Android is everywhere nowadays in often-unofficial forms. Sure, it’s showing up in plenty of tablets that don’t ship with Android Market access or any other kind of Google service, but it’s also starting to show up in some unexpected places, like e-book readers. Yes, even ones with e-ink screens, not devices like the Nook Color and Nook Tablet that are just e-readers in name only. The Nook Simple Touch is one such device that uses Android to power its operating system. It’s not entirely made public, though some elements like the wifi screen use similar language as Android’s built-in wifi settings. Most notably, the Android web browser is buried in the software. Plus, it can be rooted to run a variety of apps on it. Angry Birds on a low-refresh e-ink screen? Sounds like…fun?
It’s uses like this that make me think that Android could someday be truly ubiquitous, because of the fact that such diverse hardware can run it. It’s on phones, tablets, portable media players, set top boxes, and with Intel’s Android-capable Atom E6XX processors, it could be on even more devices. As the recently-released Are You Watching This? shows, Android applications can be used pretty much anywhere, and can interact across their various hardware types in unique ways.
As Android comes to more devices, thanks in part to its open source nature, this may help it achieve a Windows-esque ubiquity. As well, if consumer hardware is running it, this will make it more likely for developer support given the common OS. This will happen at the pace of how hardware manufacturers will integrate Android in their hardware, but if and when the consumer market is ready for more integrated technology – Google TV has had rocky beginnings in terms of sales of third party boxes like the Logitech Revue. However, there’s still reason to be optimistic about Android’s future in consumer hardware. Consumers have never responded well to set-top boxes – even Steve Jobs wasn’t optimistic about them.
A reminder that Apple sells the iOS-powered Apple TV 2. As pure opinion, it’s very handy for iPad 2 owners: using AirPlay to beam video and mirror the screen without any cable is very handy. It has sold over 2 million units as of April 2011. Steve Jobs may have been wrong about the set-top box.
Still, iOS will never see the kind of ubiquity in hardware that Android possibly could – and I imagine Apple is fine with that as they control the OS entirely. Google might not have entire control of what Android does, but by its open source nature, that was the point. And ultimately, as Android spreads, and more developers create apps for it, and more itneresting hardware uses Android, that’s ultimately good for Google, and good for users, as it will be easier for technological innovations to make our lives easier thanks to a common and open operating system.