Android is Your Buddy

Last month, our friend Phineas JW published a well-received article on AndroidGuys about Google’s (Not So) Secret Strategy. I loved the article, but couldn’t help being a little disappointed towards the end. Based on the title of the article, I expected to read about more than just a Killer App from Enkin which would wrap together Google’s Maps, Street View and Google’s enormous database of local information, along with an Android phone’s GPS system, into an extremely awesome navigation package.

Don’t get me wrong. I have thoroughly enjoyed Google’s maps saga so far. When they first introduced Google Maps, its Ajaxy goodness seemed like a great alternative to Mapquest. But each incremental feature and step they have taken with Maps and Earth has been awesome and shown that their ambition is beyond just a map application with a great interface. It points to how they are turning Maps-Earth into the heart of a different type of search engine. An engine which can give you every type of available information (both factual and social) about any location on Earth.

It’s the same with Google’s Android. It’s not just about a phone. It’s not even about a “live view” type of Killer App. They are going to turn it into the heart of mobile computing and mobile living like never seen before. Why do you think it is called Android (meaning a gender-ambiguous automaton or robot)? What type of name is that for a phone OS? Could it be that they envision the OS and the handheld it’s on to eventually morph into a type of personal valet-secretary-buddy device that accompanies you everywhere? What would that futuristic device do? Would it be a single device which would function as your phone-computer-camera-media-player-modem-wallet-credit-card-ID-card-photo-album-navigator-calendar-diary-scheduler-translator-remote-control-and-whatever-the-heck-else-you-can-think-of?

Given below are some of the ways in which an Android device (note that I’m not calling it a phone) could become your all-in-one valet-secretary-buddy:

A Universal Phone
The key word here is ‘Universal’. With advances in VoIP technologies, you should be able to use a single phone everywhere you go – home, office, travel. This is already a reality for most people. But the real cool thing about a universal phone would be that it would also facilitate IM and voice chat over all types of networks – Yahoo, Google Talk, MSN, Skype, etc. – at unbelievably cheap or no cost, from any place to any other place in the world. Further, you would no longer need a number to identify your phone. Phone numbers will be passe. People will call you using your preferred email address or chat ID. In fact, they can call you using multiple email addresses or chat IDs, if you so choose. A combination of Google’s Talk and Grand Central application, combined with inter-operability with other IM systems and telephone networks could easily put this functionality on your Android device for FREE! Carriers and long-distance telephone call providers will no longer be able to survive on revenues from voice calls alone.

A Wallet
What are the things you keep in your wallet? Money and credit cards. As I write this, there are many organizations, including big banks and small software shops, which are trying to come up with an easy, efficient way for people to use their cell phones to pay businesses as well as pay each other. The other thing we keep in our wallets are different types of cards – driver’s license, club membership cards, library cards, etc. It is not a big deal to digitize these cards and display them on the a handheld screen. The real challenge is in ensuring that the displayed information is authentic and accurate. This can be achieved by a system of exchanging encrypted authentication keys between the handheld and a verification device that would be used by the police, your club or library. What else? Photos? We can already display photos on phones. Keeping prints of photos in wallets is fast going out of fashion. By the time banks and different agencies agree on standards for payments and displaying identification information (like driver’s license, club membership, etc.) on a handheld, you can bet that your Android device would have been long ready to take on that functionality.

A Universal Modem
Once again, the key word here is universal. We are already familiar with people using the phone as a tethered modem for a single computer. With increasing transmission speeds and bandwidth, it won’t be long before we will be able to use an Android device as a modem for multiple computers at home, for the TV, and for any other device you want to connect to the network.

A Universal Media Player
This one’s already been done. Your Android phone can already play music and videos on itself. The day is fast approaching when you will be able to stream the same music and video to any device – your home theatre system, your car audio system, etc. And you will be able to do that in HD, no less.

A Universal Remote
This is another area where research and development is happening at a feverish pace in big companies as well as in small setups working out of a garage. The idea is a single soft remote control, which can be programmed to work with any device in the house, including your TV, music system, video player, computer, home lighting, home security, garage door opener… may be even the lock of your front door!

A Personal Computer

As more and more computing shifts to the cloud, and as your handheld device acquires greater on-board processing power and memory capacity, you won’t need a separate computer, other than the phone-shaped thing you hold in your hand. All you need to do is place it in a docking station, and you will be interacting with it using a full-size screen, keyboard and mouse. It will have all the functionality you would expect in a regular desktop or laptop computer. The lifestyle and productivity apps which are possible when you can carry around a full-powered computer in your pocket are only limited by the imagination.


These are just a few of things I could think of that an Android-powered device will be able to do in the not too distant future. There are no doubt countless other awesome possibilities we can’t imagine yet. The Official Google Blog had a piece yesterday in which they presented more possibilities in the future of mobile. In fact, Google pretty much confirmed my “valet-secretary-buddy theory” of Android saying, “Your phone is like your trusted valet”!

The technology needed to do all of the above is either already here or will be here shortly (in the next 1 – 3 years). In fact, the main bottleneck that is keeping all this awesome goodness from reaching your hands is the lack of universally accepted standards among multiple vendors and service providers. Patents and lack of standards is turning out to be a real stone-weight keeping technology from leaping forward as fast as it actually could. But that is a subject for a different post.

Here’s something that may be of interest to you. Another version of this article was published on my personal blog a long time ago in Oct 2005. That was long before any of us had heard rumors of an iPhone or a gPhone. At that time, I had envisioned Google creating a device called Google Buddy and described it in a ‘Notes from the future’ article, which was supposed to have been written in the future. A couple of friends who liked the idea commented that I remove the Google name from the article and call the device simply a Buddy. So, I removed all references to Google from the original article, but you call still see the comments from my friends. I never thought my idle dreaming about a super-convergent Buddy device would be turning into reality so soon, and that it would come from Google’s initiatives just as I had envisioned. May be I should take a part -time job as a psychic! ;-)

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  1. The “Google’s (Not So) Secret Strategy” article predicted that mobile street view would be an Android exclusive feature and it is now available for Blackberry’s as well as “java enabled phones.” Sometimes I worry that with Android being released under the Apache License, the Android we’ve come to know and love from the I/O demonstration to the developer day demo will not be the same across the board. Sprint’s Android phone could look completely different from T-Mobile’s.

  2. Stew,

    I don’t think Google’s strategy has ever been to make any of their features exclusive. Why should they? The more people use their products, in more places, on more systems, the better off they will be. If Google wanted to compete by making something exclusive to themselves, they would not be so keen to give away source code of products such as Chrome and Android. If somebody takes the Chrome code to built a better browser or Android code to make a better phone, Google will be happy. Their strategy is more subtle and grander than just being exclusive on anything.

    You are absolutely right that due to the Apache licensing of Android, we could end up with many different versions of Android, and some of them could be less open than others. But that is no reason to worry. Google’s aim in pushing Android is to advance the state of mobile phone and mobile computing in the world, to make it more open and less tightly coupled with carrier restrictions. Their aim is to cause a paradigm shift in the market. Their objective is not to simply make Android popular. The popularity of Android is just a means to an end. So, they are using Android to push the envelope towards greater independence and openness of phones.

    For the most part, openness is a one-way street. Once you go open, you don’t go back. Assuming that the first G1 is totally open, do you think that all the users who experience that level of openness will ever be happy with a less open device from T-Mobile or from any other carrier? No, and they won’t buy a less open device. So, T-Mobile and all other carriers will be encouraged to offer more open systems in the future. Now, that is Google’s strategy.

    A S

  3. Nice article. The concept certainly sounds futuristic. If things go the way you describe, I think WinMo7 and Tegra would be more of a kids phone…

    It’s all up to the developers…

  4. For all my complaining I must acknowledge this post as well written ( including external citations ) and is much more inline with what a blog that claims to be the “most trusted source for all things Android” should be.

    Good to see this post’s author and the commentators thinking beyond Android powered mobile phones – Keep it up!

  5. Another idea for Android (or other) :

    Imagine :

    You plug your cell phone into your monitor. Your monitor is linked to a mouse/keyboard.
    There is NO PC.
    You have access to an OS & applications like today with your PC.

    You unplug your phone, and go elsewhere (vacation, business travel, home). There you can continue to use all your app, like at home/work.

    With the increase in power of cell phone (CPR, RAM, flash), the need of a PC could disapear someday….

  6. I think all of the above mentioned in your article is around the corner, possibly as soon as six months from now. Technology is rapidly increasing, and we’re already more than halfway there on most of the items mentioned. I think that not just Google will be offering these apps on Android though; I can’t envision Apple leaving iPhone customers that far behind. Google is the powerhouse though, and I think they will emerge as the leader.

    Neat about your Google Buddy concept!

  7. Me applauding Android Guys for finally breaking free of the “it’s just for mobile phones” mentality with this post, using my best imitation of the candidates voice over at the end of their political TV ads:

    “…my name is Todd and I approve this blog post.”

  8. Bernard,

    Your idea of the phone as a PC is already mentioned in the article above. :-)


    You are absolutely right. The features and functionality mentioned in this blog post will start appearing in all kinds of handheld devices. Not only Android. The thing is, Google cannot do it all themselves. A lot of innovation will come from independent developers. So, they have been wise enough to design Android and its ecosystem to be most developer-friendly. That will prove to be their winning strategy in the long run.

    Todd & others,

    Thanks for the appreciation.

    A S

  9. I just spoke to a tmobile representative and even though he didnt give me me the exact dates of the G1 he gave me the time frame of ” today to Early November. Interesting i think

  10. Android is nice, no doubt. I am new to my Droid phone, but I already like it.
    But, when you say this:
    "A Universal Modem
    Once again, the key word here is universal. We are already familiar with people using the phone as a tethered modem for a single computer. With increasing transmission speeds and bandwidth, it won’t be long before we will be able to us…"
    I think you are truly dreaming. – Take off!
    In the real world, I found myself with a cell phone with a thousand possibilities, but a few real acomplishments. In fact, I cant´t even connect my droid to my car GPS because Motorola Android lacks a real 3G modem driver. Many guys recommend PDAnet, but it didn´t solve my problem.
    On the other hand, I could connect my old Nokia N95 to my car GPS (Mio Spirit) just fine.
    I would like to see Android really deliver what it promisses!

  11. writing style while incorporating good ideas from…

    others and improving upon the not so good writing is an art and you can develop it with continuous practice. watch out for what is making news in the blog world and you will have an interesting article every time…

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