Android fail. The answer is a Google phone

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, Operating Systems, Open Source, Mobility, Mobile OS, Linux, Hardware, Google, Software

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: Harvard tallies cost of Google Android fail

    I mis the point. Should we buy a smartphone to support Google?

    We may perhaps be happy that many company's are able to compete now, that a lot of work has been done ones and not many times for this to happen.

    This is a situation that looks beneficial for the consumers, for us. Seeing forward to Android - Android competition, to the arrival of other open systems.
    • it's not about you.. it's about what's in it for Google..

      @bezoeker - Google doesn't build android out of the goodness of it's heart.. Google builds android to make advertising dollars.. stripping out your personal info to be able to sell targeted advertising.. if the phone makers and carriers start to push google out of its own house (android) and reduce its ability to target ads to you then there android starts to not have any value for google.. how can google not let this thing get away from them... they need to start exerting some sort of control or android is just a waste to them..

      people seem to forget that google makes android as a means to make money selling targeted ads to you.. not out of the goodness of their heart...
      • RE: Harvard tallies cost of Google Android fail

        @doctorSpoc People seem to forget that theres this thing called the internet. And on these phones are things called browsers. And Google has a really good habit of making their mobile versions of their sites behave as if they are actually apps on your phone. <br><br>I think what people have missed is what Google said its reason for releasing Android in the first place. It wasn't to lock people into Google. It was to make sure Google couldn't be locked out by others. Now this will go over some peoples heads I'm sure because they are still thinking to directly. Google didn't want Apple to completely control the mobile browsing experience for instance. They wanted to make sure they have a way to push the open standards that will let their properties work on ALL phones. How do they do that? They release their own OS where no matter what you do to remove Google branding or make Bing the default that web standards compliant browser is still there and in turn Google's applications are still there. Remove it? They'll just put it in the market. Block it in the market? People won't be buying your phone. Its the same reason they've pushed WebM, HTML 5 and other things. Google doesn't give a rats a$$ whether you remove their branding or not. In fact you have to PAY them a fee to have an actual Google branded phone in the first place. They are keeping the door open so that they can attempt to win you over with good and free products. Game set match. Theres nothing you can do to stop them except create a better product and I don't think they mind competing on those terms.<br><br>Seriously.....someone in comments missing this is normal. But for someone to write an entire article, call themselves a beat writer for Linux and FOSS, and miss this......completely inexcusable.
      • RE: Harvard tallies cost of Google Android fail

        yhhhh, the thing you forget is that just because one or two carriers do this, dosnt mean they all do it, google is the biggest and best search engine in the world, everyone uses it, so just because they strip it out as default, dosnt mean people dont save google as there homepage.
        second you forget about googleads, all those free apps in the market are add supported, like angry birds... theres a multimillion dollar revenue there, just from ads from the market place.
      • RE: Harvard tallies cost of Google Android fail

        @doctorSpoc You may not have read the story. They can't monetize traffic they don't get. And if you're going to condemn every site that monetizes traffic as evil, then we're evil at ZDNet and bwah-hah-hahh!
      • RE: Harvard tallies cost of Google Android fail

        @doctorSpoc <br><br>Which is why I was shocked when they allowed Verizon to swap out Google Search for Bing on the Facinate. Search and ads are their bread n butter and it's the whole purpose of releasing Android in the first place. To dominate on mobile ad platform. And the fact they didn't want Apple with the popular iPhone controlling their destiny there. <br><br>Granted it's only one Verizon phone that uses Bing for now, but this may be all other carriers and manufacturers needed to do the same (or make the same deals with MS and others). Actually Moto's new $50 Citrus Android phone also comes with Bing. Verizon is also building-up its own VCast App store that will surely replace Google's app store in the future on certain phones (app revenue goes to them instead of Google). Skinning will continue.<br><br>The dilemma for Google will be in realizing that some type of <b>control</b> is needed for the OS, some standard needs to be set before it gets out of hand. Which of course goes against their "open" philosophy. Open will prove to have failed when it's all said and done.
      • News Flash.. Samsung is starting their own marketplace..

        @storm14k .. just saying this is starting.. the platform is fracturing.. it seems like it getting away from Google a little too much...
      • did you read my response??

        @DanaBlankenhorn - please point out the place in my response where I say that what Google is doing is evil??<br><br>business exist to make money... Google primarily makes money from selling targeted ads.. their Google Apps, Search, Android, GoogleTV etc.. all exist to that end.. those are the lenses that you have to view everything that Google does... if it's not helping Google sell targeted ads it's not of use to Google.. that's what they do.. the give away tech services etc so they can sift through your data and sell advertisers ads that are extremely targeted ads.. that's a legit service.. nothing in this world is free.. for TV you need to watch ads, for many free apps you are offered ads in exchange etc..<br><br>people ask why Google doesn't support (marketplace support) tablets that are not connected all the time.. it's because it's much harder for Google get data from and to target ads on those devices.. so why should Google supsidise these manufactures when there is nothing in it for them... they shouldn't.. but people are perplexed why Google does the things they do.. but once you frame everything through the goal of selling targeted ads what they are doing makes perfect sense.. <br><br>i really do think that android is getting away from them though for instance you see HTC and Samsung talking about their own marketplaces etc..
      • RE: Harvard tallies cost of Google Android fail

        The only person to get it here is storm14k. No matter what any carrier strips out, if the market place isn't there, the phone is a failure as a smart phone. So as long as the market is there ANYTHING removed can be put back. They're all apps! <br><br>And Dana, PLEASE tell me how Google can be made to pay for traffic after the carrier modded the OS to exclude them? That wouldn't hold a bucket of spit in court!

        If anything, what Google has done is taken linux mainsteam and shown the world it's very capable in the right hands and very user friendly with the right GUI. Something the GOBS of developers in the Linux community have flat failed at by insisting on a command line all the time. If you guys are listening...SEE people don't want the stupid command line as the default way to do ANYTHING.
      • RE: Harvard tallies cost of Google Android fail


        And who cares (Other than Google) if Android gets away from them? I sure don't. One of the things I love about the Android marketplace is the competition. Soon as I can afford the cancellation fee, I'm switching from Sprint to T-Mobile, and getting a G2. Or maybe I'll switch to Verizon and get a Droid 2 or Incredible. Or maybe, when I cancel, Sprint will bribe me with a free Evo to stay.

        I like Android a lot. I hate Google a lot. I hate Apple more.
      • RE: Harvard tallies cost of Google Android fail

        @Storm14k. So what about Amazon and other creating market places for Android that would directly compete with Google's Android market? With that happening, Bing on the Verizon Androids, it would seem that Google is gradually being pushed aside on the OS they helped bring to market (remember that Android was purchased by Google, it did not originate there).

        Can people still get Google software from the various app markets? Most likely, but they are losing control of the platform and that will fragment it further. I think we can all agree that is a bad thing.
      • RE: Harvard tallies cost of Google Android fail


        In response to your comment about Google Market and non-phone connected Android tablets. I know that is/was Google's reasoning for not supporting Market on these devices but in reality, these devices are mostly connected all the time; via WiFi. I have one and I hardly ever use it when I'm not on a WiFi connection of some sort, even if it's just tethered to my phone. Consequently, I think Google is missing the boat with these devices and Google Market. I suspect that as the name brand tablets, Samsung Galaxy Tab, Toshiba, etc, begin to make waves in the tablet market, Google will have to loosen that particular stipulation.


        On the other hand, it's pretty easy to put Market on these devices too.
      • Your right,

        Your right, google didn't build it out of the kindness of its heart they didn't build it at all. They bought Android. Get your facts straight
      • RE: Harvard tallies cost of Google Android fail

        @rdawson Honestly most of these offshoot app markets will fail. I don't see how people don't see this. Why is a dev going to ONLY put their apps in a market thats limited to only Verizon customers...or only Amazon tablets etc. etc. They are going to put their apps in the central market which is Google. If the phones don't have that central market than people won't buy them because they don't have access to the apps.

        But lest say that they even manage to shut our the Google market and have their own individual markets. Someone will create a central market that can be installed on the phones either through the the individual markets or sideloading if they are denied in the markets. Then the carriers and OEM's would have to stop sideloading.

        In a nutshell theres a LOT of work to do to shut Google out of these phones and the more thats done the less attractive the phones become. Look at AT&T's restricted phones and the backlash they were met with. The carriers will only hurt themselves, kill Android and once again be back to bowing down to whatever Apple wants. Google will continue doing what it does without a problem. So its really the carriers loss and I think they'll think twice before they screw this opportunity up.
      • RE: Harvard tallies cost of Google Android fail

        Yes, they need to get phones WITH their browsers and Android market app into people's hands, so they should be pulling all the stops on making that happen - which means they DON'T need to sell them for $500 - that's the made-up retail price that manufacturers come up with to lock you into long-term contracts and otherwise make profits. Supposedly Apple pays less than $220 for parts ( Even a small factory with monthly operating costs in the six figures can churn out 1,000 units of smartphones or tablets a day. Google just needs to sell it's phone at just above "dumping" prices to flood the market - which means they could likely produce and deliver a very useful phone in the $200-300 range, or even a ridiculously loaded phone for under $500 (or both).
        They sell the "Ideos", from Smartphone/Vodaphone, in Hong Kong for HK$1880 (less than US$245). It's quad-band and unlocked.
        More interestingly, Google could "subsidize" the cost of these phones by requiring users agree to a two year contract...
        ... for for exclusive use of the Google BROWSER, Android market app, etc.
        They could literally GIVE these phones away if they can justify the advertising revenues by locking in access to the web and corner the market for Android apps.
        Alternatively, they could provide better support the smaller, even less expensive manufacturers to develop new products, concentrate buying power, and gain access to substantial wireless service to ensure these phones had a market in the USA. By assisting these smaller manufacturers, they would eventually make these businesses grow into more competitive units, and if handled well, would have a substantial alliance to Google and it's consistent flow of demand for their products.

        I don't think Google would have a hard time promoting either their own handsets nor those of low-cost manufacturing partners. - Best Android Tablets and Phones
      • RE: Harvard tallies cost of Google Android fail


        [i]"And who cares (Other than Google) if Android gets away from them?"[/i]

        Everyone that uses, what's to use and/or likes Android should care. If Android gets away from Google then their incentive to continue to develop the OS also goes away. Do you really think that Google is going to allocate the resources they are now if 30%, 50% or may 80% of their revenue stream from the OS goes away?
    • Mod up storm14k's comment

      storm14k hit the nail on the head -- Google honestly DOES believe in raising the water for all, and being satisfied with only a part of the gain. They knew Google Maps/Earth wouldn't be the only virtual globe/mapping solution ... but it's driving the industry and standards bodies to mature "GIS for the people" and counteracting elitist monopolies -- and that'll have a supply-side effect on their profit.

      Android is doing this, and will continue to do so, Nexus/Baidu/Bing/iPhone/RIM notwithstanding.
      • RE: Harvard tallies cost of Google Android fail

        @daboochmeister Couldn't agree more with the both of you.<br><br>Although I do think in order to accomplish their goal(s) Google will have to somehow at least limit the fracturing that occurring.<br><br>Google, if you are listening, take the high road. While I won't buy a phone with Bing on it, I would think less of Google if you tried to enforce Google's search engine as the only choice. I do think it would be prudent, however, to ensure the platform can't be modified to take away choice, whether that's the search engine, the market or whatever. I have no issues with carriers or device manufacturers ADDING those elements - or even making theirs the default. What I don't want to see is the removal of other choices. I should always be allowed to chose my default search engine, market, etc.
      • RE: Harvard tallies cost of Google Android fail

        @daboochmeister Nicely put daboochmeister and storm14k. Remember Google's mantra "Don't be evil".
      • RE: Harvard tallies cost of Google Android fail

        @jgoode I don't think people really understood what "don't be evil" meant. Hell I didn't understand for a while either. It was when I understood their strategy behind Android and the Chrome browser that I figured it out. It has nothing to do with being a corporation and making money. Thats what a corporation is supposed to do and its not the reason some are viewed as evil. Its HOW they make the money that causes that evil label to fall on them.

        Many companies try to lock you into their ecosystem so that you spend money on their products. Google's approach is about breaking up the lock in so that everyone has to compete on the quality of their offerings. And then they want to steer something they dump a product on the market that is open and force everyone else to follow suit at least in using open standards. Anti-FOSS zealots talk down on this but what it does is make for true competition where the end user can choose what works best for them rather than the only product that works with some other product that they may only use because its all that available for some third product and on and on.