Motorola Droid Is Cruising, but the Google Phone Is Coming

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2009-11-18

Motorola Droid Is Cruising, but the Google Phone Is Coming

News Analysis: I read something yesterday that rankled me. In an interview with the New York Times, Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein knocked the Motorola Droid, questioning its mainstream market appeal and dismissing the device as a techie phone.

"Android, and the Droid in particular, are designed for the techie audience," Rubinstein told the Times. "We are doing a more general product that helps people live their lives seamlessly."

I spent this past weekend with the Droid, courtesy of its carrier Verizon Wireless. As you can see from my review comparing it to the Eris, I found it intuitive and easy to use -- easier in some ways than the Eris because it offers different options for typing (physical keyboard, plus touch screen) and snapping photos (can be done physically, as well as on the touch screen.)

But I'm no techie, at least I don't consider myself one. When I hear "techie," I turn around and look for my IT guy, or a programmer -- real geeks who write software.

I consume Web services from Google, Facebook, Twitter and others like most everyone else in high-tech media, but I don't code. I still found it really easy to get comfortable with the Droid, no doubt in part because of it offers me access to the same Web services I already use.

The Droid gracefully enabled me to use the same applications on use on my laptop for work and personal use, with little drop off in user experience. How is that not a sign of a great consumer device? Isn't Apple's iPhone touted for the same?  

What is a techie phone? By techie phone, does he mean that it enables me to use a lot of interesting applications?

Well, it certainly does that -- and pretty well I might add. In addition to Gmail, YouTube, Facebook, fewer things are as liberating as getting turn-by-turn instructions from your smartphone instead of your Garmin GPS. (this, by the way, lends credence to my colleague Jim Rapoza's assertion that single purpose devices, such as the Amazon Kindle, are doomed. For more on that, I'll be reviewing the TwitterPeek soon).

Allegedly, 250,000 units of the Droid sold in its first week. Does that mean 250,000 techies bought it? Unlikely.

Whither The Google Phone?

Before I received the device from Verizon, I looked into the Droid at Best Buy (waiting in line at carrier stores is maddening and I've done it at AT&T and Verizon Wireless shops) and saw anyone from teenagers to soccer moms to knowledge workers like me looking into the Droid and the Eris.

So I'm forced to dismiss Rubinstein's claims as untrue daggers from a man feeling squeezed by iPhone and the litany of Android devices -- the sort of dismissive bluster that corporate leaders such as Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer lobs at Google, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison lobs at IBM and former Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy lobbed at IBM and Microsoft.

Rubinstein should spend a little more time worrying about sales for the Pre and Pixi and a little less time worrying about what others are doing. Scratch that -- maybe Rubinstein should order his team to copy what competitors are doing. It seems to be working for Motorola and HTC. He told the Times:

"The companies that will deliver the best products are the ones that integrate the whole experience - the hardware, the software and the services - and aren't getting one piece from here and one piece from there and trying to bolt it all together."

Spoken like a former Apple executive. Oh wait... Rubinstein was! Bashing the Droid for being a device comprised of hardware from Motorola and software and services from Google is exactly what you'd expect from the guy who helped bring the iPod to the world. It smacks of that Apple mentality that a device must have one singular maker and not be an amalgamation of different parts.  

It speaks to Tim O'Reilly's notion of  "one ring to rule them all."

Consumers don't care whether about the provenance of the device, so long as it works. And the Droid does.

All of this brings me to the alleged Google Phone. TechCrunch's Michael Arrington said that not only is it real, but it's coming in 2010. Arrington wrote:

"There won't be any negotiation or compromise over the phone's design of features - Google is dictating every last piece of it. No splintering of the Android OS that makes some applications unusable. Like the iPhone for Apple, this phone will be Google's pure vision of what a phone should be."

If this is true, it would certainly hew more closely to Rubinstein's mobile device philosophy.

Perhaps Rubinstein was merely lashing out in fear over the fact the mobile device world is slowly being taken over by Apple and Google.

The former makes the hottest smartphone in the land; the latter makes software and services that are quickly seeping into the mobile mainstream, and soon, it seems, its own device to support the software and services.   

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