Does Google dream of electric

sheep...?

I’m pretty sure you know about Android, the operating system used by many smartphone manufacturers.  And you may even know that the word android is derived from the Greek word meaning “man” and the word “oid” meaning likeness, so that android literally means “like a man.”  I was reminded of this as I’ve recently been listening to a very good reading of the science fiction book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick.  This book, published in 1968, imaginatively explores the difference between highly intelligent “human-like” androids, which can only be detected because they lack empathy, and human beings, some of whom also display a lack of empathy.  The story is set 24 years in the future, 1992, following a devastating nuclear world war in which radio activity has extinguished the majority of life on earth.  Philip K. Dick’s idea of timing for the existence of highly sophisticated human-like robots may be out by a few years, and we haven’t yet had the nuclear war, but nevertheless we now live in a world increasingly populated by android smartphones and devices.  And we take them for granted. My android tablet’s IQ is still way below the genius-level intelligence displayed by the extraordinary androids in Philip K. Dick’s novel, although it can interpret my speech into pretty good text, provide text translation into Haitian Creole amongst a hundred other languages, and tell me where I am by using a map and a GPS signal.  It will also explain the names and whereabouts of the stars in the sky, whatever hemisphere I’m in, tell me the time the next bus is due, and, if my tablet ever gets stolen, it can even take a picture of the thief, and note their location.  And, of course, it can organise my email, calendar and electronic books as well as arranging news and journal articles so I only see those that I haven’t read.  It is no coincidence that my tablet is called a Nexus 7 and the superior androids in Philip K. Dick’s novel were called Nexus 6.  Andy Rubin, the man at the head of Google’s Android development, obviously knows the book well and appreciates it.  Like many others, he also knows of its adaption into the comparatively crude, but visually sophisticated cult film, Blade Runner.  The development of Android is a fascinating story that has still to be told in any depth, and it demonstrates how close Microsoft came to being in a dominant position at the centre of mobile devices, but then totally failed due to very poor management.  One could certainly put that failure down to a lack of empathy.  In 2000, at the height of the dotcom boom, Andy Rubin and others founded Danger Inc, a highly creative company which, by 2002, had produced the ground-breaking mobile “smartphone” that was variously branded as the T-Mobile Sidekick, the Mobiflip and the Sharp Jump.  This novel phone became very popular, not least because of its easy to use keyboard and its perceived security of having data stored in the cloud.  Danger Inc. subsequently produced several models based on the original Sidekick design and the company was acquired by Microsoft in 2008.  Unfortunately, a year later in 2009, an infamous data disaster at a Microsoft data centre wiped out all of Danger’s customer data and it took two months to restore the service.  This notorious incident resulted in an utter loss of confidence in the product and such poor sales that Microsoft absorbed Danger Inc. into the Windows Phone division.  Meanwhile Andy Rubin had already left Danger Inc. in 2003 had gone on with others to found Android, the company acquired by Google in 2005 to spearhead their move into mobile devices.  Five years later Google released their first mobile device, appropriately called the Nexus One. As the chart above shows: Google’s strategy and execution, unlike Microsoft’s, has been comparatively flawless.  Nearly all the smartphones that Samsung currently ships use Google’s Android operating system.  The IDC data I’ve used in the chart only covers smartphone sales, because this is where all the growth and profits are coming from.  The reason for this is that people in developed countries are enthusiastically switching from just having a phone in their pocket or handbag to having what is, in reality, a powerful but comparatively tiny computer connected to a wide range of cloud (Internet) services.  In terms of smartphone market share you can see that it is rapidly becoming a two horse race between Samsung and Apple.  For every two Apple iPhones that are sold, Samsung are selling three smartphones.  I’ve included a bar chart that shows the year on year change in market share from 2011 to 2012 as this really clarifies how significantly the smartphone market has changed within one year.  Nokia, which has staked its future on using Windows Phone 8 as an operating system, has fared the worst, losing more than half their market share in 12 months.  Not far behind it is Research in Motion, better known as Blackberry, which has lost over a third of its market share as it struggles to develop its own operating system.  Taiwanese company HTC is also in the top five smartphone manufacturers, with a market share similar to Research in Motion.  HTC has also staked a lot on using Windows Phone 8, as well as Android, as its phone operating system.  For a variety of problems HTC has also lost a quarter of its market share. What stands out clearly from analysing this data is that in order to be successful in such a volatile market the smartphone cannot be viewed in isolation from the operating system and the cloud services built around them.  People are not just buying a device; they are buying into a service infrastructure.  Google has built a highly efficient mobile operating system in Android which is proving extremely attractive to many people.  For example, if one stops using an application, the processor cycles for the application cease instantly, extending the battery life as much as possible.  Yet that power will also instantly resume when one switches back to that application.  It all happens so fast and seamlessly that the process is indiscernible.  Switching between many open applications is also very easy, and very power efficient.  So far no other company seems to have been able to develop such successful and basically essential web services like the integrated email and chat and mapping as those provided by Google.  If you want proof of this look at how many more visitors  Google maps, Google Play, Google Search, Gmail and YouTube receive than Apple iTunes or any other Apple mobile apps.  And the company isn’t content to sit on its laurels.  Google plans to reveal another innovative, and even smarter, smartphone in a month or two.  Meanwhile The Apple maps disaster shows that even to attempt to match Android for intelligence requires a long history of sustained investment in software development.  Much as it must have taken to develop the original androids in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? February 2013
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2013
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Does Google dream of

electric sheep...?

I’m pretty sure you know about Android, the operating system used by many smartphone manufacturers.  And you may even know that the word android is derived from the Greek word meaning “man” and the word “oid” meaning likeness, so that android literally means “like a man.”  I was reminded of this as I’ve recently been listening to a very good reading of the science fiction book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick.  This book, published in 1968, imaginatively explores the difference between highly intelligent “human-like” androids, which can only be detected because they lack empathy, and human beings, some of whom also display a lack of empathy.  The story is set 24 years in the future, 1992, following a devastating nuclear world war in which radio activity has extinguished the majority of life on earth.  Philip K. Dick’s idea of timing for the existence of highly sophisticated human-like robots may be out by a few years, and we haven’t yet had the nuclear war, but nevertheless we now live in a world increasingly populated by android smartphones and devices.  And we take them for granted. My android tablet’s IQ is still way below the genius-level intelligence displayed by the extraordinary androids in Philip K. Dick’s novel, although it can interpret my speech into pretty good text, provide text translation into Haitian Creole amongst a hundred other languages, and tell me where I am by using a map and a GPS signal.  It will also explain the names and whereabouts of the stars in the sky, whatever hemisphere I’m in, tell me the time the next bus is due, and, if my tablet ever gets stolen, it can even take a picture of the thief, and note their location.  And, of course, it can organise my email, calendar and electronic books as well as arranging news and journal articles so I only see those that I haven’t read.  It is no coincidence that my tablet is called a Nexus 7 and the superior androids in Philip K. Dick’s novel were called Nexus 6.  Andy Rubin, the man at the head of Google’s Android development, obviously knows the book well and appreciates it.  Like many others, he also knows of its adaption into the comparatively crude, but visually sophisticated cult film, Blade Runner.  The development of Android is a fascinating story that has still to be told in any depth, and it demonstrates how close Microsoft came to being in a dominant position at the centre of mobile devices, but then totally failed due to very poor management.  One could certainly put that failure down to a lack of empathy.  In 2000, at the height of the dotcom boom, Andy Rubin and others founded Danger Inc, a highly creative company which, by 2002, had produced the ground-breaking mobile “smartphone” that was variously branded as the T-Mobile Sidekick, the Mobiflip and the Sharp Jump.  This novel phone became very popular, not least because of its easy to use keyboard and its perceived security of having data stored in the cloud.  Danger Inc. subsequently produced several models based on the original Sidekick design and the company was acquired by Microsoft in 2008.  Unfortunately, a year later in 2009, an infamous data disaster at a Microsoft data centre  wiped out all of Danger’s customer data and it took two months to restore the service.  This notorious incident resulted in an utter loss of confidence in the product and such poor sales that Microsoft absorbed Danger Inc. into the Windows Phone division.  Meanwhile Andy Rubin had already left Danger Inc. in 2003 had gone on with others to found Android, the company acquired by Google in 2005 to spearhead their move into mobile devices.  Five years later Google released their first mobile device, appropriately called the Nexus One. As the chart above shows: Google’s strategy and execution, unlike Microsoft’s, has been comparatively flawless.  Nearly all the smartphones that Samsung currently ships use Google’s Android operating system.  The IDC data I’ve used in the chart only covers smartphone sales, because this is where all the growth and profits are coming from.  The reason for this is that people in developed countries are enthusiastically switching from just having a phone in their pocket or handbag to having what is, in reality, a powerful but comparatively tiny computer connected to a wide range of cloud (Internet) services.  In terms of smartphone market share you can see that it is rapidly becoming a two horse race between Samsung and Apple.  For every two Apple iPhones that are sold, Samsung are selling three smartphones.  I’ve included a bar chart that shows the year on year change in market share from 2011 to 2012 as this really clarifies how significantly the smartphone market has changed within one year.  Nokia, which has staked its future on using Windows Phone 8 as an operating system, has fared the worst, losing more than half their market share in 12 months.  Not far behind it is Research in Motion, better known as Blackberry, which has lost over a third of its market share as it struggles to develop its own operating system.  Taiwanese company HTC is also in the top five smartphone manufacturers, with a market share similar to Research in Motion.  HTC has also staked a lot on using Windows Phone 8, as well as Android, as its phone operating system.  For a variety of problems HTC has also lost a quarter of its market share. What stands out clearly from analysing this data is that in order to be successful in such a volatile market the smartphone cannot be viewed in isolation from the operating system and the cloud services built around them.  People are not just buying a device; they are buying into a service infrastructure.  Google has built a highly efficient mobile operating system in Android which is proving extremely attractive to many people.  For example, if one stops using an application, the processor cycles for the application cease instantly, extending the battery life as much as possible.  Yet that power will also instantly resume when one switches back to that application.  It all happens so fast and seamlessly that the process is indiscernible.  Switching between many open applications is also very easy, and very power efficient.  So far no other company seems to have been able to develop such successful and basically essential web services like the integrated email and chat and mapping as those provided by Google.  If you want proof of this look at how many more visitors Google maps, Google Play, Google Search, Gmail and YouTube receive than Apple iTunes or any other Apple mobile apps.  And the company isn’t content to sit on its laurels.  Google plans to reveal another innovative, and even smarter, smartphone in a month or two.  Meanwhile The Apple maps disaster shows that even to attempt to match Android for intelligence requires a long history of sustained investment in software development.  Much as it must have taken to develop the original androids in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? February 2013
Click here to download the PowerPoint chart: Click here to download the PowerPoint chart: