Android freedom just another word for nothing left to lose

In the end, the question for Google is whether it wants to protect its brand, or let its brand be hijacked on behalf of the status quo.

Steve Jobs' quarterly earnings call delivered us all a Kris Kristofferson moment. (Picture from Wikipedia.)

Jobs was dumping on Android, calling it fragmented rather than open, because every handset maker and every phone company tweaks it so users don't get the benefit from an open system they expect.

Or, as Kristofferson wrote in Me and Bobby McGee:

"Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose/ But nothing ain't worth nothing but it's free"

This, Jobs said, is the Android's fatal flaw, and the reason why the iPhone is better for customers.

So we are very committed to the integrated approach, no matter how many times Google tries to characterize it as closed. And we are confident that it will triumph over Google's fragmented approach, no matter how many times Google tries to characterize it as open.

The question becomes, then, is it possible to have a phone that is both open and a positive customer experience?

The answer in my view is yes, but you have to be willing to step into the market in order to do it. Google needs a presence close to customers, a sales channel.

It would provide an enormous amount of entrepreneurial opportunity at minimum risk, but this path seems alien to Google's very DNA, which assumes that people should never do what code can do.

Jobs realized this and took that step with his Apple Stores, which have become a retailing phenomenon. I don't think Google needs to spend that kind of money or exercise that kind of control, but it does need to defend its brand.

In today's marketplace the word "Android" is becoming meaningless.

An AT&T "Android" phone is not an Android phone, but an AT&T one. A Samsung "Android" phone is not an Android phone but a Samsung one. If you get a Samsung phone from AT&T you get one thing, if you get the same phone from Verizon you get something else.

In the end, the question for Google is whether it wants to protect its brand, or let its brand be hijacked on behalf of the status quo.

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