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Is Android Only for Computer Geeks? No, but…

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In yet another potential entry in the “Big Book of Dumb Things Steve Ballmer Said”, the CEO of Microsoft took a potshot at Android claiming you need to be a computer scientist to use it. Definitely sounds dumb, yet recent examples indicate there may be a kernel of truth to that.

When asked about the Windows Phone competition recently, Ballmer showed some respect towards iPhone, but when it came to Android he said: “You don’t need to be a computer scientist to use a Windows phone, but I think you do to use an Android phone.” (Via eWeek.com)

Of course, you absolutely do not need to be a computer scientist to use an Android phone. A lot of folks I’ve seen with Android phones aren’t particularly tech-savvy. No computer degree needed. Pretty dumb thing to say. Yet over at ZDNet, a trio of posts about the iPhone 4S indicates that Ballmer may have been on to something.

James Kendrick, zen master of mobile tech, kicked things off with a post entitled “After the iPhone 4S, Android just feels wrong“. After years of using Android devices, he’s finally made the jump to iPhone. (If you’ve followed him since his jkOnTheRun days, you know he’s practically married to the Verizon network, which meant no iPhone for him until this year.) He loves the smooth, fluid interaction and now Android “just feels wrong” to him.

That post kicked off a couple of counterpoint responses. Matt Miller was first with “After the iPhone 4S, Windows Phone 7.5 still feels right.” Matt’s been enjoying his iPhone 4S, but still prefers the Windows Phone platform, though he’s hoping for better hardware. He will continue to use both for now.

Closing out the trio is Jason Perlow who claims “If Android “Feels Wrong” then I don’t want to be right“. He concedes that Android has its rough spots and understands James’ point on fluidity. His defense of the Android platform is valid, but it’s peppered with mentions of ROMs, APIs, computer languages, and a whole lot of stuff no one without computer knowledge can understand. Guess which of these guys is the computer scientist.

James and Matt are mobile tech experts by way of real world experience. In their respective professions (“Big Oil Co” geologist and naval architect, I think), they used mobile computers and smartphones on the go and in the field to get their non-computer work done. They love computer technology, but it’s a tool in their professions. It wasn’t the focus of their professions. Jason Perlow’s profession, however, was computer technology.

Again, there are plenty of non-techies who use Android and these three guys aren’t representative of all the smartphone users in the world. But we’ve seen situations like this before where hardcore Android enthusiasts go on about rooting and sideloading and customizing and stuff that makes normal people’s eyes glaze over. Yeah, Ballmer said a dumb thing, but it’s based on a stereotype that Android fanboys, a disproportionately vocal sliver of the Android user base, often reinforce. By all means, keep supporting your platform, but seriously consider the picture you paint when you head into super-geek territory.

Alleged Apple fanboi, accused Android apologist, and confirmed Microsoft MVP for touch and tablet Mark Sumimoto a.k.a. Sumocat dabbles in all areas of mobile computing with a focus on Windows-based Tablet PCs and pen input. A mobile computing enthusiast since 2004, he pioneered the field of ink blogging via his personal blog, Sumocat's Scribbles. His current tools include a Fujitsu Lifebook T900, TEGA v2, and iPhone 4. Email: sumocat [at] notebooks.com

28 Comments

  1. Rich Allen

    10/20/2011 at 9:11 am

    Well, Android has twice as many users as iPhone, and is activating around 550,00 phones a day, so that’s a lot of computer scientists. I had no idea that almost all smart phone users were that smart.

    • Anonymous

      10/20/2011 at 9:34 am

      Most likely not a lot of them will root their phones…

      • Jon Webb

        10/20/2011 at 10:58 am

        What does that have to do anything? Ballmer didn’t say anything about rooting, he said you have to be a computer scientist to use an Android phone.

        • BrianB13

          10/20/2011 at 9:10 pm

          Ballmer only said that to stir up interest in Windows phones.  No thanks.

    • Jony

      11/16/2011 at 2:02 pm

      its because Android is available on cheap hardware!! Imagine if iPhone and Android phones were selling on same price….I can bet 1% people wont buy Android. I get it Android may have more features, because when you think about using something all the time first you think about how easy something is to use…i think thats what this dumb qoute all about!! 

  2. Anonymous

    10/20/2011 at 9:26 am

    touché

  3. Herbert C. Hippos

    10/20/2011 at 9:26 am

    as a android user, I’m flattered by his opinion.

    • Jony

      11/16/2011 at 2:07 pm

      Just a little heads up– Google comes to save the world— Free Open Source OS for mobile phones—everyone is like “GO AWAY iPhone” you charge too much—see brother Google is free—we loyal to him- 3-4 years in the market feeding everyone this free Android OS…all mobile phone manufacturer relies on this OS….start making their phone on it…..enhance Google Android to people……..all of a sudden MOST used Mobile OS…and then time save the world–Google buys Motorola…..to make the perfect hardware and software match…..i bet all other companies are thinking “shit we have just painted someone else’s wall”……

  4. Guest128

    10/20/2011 at 9:27 am

    This people does not have a clue, cero, nada.

    Here in Japan is huge the android market that even I see people around 60′s year old using the devices. It is not just for geeks it is for grandma, dad, mom and even a baby can use it.

    Ballmer and all the people wrote this crap should get a clue!.

    • Anonymous

      10/20/2011 at 9:35 am

      Then again, where do most amazing video games and the creation of anime come from?

      Japan’s pretty geeky, TBH.

  5. Anonymous

    10/20/2011 at 9:37 am

    Ridiculous. You gotta love those 3 person surveys. ;)

    The thing about Android is that it is very easy to use for a tech ignoramus. Really, how is any one mobile OS any harder or easier to use than another? But also, Android makes it very easy for geeks and power users to customize. It’s the best of both worlds. You don’t have to customize your Android device. It’s possible to get a lot of use out of the stock Android that comes on your device, and that’s not any easier or harder than iOS or Windows Phone 7.

    • Matt Schutz

      10/20/2011 at 1:36 pm

      My beef with Mac has always been customization.  I am an IT guy by trade and a Google everything lover, but really and truthfully in my experience with my wife’s Mac, iPad, and iPhone there is only so much that you can customize.  Many of the “Settings” or “Preferences” dialogs leave something to be fulfilled.  I like the usability of Android and adore the ability to get under the hood.  The more open source feeling (although none of the three are truly open source) and simple things like the ability to change your default keyboard app make Android my favorite.  Google’s array of web based applications like Documents, Voice, and Calendar make it extra smooth.

  6. Jeff Hall

    10/20/2011 at 9:38 am

    funny thing, you could the same thing about windows not long ago. It doest take a rocket scientist but if wish to get the most out of it you need to be.

  7. Jonathan Negus

    10/20/2011 at 9:51 am

    my 20 month old daughter easily runs my Samsung Galaxy S2, swipes the lock screen and finds programs just as she did my Evo when she was 12 months old.  

    She does also read books and run and play outside so please hold the flames angry parent :)

    • Matt Schutz

      10/20/2011 at 1:38 pm

      Haha, I’m an Android guy but don’t have a tablet.  I can say that my 2 1/2 year old daughter has found tons of great learning apps for the iPad/iOS.  I’ve struggled to find many for Android.

      • Gemma B

        10/20/2011 at 5:04 pm

        My 2year old is learning his alphabet and phonetics on my Android Galaxy tab. Great free and paid learning app options out there. All you need to do is use the proper keywords.

    • Cozmicsherpa

      10/21/2011 at 12:53 am

      Sounds like my 3 & 1 y/o.

  8. Garold Stone

    10/20/2011 at 10:20 am

    SumoCat wrote:
    > “But we’ve seen situations like this before where hardcore Android enthusiasts go on about rooting and sideloading and customizing and stuff that makes normal people’s eyes glaze over. Yeah, Ballmer said a dumb thing, but it’s based on a stereotype that Android fanboys, a disproportionately vocal sliver of the Android user base, often reinforce. By all means, keep supporting your platform, but seriously consider the picture you paint when you head into super-geek territory. ”

    So, i (GS)  think it is just as obvious that each mobile platform (Apple, Windows, and not just Android) has a “disproportionately vocal sliver of” “fanboys”  who “go on about rooting and sideloading, and customizing and stuff that makes normal people’s eyes glaze over. ”

    So, “Yeah, Ballmer said a dumb thing.” Period.

  9. Merle Reine

    10/20/2011 at 12:40 pm

    My daughter is 25 months old and uses my Xoom tablet and my droid 3 global phone to play games and even call her grandma.  My daughter is definitely not a rocket scientist and it is fine for her so Balmer is just trying to sway the market.  Some proportion of people (1%?) will see his comments and stay with windows but looking at marketshare (windows nearly nonexistent), his comments will not have much merit.  Go into a verizon store anywhere and the sales guys will almost unanimously steer you towards an android phone.  Dare you to go in and ask for an iphone.  I tried just to look at the iphone and they instantly told me “if you want a much better phone, I would go for android”.  This also might explain why android is doing so good.  The wireless sales people are almost exclusively running android themselves.

  10. Liam Lah

    10/20/2011 at 12:53 pm

    It seems odd that Steve ballsack would be bashing on one of his most profitable investments.

  11. Enoel69

    10/20/2011 at 1:09 pm

    Well if that’s the case then with over 500,000 activations each day…that makes for a whole lot of Computer Geeks world-wide. Or do you mean to say windows phone is for something that rhymes with mummies. You don’t wonna give ppl the wrong idea abt ur devices.

  12. Anonymous

    10/20/2011 at 2:10 pm

    By detracting from this article an appropriate alternate title would be “Only simpletons use iPhones and Windows Phones.”

  13. Guest

    10/20/2011 at 5:03 pm

    Stupid article with quotes from stupid people!!

  14. Mark LaChance

    10/20/2011 at 6:16 pm

    I think the proper thing to say, is that Android has a little bit of a learning curve. If you don’t mind spending a little time with it, Android can do everything you want, and more. I refer to iPhones as, smart phones for dummies. Is this a poke at Apple? Sure, but in reality, it’s what makes the iPhone so popular. Anyone can pick one up and start using it. As far as Windows phones go, who really cares?

    • Pshadeadguy

      10/21/2011 at 5:18 am

      Actually, I’ve never been able to pick up any Apple product and “just use it”. The user interface has always felt clunky and strange. Yet with Android I could jump right in no problem. When I got tired with the stock options, I did a quick Google search and learned how to root my phone. I’m still learning new things about Android, but for me that’s a good thing. I love to learn. I think most of it is personal preference really. I’m sure most people feel an iPod or iPhone are easy to use, but for me they were too complicated so I never bought one and went with the (for me) simpler option.

  15. Anonymous

    10/20/2011 at 7:56 pm

    I’ve been pushing people more toward WP7 than Android lately.  It’s a good middle ground between Android and iOS.  Simpler than Android but more customizing than iOS allows. Plus, if your squinting to see your smartphone screen, WP7 is a life saver with the large high contrast tiles.  (4.3″+ Android phone is another option) If you’re on AT&T, they have a strong WP7 line up for Mango coming.  Not as impressed with the other carriers at this point.  I myself use a Galaxy SII on Sprint and I am extremely happy with it.  I am also a computer scientist.  My wife is not but she very much enjoys her Galaxy SII as well.  You don’t have to be a computer scientist to use it but I have seen some older non-tech (not all) people struggle with some of the more complex aspects of Android that I think make the platform very rewarding.  

    • BrianB13

      10/20/2011 at 9:17 pm

      I just don’t like the look and feel of the WP7.  It reminds me of something you might give a 2 year old or old person.  I’ll stick with Android for now.  I think I will go eat an ice cream sandwich.  

      • Anonymous

        10/20/2011 at 9:43 pm

        I am the exact opposite.  I absolutely love the look and feel of WP7.  I love that is designed around hubs instead of apps.  I love that your color scheme gets integrated into WP7 apps.  I love how they actually provide visual hints when additional gestures can be done.  I love the heavy use of typography.  I love the solid colored white icons.  I fell in love with Metro the very first time I saw the Zune UI.  The main thing keeping me on Android right now is the killer hardware available with their phones.  It’s possible Nokia will change all of that though.

        I bought a whole box of sandwiches for the unveiling Tuesday night.  I think I have 9 left.  ICS is great.  It adds a ton of polish to the system that was really needed.  And I really hope this is the last major overhaul for Android.  From here on out I want optimization of what is there with a couple new features per release.  I want it to be easy and quick for manufacturers to update their phones.  I have a feeling ICS adoption of everything prior to the Nexus Galaxy is going to be even slower than Gingerbread which is still going on almost 11 months later.

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