The Android platform is an open platform, governed by the Open Handset Alliance (OHA). OHA has many members, and today it includes seven network operators and four handset manufacturers.
While the platform itself should be consistent across vendors/providers, thank God, I wonder what will be the differentiation challenges that handset manufacturers and network providers will face?
The handsets will all be capable of (from the S/W perspective) the same things, so will differentiation come purely from hardware design, for example, better handset footprint, layout, screen sizes, better battery consumption?
Or perhaps differentiation will come from the cost of ownership, as in monthly cost for voice/data/text plans?
Maybe it is all the above.
But I think a big part of this battle be in the User Interface. While the concepts of workspaces, and how S/W and UI is designed and written will or should remain consistent across platforms/vendors, we will see a plethora of UI designs and information architecture/organization. Is this a good thing? In theory it is, as it will allow for better and neater UIs and related innovation. I’m not sure yet the impact on the development and testing of Android applications… Also, will that UI innovation and differentiation make it back to the open source tree? Not sure yet, but I will find out soon, but my guess today, probably not.
Access to content and integration with the Web, which is based on applications and services, should be another differentiator. Integration to Google services have proven to be a winner, but Google services probably will be available to all Android platform vendors, providing no differentiation across Android vendors.
So differentiation between Android vendors will be a challenge, a challenge the iPhone doesn’t have, as there is only one iPhone vendor (and platform, unless you go across classes of iPods).