Home' LAPTOP Magazine : January 2011 Contents Curated android is not evil
It’s merely the only way to beat Apple at its own game.
When Barnes & Noble launched its Nook
Color device, I jokingly asked on Twitter
whether the company had just launched
a Samsung Galax y Tab with an eReader app. And
many others wondered why someone would buy
what’s ostensibly a $249 Android tablet that doesn’t
access the full Android Market. Instead, this reading-
focused gadget comes with a few apps out of the
box, including Pandora, and Barnes & Noble will
make a limited set of apps available through its
own curated store.
This strategy plays right into Steve Jobs’ very
entertaining public railing against Android during
the company’s recent earnings call. He argued that
the multiple proprietary interfaces and app stores
proliferating on top of Google’s OS was creating “a
mess for both users and developers.” I disagree. It’s
an opportunity, and the companies that figure out
how to deliver the best curated experience—without
eliminating user choice—will have the best shot at
taking Apple down.
Another example of a curated Android experi-
ence is Sprint ID. The wireless carrier recently
rolled out packs of apps, ringtones, wallpapers,
and widgets revolving around various themes and
popular brands. Available for three new affordable
Android phones, choices range from EA Games
and Yahoo to the more generic Golf Enthusiast
and Health and Fitness. More big names such
as ESPN, MTV, and Oprah Winfrey are on the
way. While these packs were slow to download
on the low-end handsets we tested and typically
force you to download more stuff to get the full
experience, the concept is sound. Sprint ID will
also be coming to the operator’s version of the
Galaxy Tab, and I expect these skins on steroids
to work much better on higher-powered hardware.
They’ll also help Sprint differentiate its devices
from other carriers while providing consumers
a shortcut to personalization. At the same time,
Sprint allows users to access the full Android
Market and opt for no overlay at all, which is the
way it should be.
So what about Amazon? If you believe the
rumors, the online retail giant and maker of the
hot-selling Kindle is gearing up to release its own
Android tablet and app store. To Steve Jobs, this is
just further evidence of Android’s fragmentation, but
from Amazon’s perspective it makes perfect sense.
Given the millions of Amazon accounts out there,
why not provide a curated experience that allows
consumers to leverage the company’s one-click
ordering process across not only apps but movies,
music, and TV shows? (And, of course, you could
buy a tablet for your loved one using the bundled
Amazon Store app.) At least in the Android universe,
no one else has this unique opportunity to leverage
so much content under one umbrella.
Microsoft’s Xbox Live section of its Windows
Phone 7 Marketplace is yet another example of
curating done right. Sure, you can download other
games, but the Xbox Live brand immediately signals
to consumers that those titles have a higher level
of quality. Engadget recently reported that Sony is
doing the same thing for games for its upcoming
Android-powered PlayStation phone.
There’s a reason that Apple isbringing a MacApp
Store to its slick new MacBook Airs and all of its other
computers within 90 days. The company has learned
that its customers want a one-stop shop for buying
applications that download and install automatically.
And Microsoft is doing the same thing by bringing its
Windows Marketplace to Games and PCs next month.
I can only assume this curated experience will eventu-
ally include other types of programs, especially as
the beleaguered software behemoth tries to catch
up to Apple in the tablet race.
Are there too many app stores out there? Definitely,
but once competition begins to thin the herd, the
players left standing will be the ones providing the
best curated experiences across multiple types of
content—not experiences so daunting that users
throw up their hands and decide not to shop at all.
Right now the wide-open Android Market is a mess,
but not the attempts to make it more user-friendly,
which will only improve as Apple’s competitors learn
Laptop | January 2011
NeWs & TreNds
Editor in Chief Mark Spoonauer directs LAPTOP’s online and print editorial content. He has been covering mobile and wireless technology for more than a decade.
Read his weekly SpoonFed column at www.laptopmag.com/spoonfed, and follow @mspoonauer on Twitter.
by Mark Spoonauer
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