Here's what I wrote about Android on its big day four years ago

Searching through my old Microsoft Watch posts for one thing, I found another -- my Sept. 23, 2008 news analysis "How Android hurts Microsoft". I wanted to find some of my past posts about contextual computing, and you can read more about that soon. For today, this story uses the lens of the past to look at the present.

I take lots of flake from commenters, whether directly on posts or blogged by others elsewhere, about my stories. Many accuse me of idiot perspective and being clueless. But often my seemingly brash analyses at the time, peering into future implications, are generally right. If you look at the totality of my writing, there is consistency of thinking that rightly anticipates trends. Abrasive writing style, provocative headlines and forceful argument puts off some people, especially those who don't like change or embracing new ideas. Occasionally I write seemingly contradictory perspectives, trying to look a things dimensionally rather than flatly. The Microsoft Watch post is one example of many that demonstrates what I mean.

Four years ago in September, Google, HTC and T-Mobile USA announced the first commercially available Android smartphone, the G1. I had watched the space carefully from the perspective of Microsoft, being editor of a blog covering the company. I had previously written much about the importance of synchronization, particularly as devices like smartphones took on larger roles alongside PCs, and in some ways displacing them. I wrote in part:

Think "baby seals" with regards to the clubbing Google gave Microsoft today.

"'Whack, whack, whack' was the sound coming out of New York, where Google, HTC and T-Mobile launched the Android-based G1. The mobile phone goes on sale Oct. 22.

Google clubbed Apple, too, but Microsoft will be the more seriously injured. Today, Google officially launched its alternative platform to the Windows PC. Microsoft is frakked.

The Android-based G1 is Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's worst fears bundled together in a tidy package: Google, Web applications, open source and a platform alternative to Windows. Worse: easy access to Google's plethora of online services—including Calendar, Contacts, Gmail, Google Talk, Maps Street View and YouTube—via single sign-on. There is a single point of connection and synchronization to Google's goodie bag. Get this: No PC is required. Google syncs from the Web to the phone. Microsoft has got nothing like it, but should.

As I've blogged before, sync is the killer application for the connected world. In 2007 I warned: "If Google gets synchronization right before Microsoft, it's game over". Something else I warned: "If Google and its partners can bring to mobile devices what they have to the desktop, I predict it will be game over for Microsoft. Windows' relevance will diminish before the Web platform".

I can't blog this enough times: The PC era is waning. The cell phone is more personal than the PC, and it has great Web 2.0 platform affinity. The cell phone's destiny is inevitable. Mobiles will replace PCs as the most widely used personal devices... Some people may want to carry a PC everywhere. But it's the cell phone most likely to be carried and connected. Microsoft better get there, or it will be nowhere..

Fast-forward to 2012, and where is Microsoft on smartphones? Or post-PC devices like tablets? Nowhere. Android was nowhere the day Google unveiled the G1, which went on sale Oct. 22, 2008. Today the operating system ships on three out of every four smartphones shipped globally, according to IDC. Windows Phone's share is less than two percent (most analysts combine with Windows Mobile, which lifts the number).

In the analysis four years ago, I explained some ways Google could leverage existing services to improve Android smartphones' appeal:

Google's business is about wrapping search keywords and contextual search advertising around information that people want. Where do they want that information most? Where they need it, like on a Los Angeles street when looking for a good place to eat. The cell phone, that device nearly always carried, is the place to get it. Google can provide the information, and with a little extra bling-bling for advertisers.

One scenario: Minnie Martin types in a search, but instead of a search page she gets a Google Map with pushpins for a dozen Thai restaurants within 10 miles. I haven't seen the G1, so I don't know how deep the services integration is. But that's how Google should do it, with preference given to eateries that paid for placement or bought search keywords.

There wasn't much local service four years ago. What seems commonplace now was hardly anyplace then. But the scenarios above exactly are what Google delivers today. For years I have repeatedly asserted that sync is the killer app for the connected-device era. But there is another, as cloud-connected devices proliferate -- and Google Now gets it right: presence and assistance. Behind both is context, something I'll rail on about in a day or so, also referring back to content posted years ago. We live in the era of contextual computing.

The cloud is all about context. Content follows users everywhere, independent of device. Your music is available anytime, anywhere on anything. You watch a movie in one context, sitting in man chair at the mall on a smartphone and resume on the big-screen TV at home. Content is the same, but context and device change. But that's more topic for the weekend.

For today, I want to say this: Take a look at the comments to that old Microsoft Watch post and compare them to the naysayer responses to my BetaNews stories. They aren't that different. There is similar denial and disbelief. One from the MW post: "This is article is nothing but inflammatory and irresponsible". But, honestly, I tend to be right more often than not. When not, I say so, such as "I was wrong about Apple iPad".

By the way, another "I was wrong" confession is coming. Look for it in a couple days.

Photo Credit: Joe Wilcox

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