Technology is our friend: Android@home is bigger news than I can imagine
Back To Normal

May 10, 2011

Android@home is bigger news than I can imagine

Google made a bunch of huge announcements today. Not only did they fulfill expectations and confirmed some rumors that were floating around for some time, but they even achieved to positively surprise (at least me). While it was foreseeable that they would finally really fight against fragmentation, all the “media-related announcements” everyone is so excited about are more or less a try to catch up with Apple, who can offer movies, TV and music entertainment over iTunes for many years now. To make the Android platform (with impressive 400k new activations a day, over 100 million devices) more valuable, that was a move to be expected. The key announcement in my eyes is extending Android to a “home operating system”.

Back in 2004/2005, when we built the “T-Com House” with I-D Media for Deutsche Telekom, we often had to present the project and give tours to multiple guests, clients and partners. When we talked of a “home operating system” that we had to build in order to make all applications communicate with each other over wireless connections (and controlled by a handheld device, but of course with a stylus…), there were basically two reactions: One part of our audience thought we were bullshit-bingo-ing anything that came to our mind to make that house look like a super-smart and strategically relevant showcase (which they believed it wasn’t), others immediately understood the idea and started to fantasize about how a “home operating system” with a critical mass of consumers (Deutsche Telekom base by that time: 35 million landline, over 13 million online households) could impact the whole web & technology industry in Germany and beyond.


T-Com House, Berlin, 2005

While the first were right with a skeptical perspective on whether we would ever see something like that as a product from this specific company, the second were right in identifying the huge opportunity that lies in such a system, which brings us back to Android: I have been writing in this blog over and over again that I do not consider Android to be the superior OS in terms of services (from a user perspective) and code (which I cannot evaluate anyway), but in terms of its strategic concept to be open to any kind of hardware for any kind of manufacturer. I often referred to TVs and cars, sometimes fridges, but now with a “home operating system”, Android’s limit truly is the sky. It puts a lot of pressure on Apple – I often emphasize in discussions that I cannot believe how a single company would be able to serve all different kinds of devices and that Apple would either have to license their OS (which, from a perspective on Apple’s philosophy up to now, is highly unlikely) or would have to concentrate on an extremely profitable but extremely small niche of high-end luxury products. But since size really matters with regard to a network effect (devs, devs and devs), I don’t think that could be a real long-term strategy.



Photo from endgadget.com


Android as a universal operating system, “Android@home”, for anything that may connect to the internet is nothing less than the basic infrastructure for what has been a secret new major topic of mine during the last months (still in the collection of information-phase): The internet of things. I think it will go a lot further than just controlling devices with your handheld device, although that will probably be the start, as already picked up for example here and here. But imagine not only controlling a device, but enabling devices and appliances to talk to each other. Imagine your coffee machine could tell your car to start heating the seats because you usually start the car 23.4 minutes after making the first coffee on weekdays and the temperature outside is below x degrees. Imagine a smart electricity grid lowering or cutting off the power of devices in standby when the electricity grid is overloaded and developing patterns when to boost power to your fridge and when not, based on the average times you open the fridge door.

And beyond that, imagine a world where anything that could produce usage data actually does produce and capture it; and that you, by some miraculous law, user interface and operating system, would own that data and could use, access, visualize and share it to base your (and your friends’) future decisions on reliable sources instead of gut feeling. Imagine your DVD player telling you that you have watched x movies during the last months and that amazon would tell you how much money you spent on them, an operating system would compile and visualize this data and you could really know whether a Netflix subscription would be the better option or not. Imagine you could compare your car driving stats – how often, how long, how much city/overland, with which average gas usage, with how much weight indicating how many persons were in the car - with those of your peers and friends and you could decide on your future car purchase based on real usage.

And imagine what really creative people could do with such an infrastructure and not me, sitting in some hotel writing this post and getting tired. But I am really excited about that announcement.

Of course, it will take years to develop meaningful and mass market-available internet-of-things-devices and ecosystems, but just like that day in the early nineties, when some dudes demonstrated the first, lousy-quality, short voice-over-IP-call, you knew there was no stopping it, and its development to a really mass market-suitable application was just a matter of time. Today might be such a day for smart homes and the internet of things.