The Orange View (on hiatus) Because Apple is great but it isn't perfect


Google improving Android experience with more control

Very important article from Bloomberg Businessweek about what Google is doing behind the scenes to improve Android in the heated competition against Apple, Microsoft and others. Ignore some of the noise and static about whether Google is being sufficiently "open" and focus on whether the moves make Android better or worse.

Playtime is over in Android Land. Over the last couple of months Google (GOOG) has reached out to the major carriers and device makers backing its mobile operating system with a message: There will be no more willy-nilly tweaks to the software. No more partnerships formed outside of Google's purview. From now on, companies hoping to receive early access to Google's most up-to-date software will need approval of their plans. And they will seek that approval from Andy Rubin, the head of Google's Android group.

-Bloomberg Businessweek, March 30, 2001

Less fragmentation, less crapware, faster OS updates? Sounds like improvement for users.

Posted by Aaron Pressman

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  1. Sounds like a temporary improvement for users, a major improvement for Google itself – and a royal screwing for hardware makers.

    Do you remember how many hundreds of PC brands (not hyperbole) went out of business when Microsoft started tightening up control for it’s “freely licensable – anyone can install it” operating system?

    The device manufacturers are behind the eight ball. They do not have the time or money to write their own OS from scratch, Linux was forgotten as soon as Android showed up (which, ironically, is build upon the Linux kernel) and would be equally as difficult as starting from scratch – and the’d have to share their efforts with their competitors. The only solution is to license an OS that makes itself available in the OS market. Right now the only viable choices are Google and Microsoft.

    With Google’s tightening control we will see a repeat of the post-Y2K PC market where there is little to no software/hardware differentiation between the makers and the only one who benefits is a “part supplier” who knows you (and everyone else) needs their part. They will slowly start dying off as price competition is the only avenue left and margins continue to get thinner. (Fewer players = bad for consumers).

    Don’t forget: in the last half of the PC-era, Apple walked away with a larger and larger percentage of the whole market’s revenue every year – even though their market share barely ever hit double digits and only ever in the U.S.

    With this move Google has crippled Apple’s competition just when it needs it the most. Last year Google preached diversity – now they are instituting a monoculture.

    An easier/better solution would be to restrict usage of the ‘Android’ name to those models of phones that meet some minimum requirements (such as having at least X number of parts from the “officially supported in the root version” hardware list, etc.). It wouldn’t fix Android’s fragmentation problem completely, but it would fix the biggest stumbling blocks and it wouldn’t hamstring hardware makers when they really need to start showing some profits the most.

    People keep talking about how Android is beating iOS in “market share” – but that doesn’t benefit any individual Android licensee, it just benefits Google at the expense of Yet Another Hardware Maker.

    With “one” model of “one” phone – Apple is taking more money than any other manufacturer with all their models combined. This method gives Apple a naturally “tiered” OS installed base instead of a naturally “branching” one and keeps fragmentation to a minimum.

    In the end, the phone market will consist of those hardware makers who own their own OS (RIM, HP, Apple) vs those who license their OS (each group lumped together as if running the same OS gives them an equal share of the pool of profits).

    I expect Nokia to crush all other Windows Phone makers but one, and for Android to be a 3-man race.

    I just hope there’s a Dark Horse out there. DellOS? RedHat? Anyone will do.