Will Google's Android Power the New Fourth Screen?

android-logoBack in the late 1990s, Microsoft introduced its Windows CE embedded operating system. While aimed primarily at PDAs and pre-netbook devices, it quickly spread to be included in additional devices, among them point-of-sale systems and medical equipment, and has become the core of many other Microsoft products as well. Google’s Android may have a similar impact, expanding beyond its mobile phone core focus to other network-connected devices, such as set-top boxes, netbooks and digital frames. John Roese, former CTO of Nortel, discussed this new class of broadband devices in his post, Broadband’s Kindle Paradigm.

I came to this conclusion after our Mobilize conference, and outlined it in a post entitled Where Will Android Go Next? We’ve already heard of efforts to port Android to netbooks — but today it appears another, more important milestone has been reached. Moto Development Group Motorola, which is banking on Android to save it, says its Moto Labs has succeeded in making Android work with E Ink display screens. E Ink is an electronic paper display technology with a paper-like, high-contrast appearance, ultra-low-power consumption and a thin, light form; Moto Labs has developed a way to marry Android to the E Ink development kit. And while the fruits of this labor won’t show up in a commercial product for some 12-18 months, it’s still big, big news.

Why? Because now you can have this low-power screen device updated via wireless Internet access. Marry that to touch-based interface and the opportunities are endless.

k2kindleYou could theoretically get your newspaper delivered in electronic form, wirelessly, with an e-Ink display married to a 3G mobile phone, many times a day. It’s a scenario that my former Business 2.0 boss, Josh Quittner, touched on in a very prescient story for Time entitled “The Race for a Better Read,” in which he talked about how the future of print was in appgazines.

That’s why I believe the old print business ought to take advantage of what’s doable now so that it’s ready to provide a new reading experience once the iPod of readers finally arrives. For magazines like this one, that means creating hybrids — what I’ve come to think of as “appgazines” — that act more like computer programs than Web or printed pages.

Indeed, if you take all the emerging technology trends — multitouch, wireless connectivity, cheap silicon, better batteries, location-based services and a move toward open-source operating environments — and marry them to the explosion of digital information taking place, what you have is the opportunity for yet another screen in our increasingly digital lives.

And suddenly Amazon’s Kindle stops being just another e-book reader. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Jeff Bezos and his crew are miles ahead of the competition.

Related Posts:

* A netbook with Android: far fetched or coming soon?
* Where will Android go next?
* Android: What it means, what experts think.
* Keynote by Google Android co-founder Rich Miner at our Mobilize conference.
* GigaOM Interview with Jeff Bezos.
* GigaOM Interview with Ian Freed, VP of Amazon Kindle.

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