exactly how Android has changed the mobile world, it has mostly been in hardware innovations. By licensing their platform for free, Google has spurred component manufacturers' and their own partners' innovations and created what CNN dubbed Android's Law.
It may sound ridiculous to carry a pocked-sized computer with a quad-core CPU clocked at 2.5GHz (seriously, it might burn a hole in your pocket in more ways than one), but that will become a reality come next year. On which platform, you ask? None other than Android, of course. Updates in usability or functionality might not come in the form of software updates for a while, but Android has sparked hardware innovation that competing platforms and partner manufacturers are having a hard time keeping up with. And it's these very updates, as stated by an Android framework engineer, that will make all the difference.
Android will hit its peak at some point – every platform will, even iOS. But I don't see it happening in 2012 ... or in the near future, for that matter. Things are just getting started for iOS, Android and Windows Phone. Without a doubt, 2012 is going to be one of the best years for all of them and I look forward to everything each one will bring. Of all things, I assume none of those will be stale updates, and surely not the demise or the "sell-by date" of Android.
What say you, folks? Will Android hit its peak in 2012? Can the Android team manage to bring major updates in 2012 and beyond? Or is this as good as it's going to get?