Android: Downfall or Prosperity for Google?

Android, launched in 2007 by Google is a huge success. Recent sales reports show that Google is beating iOS by 2:1. This is no small feat. When Apple released iPhone, it felt like best thing ever. It was. Android had huge gap to fill before it can stand strong against apple. With huge innovation put in by google and other supporters, android soon became really popular. This success is coming as result of OHA (Open Handset Alliance). Mobile manufacturers and carriers poured in their efforts in customizing, marketing and making android a huge success.
This deal is a win-win for Google and OHA members. Google got their search and ad revenue, OHA members got buzzing hot operating system for practically free. I read Harvard Business Review article about android, I was seriously thinking about future of Android and Google. I am no business expert but I am seriously disappointed by authors narrow point of view on android and its future. Android has its serious issues, but the goldmine of google is not going to get shut-down just because default search engine. Let me step back. Google released Chrome browser. They allow you to change your default search engine to Yahoo, Bing. I wonder how many did that? Ubuntu changed default search engine provide for Firefox to Yahoo! I wonder how much search revenue Yahoo gained? People can switch back to Google if they want to. If you care, you will change it. Android is just not about search engine revenue. If you perceive google wants to just get more search hits, we are making a mistake here. Google makes money by ads in apps, search hits and apps sales. Navigation, Gmail, Google Voice is all done by Google. People want to use these services on iPhone as well if they could.


Android suffers from fragmentation. OHA members keep maintaining their own version of android, resulting in splitting away for mainstream android. How many Linux distributions exist? 1500. How many are known to most of the users and well maintained? 10. This is same situation, if more forks will happen, away they go from benefits of android. It will be nightmare for application developers to support app on all the devices and operating systems. All OHA members should keep their changes to minimal from mainstream. Easy and fast upgrades to customers. I had android 1.6 on my mobile 6 months after Google released android 2.2! This is plain unacceptable. We shouldn’t forget, one of strengths of android lies in upgradable operating system. Better software is pushed to phones to improve performance or add new exciting features. Gone are the days when people purchased smart-phones and never updated their firmware. If Google keeps innovating on android future versions, customizations done by Baidu and Bing will not impact them much. This will keep user’s interest in using Google’s version of android and not a third-party. In the world of open-source best product always wins. People will always have freedom to replace their firmware if they are not satisfied with what they got.

Hardware Differences

Android has been around for 3 years now. Android has more than 225 handsets so far. Various hardware configurations and processing power. Optimizing android experience for all these devices is a complicated task. You can see the same problem with iOS family as well. Already 1st gen iPod touch can not receive updates of latest versions of iOS. Introducing Nexus One was very good move by Google. Unfortunately that didn’t fly well. Nexus one gave users option to have a phone which is free from customized versions and you can always install latest android community software without any special customization. In coming days, it will be interesting to see how Google does with second version of Nexus. Google should keep introducing successors of nexus on regular intervals. There is huge value in showing customers and OHA members what is value in plain vanilla android version.

Where Google Wins?

Google wins at innovation. That will be always a deciding factor in future on android. Maps, email, contacts, purchases all things tied down to your google id brings tighter integration to phone. This strategy puts android in-game for now, at least. Google makes money from iPhones, Windows phones and android devices. Quality of products will decide future of companies who are manufacturing these phones. iOS is a strong competitor for fair reasons. I have no intentions of declaring a winner here. One thing for sure, android gave a very strong alternate to iPhone and is pushing forward the competition on every milestone. This competition will bring better and better things for consumers no matter who wins.

Published November 21 2010

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