Android on every display, on every device, baked into every gadget: it may sound far-fetched, but it’s user-experience chief Matias Duarte’s vision of the future for an “operating system for humanity.” SlashGear sat down with Duarte to talk ubiquity of platform, Android’s potential as the solution to a “fractured operating system world”, and the importance of that being open rather than led by Apple, Microsoft, or any government or organization.
While “smart devices” may be the buzzword of the past few years, the practical implementation still leaves plenty to be desired. Individual pieces of hardware may be smarter in their own right, but that doesn’t mean they play nicely together, Duarte pointed out in frustration.
“Together we live in a very fractured operating system world. My awesome digital camera doesn’t interoperate with my laptop, doesn’t interoperate with my phone” he explained. “These things have different OSes, they work differently, the apps are different, there’s no common account knowledge between those, and that’s just broken. We should fix that.”
While common networking systems and low-power wireless are increasingly acting as the technological bridge between devices, the languages they’re each speaking is holding up real development. Duarte is confident that Android should be that common glue; in fact, he says it’s the reason he joined Google in the first place.
“I can’t wait to have Android on every device, on every screen, and on things that aren’t screens” he told us. “That’s why I came to Google; that’s why I’m excited about working on Android. Because I really see it as an operating system for humanity.”
In many ways all this is a sentiment we’ve heard before from many of the big software and networking companies, each talking about their own products and their own particular opinion of how the “internet of things” should evolve. However, Duarte argues that Android’s suitability for the job is more than just its functionality and its flexibility.
“The momentum that [Android has] got is allowing us to then really take an operating system and have it tie everything together. We should have one operating system that provides the foundation for the future of digital humanity. I truly believe that. In fact, I think it’s inevitable, because you get so much more power when everything can talk to each other, and interoperate.” The vital factor as the designer sees it is that Android is transparent in both how it communicates and in what it says. “I passionately believe that if we’re going to have that one operating system it should be an open operating system that anybody can take, anybody can modify, anybody can inspect, nobody can own.”
“Because it’s open, it means that all the innovation that we bring to it is “inspectable” by anybody” Duarte insists, perhaps the most animated we’ve seen him since talking about the interplay of Google Now and Glass. “There’s no funny-business going on; no one government, no one corporation can own it. It’s kind of like a patrimony of humanity: everything that goes in Android.”