Ask Not What Google Can Do For Developers...

Aiming at Android Community Self-Sufficiency

Many people have lots of ideas of things that Google should do with Android. These range from code changes to Market changes to license changes to support changes. Heck, I've had and written about a few of them myself.

However, by and large, I have concluded that making such suggestions is ineffective.

Google is a very large firm. Google-sized firms steer more like an ocean liner than a Vespa. It takes a long time for such firms to make decisions, let alone implement them. Hence, depending on Google to do things will introduce a fairly large delay time. Expecting fast turnaround from Google is unrealistic.

Google is not infinitely wealthy. The core Android team is small, both in numbers and in budget. With that in mind, the Android team managers inevitably run into the same problems that any other managers do, trying to figure out what can be done with limited resources. Expecting Google's priorities to line up exactly with ours is unrealistic.

Most importantly, dependency breeds complacency. I do not get the sense that people are waiting on Microsoft to do lots of things, perhaps because they don't expect Microsoft to respond to such input. Hence, Microsoft developers have to do more without Microsoft's help, and so are forced to assume a role of self-reliance. Expecting Google to bend to our every whim, or even every 1337th whim, is unrealistic.

Android's ecosystem is big enough to stand on its own for many things. Certainly, some stuff is intrinsically dependent upon Google, but more things can be done outside of Google than one might think.

For example, there are countless complaints about the Android Market. Those complaints, in many cases, are justified. However, the same developers who complain about the Android Market are handing Google an Android app-distribution monopoly, thereby exacerbating the Market concerns and eliminating any pressure to make the Market better. Developers who complain that Market alternatives lack reach are being short-sighted – the alternatives will never have decent reach unless and until there are enough apps in them to make them worthwhile. And while having the Android Market pre-installed on devices helps it maintain a dominant position, in most areas of live, people like having compelling choices, when they can get them.

Similarly, there are many requests for Android to add new APIs, ranging from charting to advertising display. Expecting such things to make it into the operating system is unrealistic, not only due to limited staff time, but due to limited firmware space. Developers would be better served focused on creating and promoting reusable JARs, rather than waiting for Google to add APIs itself.

This is not to say you should not make suggestions to Google, via whatever means you feel is appropriate. However, expecting a response, let alone a quick enthusiastic positive one, is unrealistic. If you care about what you are proposing, your primary plan should be something the community can achieve on its own, where Google can provide some extra “juice” if they wish.

Ask not what Google can do for developers, but what developers can do for themselves.

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