Google should play fair to prevent Android extinction

Summary:Search giant should show equal treatment to all phonemakers--Motorola Mobility included--to ensure Android's sustainability, note observers, who add Microsoft likely beneficiary of impending industry shakeup.

Google should avoid showing preferential treatment to Motorola Mobility, which it is buying for US$12.5 billion, in order to prevent possible fallout from other handset partners and follow after the footsteps of Symbian, industry insiders stated.

Canalys's principal analyst Daryl Chiam, for one, said the Internet giant has to "track a very straight line" and continue to foster a close working relationship with other phone makers such as HTC and Samsung to ensure Android's continued success.

"Google must ensure a level playing field, such as releasing the source code to all partners at the same time. It has to persuade OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) to stay on the platform and not alienate them, which would be dangerous and negative," he added during a phone interview with ZDNet Asia.

Android going down Symbian's way?
Other observers painted a somewhat bleaker picture though.

Abhishek Chauchan, associate director of ICT practice Frost and Sullivan Asia-Pacific, noted that OEM partners would be wary of preferential treatment to Motorola Mobility by Google. Should that happen, the phonemakers could then hedge their bets by increasing collaboration with Microsoft and its Windows Phone operating system (OS).

This, in turn, would give Redmond a chance to "claw back" market share and give it "a foot in the door" to prove its platform's credibility, he added.

That said, Chauchan qualified his statement by noting a real success for Microsoft is "only possible" if the software giant is able to build a large app store in the next two to three years.

Mobile messaging solutions provider Synchronica had a direr take on Google's acquisition plans. CEO Carsten Brinkschulte said in a press statement released Wednesday that the acquisition will have "massive implications" on the global mobile ecosystem in that Android could follow the footsteps of Symbian.

He explained: "Google will alienate tier-1 device manufacturers by directly competing with them. From a strategic perspective, Android may be on its way to becoming another Symbian, which went the way of the dodo because all the tier-1 licensees turned their back on it when it became wholly-owned by Nokia."

Preserving Android ecosystem
For now, OEM partners have backed the deal although their motivations might differ, said Chiam. For instance, some could be supporting the move as it will boost Google's patent portfolio that, in turn, will secure Android's future.

Chauchan chimed in, highlighting that Samsung, HTC & other Android phone vendors have been " facing the heat" as Google’s patent portfolio "was not enough to defend them" from rivals.

In an earlier report by New York Times, it stated that the US$12.5 billion purchase of Motorola Mobility meant that Google is buying the latter's 17,500 patents for approximately US$400,000 each and this represented a "relative bargain".

Android users laud move
Asked if Google would make use of Motorola's technical capabilities to revamp Android's user experience, Chauchan reckons that while the OS may see more features added to it thanks to Motorola's patents, "radical changes" to the Android Market are "not expected".

Chiam added the deal may see Google improve the integration between software, hardware and user experience.

Meanwhile, Android users welcomed the acquisition, and expressed hopes that the "collaboration" will result in a more robust OS experience and ecosystem.

"I hope to see improvements in the app store. Hopefully they can come up with a system to better that of Apple's iOS. The deal is a win-win for both parties," Pam Ng, an Android user, told ZDNet Asia.

Sim Lihao pointed out that the purchase of Motorala enables Google to have "more free play" in terms of designing its hardware.

"At the same time, this could also result in more industry mergers and acquisitions as other handset makers look to defend their market positions," he added.

Topics: Security, Apps, IT Employment, Legal, Mobility, Software

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