The goal of business: Make Money

Let me take a step back …

How does Google make money off of the success and popularity of the Android Mobile Operating System?

– They sell ads in various google apps that are available (they don’t really do it … but it could happen)
– They collect data from users (Google is all about turning data into money. More data = More money)
– Brand benefits (You like “Droid” … then you like Google)
– Strategic Partnerships (Want to work with Android … then you work with Google)

And there are probably a ton of other benefits that come from controlling what is now the fastest growing smatphone operating system, but no need to list all of them.  The main thing to note is:

Google doesn’t make money selling Android software or selling Android Phones.

I didn’t really think much about this for a long time.  Google gives away a lot of it’s products for free.  In some cases I feel it just grows the brand, in other cases it is an opportunity to sell more ads, and in other cases its just a hedge against waiting too long to get into a particular market.  But with Android, I wonder if things are a little … different.

Android came to Google through acquisition.  They bought the rights to the operating system, the code, and the staff before a product had actually been released.  The original plan of Android was of the classical open source business model.  Give away the software for free and make money in support, add-ons, consulting, and etc.  This doesn’t seem to be the pure goal of Google at the moment.

The problem this may cause for us Android devotees out there (I am a proud Android phone user and a fan of the operating system in large) is wondering whether Google has the proper incentives to ensure the best user experience for us Android phone owners.

Really … think about this …

Look at iOS.  Apple makes the software and the hardware.  They make money on every device that runs the operating system.  There is clear cut desire to make the best product available.  They control all aspects of the iPhone (maybe to a fault) and are very invested in delivering a good product that people will pay a premium for.

Google gives away Android.  In order to actually release a phone or device with Android on it, you don’t need any permission from Google (you do to use things like the Android Market though).  You can even strip the phone of any ties to Google and remove them from the equation entirely.  You can put your own GUI on it, you can brand it with Yahoo or Microsoft service, you can do whatever you want.  Me buying an Android phone may not impact or help Google’s bottom line at all (potentially).

So … that brings me back to the title?

What incentives does Google have to ensure a world-class user experience?  What incentive does my favorite search company have to invest money and time into polishing the bugs that may plague the system?  Where is the motivation to hire the best in class Human Computer Interaction people to make sure navigating Android is effortless?

*crickets*

Basically … good will.

So what am I saying? What is my point?  Am I advocating everyone to leave the Android operating system?  Should you run to a OS that is sold and licensed to ensure proper development?

Don’t leave Android.  It’s a great operating system with a lot of support from Google and the community.  It’s incredibly powerful, and because of it’s openness it is allowing better phones to be produced for cheaper.  There is a reason it is currently the best selling smartphone Operating System.

But … be weary.  I do believe we will see Google continue to focus on it’s mobile applications and revenue centers (Android Market).  Given the fact that it’s always hard to find good developers and Google has limited resources for their many many endeavors, they will prioritize.  And given that at the end of the day business is business … I do think Google as a company will focus on improvements that help further Google’s reach, brand, and revenue.

But … don’t be too concerned.  Device manufacturers looking to differentiate have come to the rescue.  HTC’s sense had been shown to address some of the shortcomings of Google’s stock look and feel.  Keyboard enhancement’s like Swype make the basic android typing experience more enjoyable.  Even Samsung, with their lackluster Touchwhiz interface, adds in a few enhancements that help with the overall experience.

In conclusion, does Google care about Android … sure.  They bought it and they benefit from it’s success.   They know that having such a successful product in the mobile space is very important for future success

– Damien Peters