"Internet for Everyone?" Android One Helps

Skeptics often argue that service providers globally are too narrow minded and too greedy to provide high-quality communication services to customers. But that is why markets work. Where there is reasonable competition, there tends to be reasonable innovation.

And there is little question traditional service providers have lots more competition. Not only have virtually all former monopoly markets been liberalized, creating more competitive conditions, but mobile services now challenges fixed services.

With the rise of the Internet, the ability to manage and control prices, terms and conditions of services, device evolution or application creativity have lessened dramatically.

That is why service providers now engage in a relentless and deadly-serious effort to create big new revenue drivers. They must replace legacy revenue streams of huge scale.

On the other hand, the broader industry has achieved some formerly formidable successes many reasonably would have thought would take decades longer. In the 1980s, policymakers were worried about how to make voice services available to everyone. That is a task, but no longer a challenge.

The present challenge is how to provide the benefits of the Internet to everyone as well. And there the ecosystem--now much larger--is getting lots of help. Consider the question of devices. For decades, some had worked to create computing devices suitable for people in developing regions.  

We are on the verge of solving that problem.

Android One is Google’s reference design intended to make up-to-date versions of Android easily available to smartphone users in developing regions, at prices around $100.

The other angle is to help ensure that users in those markets have access to Google services and the most-recent versions of Android. That will help ensure consistency of experience under conditions where hardware platforms might be less robust.

Android One should also help Google maintain a more-consistent look and feel across the whole supply of Android devices sold in a market, since some suppliers will add custom software, and might not include native support for Google apps.

Google apparently is announcing Android One on September 15, 3014 in India.

Android One was unveiled in June 2014 as a way for Google to provide a consistent, high-quality Android experience on entry-level devices.

The premise is that OEMs will build inexpensive hardware that costs between Rs 7,000 ($115) and Rs 10,000 ($165), but the updates will be taken care of by Google.

The growing availability of low-cost smartphones in developing regions is an important trend.

Some of us can remember great "hand wringing" an concern in international policy circles about how to bring telephone service to two billion people who never had made a phone call.

You don't hear such concern anymore, since we rapidly are solving that problem with mobile communications, a solution not envisioned in the 1970s and 1980s.

Two decades ago the question largely had shifted to the problem of how to develop low-cost laptops for developing nations, at retail prices an order of magnitude less costly than devices generally sold in developed nations.

There was some work around the notion of special devices optimized for rural villagers that would be low cost, perhaps $150 or so.

For many at the time, likely most knowledgeable observers, the prevailing thinking was that it couldn't really be done. And that remained true even as recently as the middle of the 2000 decade.

But as we stumbled upon a solution to the problem of getting communications to people at prices they could afford, we are about to solve the problem of getting computers to people, also at prices they can afford.

People will use smartphones with larger screens or tablets as their “computer.” Problem solved.

The notion, for some time, has been that in many parts of the world, the smartphone would be "the computer" most people used. That might turn out to be largely correct, for at least a time.

But it also now is possible that we know how to create and sell computers to people that cost no more than $150. Consider that the prototype "One Laptop Per Child" device had a screen of 7.5 inches diagonal and flash memory, with no keyboard.and used Wi-Fi for Internet connectivity.

The point is that formerly-formidable challenges have been successfully met. There is at this point little reason to believe that the new challenge--Internet for everyone--will not also be met.
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