VoiceCon: Android Where Art Thou?

Updated: April 06, 2010

In late 2007, Google unveiled Android as a Linux-based, free, open source operating system for mobile devices that can be adopted by any hardware manufacturer. Android cell phones are now available on every major US carrier. I thought Android would make a lot of sense as a desktop IP phone, but evidently I am alone. I didn't see any (new) Android devices on the VoiceCon show floor.

But take a look at some recent Android headlines:

  • At the CTIA show, Sprint Launched its first 4G phone, the Android based HTC EVO.
  • Samsung Launched the new Galaxy S Android Cell phone
  • According to RCS Limited, February was the first month that the Android based Nexus One cell phone outsold the iPhone (by 16%)
  • AndroidPolice.com predicted 100,000 Android Apps to be available by September 2010
  • Verizon and Skype launched SkypeMobile, a new exclusive service that allows Verizon users to use Skype services
  • China's Roewe 350 went into production as the first Android equipped car - the vehicle is based on prior Rover models and Android is used in its navigation system.

Why is Android getting such traction? For a couple of reasons, but mainly because it is free. Google is offering Android as free open source software optimized for communications. That combined with an growing library of applications and capabilities makes Android reasonably attractive as an embedded operating system. You might argue that consumer electronics and enterprise telephony have nothing in common, but you would be wrong. Ask the CIO how that barrier is holding for the iPhone. Plus, take a look at the latest phones - the Polycom VVX1500 "Media" phone is designed to run applications. The Grandstream 3140 even syncs to Google Calendar. A reasonable analogy may be the 7.22 wideband codec gaining immense popularity in VoIP products - largely because the Codec is free.

I figured Motorola would be all over this - not only are they purveyors of fine WiFi enterprise phones, but also make the Verizon Droid Android phone. Surely they would have some new WiFi Android devices capable of running business or consumer applications, call processing, and maybe even a scanner/barcode reader - but no. They had a new line of WiFi phones and some proof of concept client applications for the Motorola Droid - but no new Android enterprise class devices.

Motorola and Polycom, in my opinion, are blowing it. It is a bit of dancing with the devil, turning over their proprietary phones to open source software - but not really. Unified communications right now has a handful of key drivers - mobility and custom applications being two big ones. With an Android WiFi phone capable of running SIP, a selection of off the shelf Android applications, and a popular development environment - the enterprise could adopt WiFi (or Dect) phones as a desktop replacement.

Been to an Apple Store lately - every application the staff use in the store has been optimized for the Touch. But the Apple environment is highly restrictive - and even an internal enterprise application would require Apple AppStore approval. Not so with Android - not only could Motorola and Polycom save on OS development, they could leverage a network of developers and applications to further their value proposition. Combine it with other technologies from these vendors such as RFID and barcode scanners and there is the potential for a very powerful handheld device. In a medical setting, the phone could display and collect medical information, in retail it could be a price scanner and phone, in the office it could include location information and access to email and corporate databases. Since Motorola also makes cell phones, it could create a base/docking unit that pairs/charges an internal WiFi phone or a cell phones giving the customer a choice that competitors can't easily match.

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