The train wreck that is Google Android

Google Android makes great inroads as the alternative smartphone OS next to IOS from Apple and Blackberry from RIM. Companies like Samsung and HTC are putting their weight behind Google’s mobile operating system.

Bill Gurley of Benchmark wrote an excellent analysis of Google’s strategy behind Android called “The Freight Train That Is Android
In short Google wants to direct customers as fast as possible to their web services platform and uses Android to build a huge bridgehead. They give it for free because the money for them is in selling advertising. And they make enough money that they can afford giving Android away for free. This is of course great for handheld makers since they do no longer have to invest in their own software development. His conclusion is that Android benefits the customer since they get great software for the cheapest price possible. And this is a sad conclusion.

The reason that I do not support his conclusion is that because of Android a lot of handheld manufacturers loose the capability to create operating systems on their own. It brings back the market of mobile operating systems down to 3 or 4 major players. With the success of Android you can bet on it that RIM will go under or reposition themselves with an Android offering themselves. The first signs are already there since their tablet is compatible with Android applications.

Google using their enormous weight behind putting Android on the map and this will eventually lead to loss of innovation in mobile operating systems. Handheld makers will loose their capability to create operating systems and are at the mercy of Google for innovating on the software platform. In the end consumers will loose because of this. Of course Android has made it possible to make a major leap in smartphone capabilities but this is one-time leap. In 4-5 years we are stuck with a very boring mobile phone market.

Moreover free does not exist. The development of Android has to be paid somehow. In Google’s case it means the advertisers are paying for it. In the end the consumer will be pay for that. The revenue model is just different. The only argument you could make is that Google is doing the development for multiple handheld manufacturers at the same time which lowers the cost. But this is the price of innovation. Innovation does not come cheap. It needs competition to thrive and competition costs money. What Google does is the leveling the competition for a short term gain. Status quo is often cheaper.

Android seems to be getting a lot of support from the business crowd here in the US. And to me this looks like the US is trying to create another Microsoft out of Google. A monopolist who tries to its best to vertically integrate the business while moving possible competitors to the side.

I think this is sad.

  • Ronald Geens

    What about HTC Sense that adds a layer on top of Android ?Maybe the low level innovation is stopped (even that is questionable considering that now the innovation comes from Nvidia on the processor front), but on the highest level there is still room for a lot of brand specific features and implementation.

  • robert

    Yes and no. Of course manufacturers will try to distinguish themselves by adding a layer on top of Android and to some degree that will lead to some innovation. But the possibilities on this layer are limited and mostly cosmetic in nature.

    The problem is that the innovation will not be disruptive anymore. Manufacturers need to wait until Google updates Android to support new features or hardware options. Google basically determines the pace of innovation industry-wide.

  • Pingback: Robert's blog » Google Android under attack and righty so!