Google OpenSocial vs. Android

A while back I was at a Webguild event about OpenSocial. I was having a conversation with Kevin Marks, the Developer Advocate for OpenSocial – Google’s new API set that allows developers to tie their applications in to social networks. Someone was asking about the recently released Android, Google’s phone platform on which developers can write mobile applications.

The questioner stated that he believed Android was going to be the most important thing Google did. I argued for OpenSocial. We realized that our view was highly colored by where we came from (he from the mobile world, I from the software world dipping our toes into the social networking ocean) and left it at that. But later I got to thinking that this was a pretty interesting discussion.

So, let me put it to you. Which do you think will do more to shape technology and by extension society in the long run? Let me lay out my case for OpenSocial.

While Android will certainly allow us to work more productively in more places it is essentially about where we work and not so much about how we work and with whom. Sure these things all cross over (much to Kevin’s point about the two projects really informing each other). The more we can work in a mobile environment the better social networks become. But let’s be honest, until the input (keyboard) and output (monitor) mechanisms become better our productivity on a mobile device will remain limited. We did numerous surveys at ThinkFree to test people’s willingness to edit documents on a cell phone. Even in our audience (which you would think would be prone to using such technology) was not all that interested at this point in time. Also, the thought of opening up my cell phone to some buggy applications sounds like I might have to reboot my phone right in the middle of the call telling me I won $1 million if I can answer these three questions. I know there are supposed to be safeguards, but…

Social Networks, however, have the power to influence people in ways that we can’t even imagine right now. They will be a huge force in allowing us to build better connections and communication methods. Right now SNs are pretty rudimentary in the ways we have to connect with individuals and understand the strength of those connections. But they will get much much better and very soon I believe. The Internet has provided us with a rich variety of information at our fingertips – where and when the movie is playing, how to get from here to there, who wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, etc. Right now we are just at the beginning of building the next generation tools to help us, for example, understand how much we should trust the opinions of others or weed out information that has no value to us. There are inherent risks in these types of technologies. Giving weight to some opinions and not others is what gave us the dictionary as opposed to Wikipedia. Weeding out information sometimes leads to groupthink. But the winning social applications will take this into consideration (I hope).

In the end OpenSocial will provide an infrastructure on which the problems of whose opinions should I care about, information overload and others can be addressed.

Your thoughts?

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6 Responses

  1. “But let’s be honest, until the input (keyboard) and output (monitor) mechanisms become better our productivity on a mobile device will remain limited.”

    As smart mobile devices become more ubiquitous [read, less expensive] I think this becomes a no brainer. Android will grab the lead in the emerging mobile market and Open Social will cover the fort.

    In my position on the hardware side of the business, I already see emerging technologies addressing the need for increased operability in a mobile environment.

    My 13 year old got a Sidekick from Santa. You can bet your Range Rover she’s doing everything on that gizmo she does on a PC, including staying plugged into her socnet.

    In a world where R&D should be targeting future revenue, my money is on the Androids.

  2. Hmmm. I agree these are different things, but that they will also work well together and become synergistic. I’m not sure mobility per se is that important, although pervasiveness is important (yes, there’s actually a difference). After all I don’t inherently want to carry a device of any sort with me – I just want the relevant functionality wherever I am, simply and automagically. Sure, opening up the cell phone architecture opens up possibilities for pervasive, frictionless, location-relevant social networking and generalised ecommerce, but whether I hold a cell phone in my hand, type on a keyboard or use some as yet uninvented thought translator is simply the “how” of it all. At the end of the day it’s the functionality I want – be it a location-independent social presence or the ability to simply pay for something I want when and where I want it.

    One extra thought: in a low-carbon-emission world we may be far less “mobile” than we are now and rely on a Virtual Reality toolset to a far greater extent. Thus we may move in smaller physical circles but socially expand inside a far wider VR net. The underlying technical platform of choice may turn out to be pervasive WiFi coupled with RFID for ecommerce. All mashed together with cellphones and whatever else works to get the job done.

  3. I agree these are different things:
    The Open Handset Alliance, a group of more than 30 technology and mobile companies, is developing Android

  4. Like a remind: Android™ will deliver a complete set of software for mobile devices: an operating … Android was built from the ground-up to enable developers to create it up.
    http://www.site-aanmelden.com/maatschappij/relaties/index3.php

  5. Android is a software stack for mobile devices that includes an operating system, middleware and key applications:
    http://www.medicultau.com/boli-si-tratamente/pediatrie/nounascutul-bolnav.php

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