How Google can fix the Android ecosystem (and make sure we hear about it.)
Android has a problem. Actually, Android has several problems. (Don't freak out, its okay. Every platform has several problems.) Many of them we already know about. The half-baked Google TV. The lack of cohesion across different Android devices. Apple. Windows 8 with Metro. These are but a few (and likely the biggest) challenges the platform is facing going forward. But this post isn't a list of problems. This post is the start of a conversation about how to fix them.
Step 1. Do you have an awesome product? Yes? Then act like it!
Google consistently and unfailingly underestimates itself. Or maybe it doesn't, but it just acts like it does. Either way, Google constantly releases what has the potential to be amazing, to the least fanfare ever. Today, Apple did this. Sorry Google, but as modest as you may be, you need to do this to. You know why everyone (read: your parents, grandparents, and babies, not your fan boy buddy) thinks Apple products are so great? One reason is that they are great. But we'll come back to that. The other reason is that Apple makes it a point to make sure it tells everyone how fantastic Apple products are. When Apple says it, and says it as passionately as they do, people believe it. Google doesn't even begin to do this, and it makes a big difference. Fill a room with press and get them live blogging your biggest announcements. Create some hype. Just as importantly though, get to work creating products worth hyping!
Step 2. Sell products worth hyping!
The good news on this front is that Google is already part of the way there. They have some awesome products already, and are telling us all that they're working on more. (See this. Unified Google+ and Android gaming is a great idea, even if everyone isn't on G+ yet. This is the right mindset.) We need more though. At their event, Apple announced iPhoto. Its really, really nice. Combined with an iPhone and iCloud, it gets even cooler. Take 100 photos with your phone on vacation, edit them on your iPad. No syncing, and you don't even need to own a PC to do any of it. Pretty incredible.
So why can't Google pull this off? The short answer is...They can. Gallery on Ice Cream Sandwich syncs to G+ and Picasa, has awesome editing capabilities, and the cameras on Android phones just keep getting nicer. In fact, Gallery includes some great photo editing capabilities, and Movie Studio does a heck of a job, even if it doesn't have every feature in the world, of quickly and simply editing movies on your phone or tablet. Calendar and Gmail are integrated well, and Google Docs seems to be slowly improving. All these things keep power users (like those reading this post) happy, but normal people see Apple's announcements and fall in love with the products. From iWork to iLife, it all works well, and similarly, across every Apple device, and they have to have it. They love that no matter what device they do their work on, their pictures and movies are there. In closing, Google needs to compete better with the actual suite of products, as well as with their integration. Which brings me to my next point.
Step 3. Make Google Drive happen, and soon. (And it better be your answer to iCloud, not just DropBox.)
iLife on the iPad, from iPhoto to iMovie, would be nothing without content. And with no SD card (and many people not wanting to use their tablet as a full blown camera) there would be no content. iCloud though, changes all of that. iCloud means that you can take all your movies and pictures on your iPhone, and edit them on your iPad. Then email it to friends from the same place.
Google can do this, and they can do it better (heck, emailing those files out of Gmail is a major step up over doing it out of Mail.) They can do this by releasing Google Drive to the public, and changing a couple small things. First of all, everything on your Drive is private, and you can share what you want, manually. Think Google Docs sharing. You take a picture with your Android phone and it uploads automatically. Not to G+ (unless you install the G+ app and select the auto option update for that service) but to your Google Drive. Now you can access those files from your computer for whatever you'd like. They should upload at full resolution. You should be able to buy extra storage, but the first 5 or 10 gigs minimum should be free. All your Docs should be in your Drive. All your Music and Movies should be too. (By the way, I'm not diving in to it here, but part of fixing the suite is fixing Google Music. It feels completely disparate from the rest of the ecosystem, like Gmail and Docs.) Everything should be part of your Drive, and you should be able to access it over the web, at drive.google.com, just like the other web apps. Make it beautiful, make it sexy, make it automatic and fool proof, and sell the hell out of it. Tell everyone how it will improve their lives. Simply.
4. Google TV can beat Apple TV, feature for feature. And it can do it now. Freakin' tell people!
To be fair, to make it really compete, Google needs more complete content. Seriously though. You're Google. Make it happen, get better content. GTV already has Netflix and a browser. And with Google Drive, I should be able to start a movie on a car ride home (in which I'm a passenger) then get home and finish the movie no Google TV. Can I do this today? Possibly. But I have no clue. Because Google hasn't told me enough to help me decide if I should go buy a Google TV. And if I can't, I should really be able to.
5. Just like people need to be better informed, they need to be less confused.
There are some things Google does, as part of its culture, that just aren't as well suited for a product when a product is selling in the hundreds of thousands of units per day range. For instance, when Android 5 comes out, don't ever refer to it as Jelly Bean. Geeks love product code names. Normal people like things that are easy to understand, and they buy things that are easy to remember. Android 5. That is all you need to call it. People need to think "Android 5. It comes after 4, so its better, probably has more features, and its probably faster." Not "Android 5.0 Jelly Bean. It might be the newest one, its might be good enough for what I need. When does the new version of the iPhone come out?"
To close this out, I know this isn't everything they need to do. Not even close. But I think its the most important things, at least from a consumer's perspective. Integrate. Simplify. Communicate. These three things could make a world of difference for Google's ecosystem, and make people fall in love with their ecosystem, rather than just use it because its cheap. Or has Gmail. Or any other of the single, easily quantifiable reasons people use Android. Google needs people to get emotional and start loving Google, and these steps are would be a great start.