Android ICS (4.0) on Tablets vs. iOS.

I recently read Jason Perlow’s take on Google’s new version of Android (Ice Cream Sandwich) on tablets.

Interesting take. The reasons (with the sole exception of the task switcher woes) he doesn’t like ICS on the zoom, are exactly the reasons why Jobs (and Sculley) were commited to proprietory architecture, and hate Android. They have to do with employing every engineering trick in the book to wring performance out of (otherwise) sub-par hardware.

Each issue he have raised (and they all boil down to performance other than the task switcher), speaks to end-to-end control over the device. Obviously apps written in Dalvik to earlier APIs will not call the newer high performance ways of doing things.

Google’s problem is that it can’t have it both ways, and neither can Jason. Liking the idea of NOT having an Ogre in charge of the app store means that you have to suffer the fact that many apps in the app store will run poorly (or not at all) on a given device / OS combination.

Not having an Ogre in charge of OS -> Device porting (and no control over the individual devices at all) means that the OS cannot by definition take any advantage of specific hardware cleverness to smooth over any rough spots (like iOS can and does).

In the short term, this means any given release of Android will suffer (in smoothness and performance) by comparison to a similar epoch release of iOS on similar hardware. However, the advantages of Android in this respect are that it will, over time, appear to get better as new devices are relased that exceed the functional performance of the original reference device, and patches are made to the OS that address issues that have been discovered since its release. So for example, a current Android 2.3 or 3.1 device today looks and feels much better than an early release device for the same OS version, and better than the iOS release of the same epoch.

As to the “bunch of cameras and ports that no-one uses…” statement – I honestly find that hard to believe on the one hand, and not a contributing factor on the other hand.

Apple has only one port for the main reason of controlling the accessories market. I cannot see the ports on the Android as contributing in any way whatsoever to affecting the performance or smoothness of the device. On the other hand, having a standard USB port is the best thing about Android – having it mount as a drive on my computer makes it so much better than iOS that that by itself is a “killer feature” for me. I also know several people who use the mini hdmi port on their devices. (I don’t because my tablet doesn’t have one).

As to hi-res cameras – I was at my toddler daughter’s Christmas Show at her Day Care, and right in front of me was a middle aged woman recording the scene on her tablet, and I have to say – if people of her demographics are using their tablets for this – then many people are. And frankly, it was doing a great job as far as I could see.

So, in summary – expect a few issues with a new Android OS release. Don’t expect it to exceed a similarly timed iOS release until it has matured a little. However, 3 months is a lifetime and by June, ICS devices will be kicking butt and taking names. You can quote me on this.

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