Android fail. The answer is a Google phone

Summary:Android might indeed become the Windows of the mobile world. But that does not make Google its Microsoft.

Since becoming disillusioned with my own Android phone in September, then writing a series of reports charging that the handheld Linux distro actually hurts Google's cause, I have come in for a lot of criticism here from readers who claim Android is a raging success and I have lost my mind.

Fair enough. Android might indeed become the Windows of the mobile world. But that does not make Google its Microsoft.

Now James Allworth at the Harvard Business Review has written his own report detailing those costs, and calls them substantial.

  • Because Google exerts no control of Android, Baidu is working with smartphone makers to strip all references to it from phones shipped within China.
  • Verizon and Motorola have both shipped Android phones with Bing, not Google, as the default search engine.

The result is Google may find itself paying for search traffic on phones it designed. Carriers, not Google, are in the driver's seat.

Manufacturers can now compete directly with the iPhone, make their own deals on search, and return to the status quo that existed when Symbian ruled the mobile Earth, only without those nasty royalty payments, or having to learn Finnish.

Allworth, who works at Harvard's Forum for Growth & Innovation (headed by best-selling author Clayton Christensen), is speculating that Google has armed its enemies and I agree.

What he doesn't do is offer Google a way out of the box, which I'm now about to do. (Tip for you James. Never leave a thesis half-finished when you can go off half-cocked.)

The answer is a Google phone. That is, an Android phone designed by Google, built under Google's direction, and sporting the Google name.

But won't it need a carrier, you ask. Not necessarily. Organize every WiFi network you can, run up Super WiFi antennae from your points of presence (those Google-in-a-box units at phone offices around the country) and enable people to switch the SIM card easily.

America actually has many cellular players below the "big four." Some are re-sellers, some are regional. Work to build cheap roaming agreements among the regionals and create an adhoc network. These folks (like MetroPCS) become your distribution channel.

Oh, and charge full price for the phone. It should be offered untethered to any carrier, which means it can't go for $200 but the $500 it's really worth. Sell the value proposition.

Make the thing durable, built to last, with parts that can easily be swapped-out once data has been uploaded to Google for syncing. Slogan -- The Last Mobile Device You'll Ever Need.

Before the carriers' Admiral Akhbars can say "It's a trap" they will be squid in your net.

That's what I would do if I were King of the Googleplex.

Topics: Smartphones, Android, Google, Hardware, Linux, Mobile OS, Mobility, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software

About

Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and has covered technology since 1982. He launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of the Internet to launch with a magazine, in September 1994.

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