The lesson of Google Android fail

The lesson of Google Android fail

Summary: Don't trust your competitor to treat your customers right. Never bet your company on carrier goodwill or carrier promises.


I agree with Larry Dignan. Android tablets are a failure.

This follows the growing awareness on the part of cognescenti that Android phones are not open source at all, but carrier crapware. Android as a whole is being seen as a failure.

It's a huge, growing and self-inflicted wound. It's also Google being Google.

Google strategy is driven on an assumption of abundance, in which most companies have the customer's best-interest at heart. When incentives are aligned with the common good that's true.

But this is not true in the carrier space.

Rather than compete and invest, carriers tend to see more financial promise in scarcity. This is a global phenomenon. Carriers seek to both own and control networks, then exploit that control for short-term profit. This is as much a part of their DNA as an assumption of goodwill is part of Google's.

It's ironic, but Google has wound up making the same mistake as the first tech "titan" I ever interviewed, way back in 1982, a man who went out of business before Google was even launched. Dennis Hayes (above).

Those of you who are of a certain age may remember the name. Hayes modems were the industry standard in the 1980s. They were well-made, they carried a premium price. So you may well wonder what ever happened.

Hayes told me, before it happened. He invited me to his offices in the Atlanta suburb of Norcross in the early 1990s and, along with the late Garry Betty (later of Earthlink) he unveiled his ISDN gear, the product that would get him past the 56,000 bps barrier.

But for the product to work in the market, Bell companies would have to fulfill their promises to digitize their networks. Hayes bet his company on the proposition they would be as good as their word.

And he went under.

Google did much the same thing with Android. It trusted the carriers to make Android a true iPhone competitor, even a true iPad competitor. It expected them to invest with the best interests of the customer in mind, because that's the path to profit in a market defined by abundance.

But carriers -- while they invest heavily in 20-year property -- don't really think long term. Carriers think short term. Carriers think, how can I extract the most cash, and profit, from each customer. They think ARPU over investment.

So to AT&T and Verizon crapware makes sense. Even crippling your ability to remove crapware is in their best interest.

Never mind what all this does to Google's reputation, which as I predicted is taking a big hit. People feel hosed on something Google originally designed and begin suspecting Google of acting in the same way, of trying to "chip" them and "monetize" their every keystroke, of re-selling their personal information to the highest bidder.

All this ill will is going to cost Google down the road. When Google rolls out a new service, there will be an assumption of evil intent, from consumers and from governments, which the Bells will (naturally) take advantage of.

The carriers are not stupid. They know what Google's investments in dark fiber, in energy efficiency, in points of presence that can be packed into shipping containers mean. Google is the only free market competitor they have.

Given the carriers' belief that everything is a zero-sum game, why shouldn't they hurt Google's image for short-term gain? They would be crazy not to.

This is the lesson Google needs to learn, and learn fast. Don't trust your competitor to treat your customers right. Never bet your company on carrier goodwill or carrier promises.

Topics: Hardware, Android, Google, Laptops, Mobile OS, Mobility, Smartphones, Tablets

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  • the carriers are getting away with murder

    and one day it will end....................
    sparkle farkle
    • I think it took 50 years the last time.....

      @sparkle farkle
      sparkle farkle
    • RE: The lesson of Google Android fail

      @sparkle farkle - We can bring that day about now by only purchasing a device that can easily be used on -any- network of our choosing. Only free competition is fair to the consumer. Product and/or agreement packaging must show in LARGE PRINT any restrictions on carrier selection.
      • there are not really any handsets like that

        unless they're jailbroken. I have ATT and what a paucity of choice unless you pay for a 2 year plan, and then what a paucity of choice. The carriers were forced long ago to give up control of handsets (bell forced to break up, and allow 3rd party handsets). this is nothing new.

        sparkle farkle
  • Fortunately

    The error here is in business strategies and not in technologies. Business strategies are much easier to fix.

    I tried a Galaxy Tab last week and actually liked it. The problem was the upfront price, the long term price in the way of carrier costs (why do I need that when I can tether it to my phone?) and the size (this was actually only a minor quibble). I liked everything else about it.
    Michael Kelly
    • RE: The lesson of Google Android fail

      @Michael Kelly

      I have an Archos 7" Android tablet (Archos 70) and I like it as well. Personally, I like the 7" formfactor better than the 10" one (I have an iPad too). I find the 7" easier to handle and hold for long periods. But there are, as always, pros and cons to both products and I switch between the two depenind on what I'm doing. I spend most of my time on the Archos though.

      The Archos device is not perfect by any means but it's quite good for the price. I was waiting on the Galaxy Tab but when I heard what it was going to cost, I went another direction. I'm really anxious to see what else comes out in the Android line. I expect they'll have a pretty good showing within the next few months.
  • Well I do have some possible good news on this front..

    All the bad press Verizon Wireless has been getting about including adware (think City ID) on their premium devices I think is drawing to an end. I've looked at the new specs listed on the website for the Droid 2 Global and Droid Pro and that wretched piece of adware is not listed :) . This is good - granted I never held either of these phones in my hand to verify but I would hope that if Verizon doesnt list it, its not there. Then again I could be living in a fantasy world. (Note: I do know that the Droid 2 [non-global] has or is shipping with City ID, but I've heard reports that its not in-your-face like it was, but again that piece of software isn't listed on the VZ website anymore).
    • why advertise crap that's not liked?

      Even if you still include the stuff... you never try to advertise stuff by saying "it smells like rotting baby poo".

      You get better sales if you just conveniently forget to mention the smell.
      • RE: The lesson of Google Android fail

        @shryko Good point :| One can only hope that the site is true - one could then legally sue under false advertising and/or misrepresentation of a product. They do go and spell out specific software titles, and since City ID isnt unique across the board on Android devices (they call out Blockbuster)...the wheels have been set in motion..
  • Hmmm...

    "This follows the growing awareness on the part of cognescenti that Android phones are not open source at all, but carrier crapware."

    Last time I checked Android accounted for around a quarter of the entire smartphone market, and scores very high amongst consumers.

    It's this kind of extremism that turns people off Linux and Open Source software. Ubuntu has gotten flack for including proprietary software or making it easy for proprietary software to be installed.
    Even Linus Torvald is being accused of polluting the kernel with 'crapware'.

    If Google followed the advice of hardcore open source advocates, then they really WOULD have failed. As in, they would have the same presence on the market as Open Moko.
    • RE: The lesson of Google Android fail

      @Theli No, Dana has a point. Verizon Wireless and AT&T are the two biggest offenders in this. Open Source advocates have no problems with the carrier trying to monitize a platform, but at the behest of locking unwanted adware on someones device is another. If they allowed users to uninstall the crap they preinstalled (which is NOT a part of Android - though most non-technical users will think so) no one would have an issue.
      • RE: The lesson of Google Android fail

        Not being able to remove bundled software is annoying, but when you turn it into a doomsday scenario, or when you honestly believe that the average consumer cares about the infighting that goes on between open source advocates, you are only alienating yourself further from reality.

        And I do think many open source advocates dislikes the idea of monetization. It's obvious from this line in the article:

        "People feel hosed on something Google originally designed and begin suspecting Google of acting in the same way, of trying to ?chip? them and ?monetize? their every keystroke, of re-selling their personal information to the highest bidder."

        This is clearly a dig against targeted advertisement. If you cut through all the hyperbole and FUD, that's what it all comes down to. Google and the carriers are large companies, using open source software to make money, and that's the problem.
  • US centric myopia? (nt)

    • RE: The lesson of Google Android fail

      @Economister No I heard this complaint in Europe as well.
      • No Dana, you didn't really did you

        @DanaBlankenhorn Can't speak for the whole of Europe, but the UK carriers don't bundle crapware with their phones AT ALL.
        Oh, and Android has failed? What kind of moron says that when sales of Android-based devices have eclipsed everything else on the planet?!?
      • RE: The lesson of Google Android fail

        @DanaBlankenhorn Not true of France either
      • Or ...

        @DanaBlankenhorn New Zealand where the nation's, biggest ISP has recently begun a huge marketing campaign over Android phones. Granted, it's a drop in the ocean (user wise), comparatively, with 2-3 million possible users as opposed to the U.S or Europe, but in the context of this blog, no less significant of how Android is continuing to expand its influence in the smart-phone space, world-wide. <br><br>Methinks .. the term <i>myopia</i> *is* pretty darn close.
  • Re: The lesson of BLOG fail

    I hope I'm not being too cynical here, but it's hard to avoid the conclusion that the author slapped a provocative title on a rather rambling and unfocused complaint about "the Bells", which he has covered numerous times before.

    Also, perhaps the author has rather too many self-referencing links. In the second sentence he references himself not once but twice, both to support a general "growing awareness". The links that are NOT self-referencing have their own issues -- I especially liked that the quote "Google's reputation is taking a bit hit" references a critical article in MacDailyNews of all things ("where mac news comes first!").

    I would have welcomed an article with actual data to support its premises, or even a more focused complaint, but instead we have merely "Android as a whole is being seen as a failure", while it grows with leaps and bounds.
    • RE: The lesson of Google Android fail

      @jergarmar I agree. While I'm annoyed by the pre-loaded crapware on my Droid, it's not really a smartphone killer.

      Despite what people are saying about Android, it is open source and it will dominate the market for the foreseeable future. All of the data and research clearly shows this to be the case.

      While I agree with Mr. Blankenhorn that phone companies are a-holes, I don't think they're capable of taking down Google.
    • RE: The lesson of Google Android fail

      @jergarmar The point is not the complaint. The point is why the Bells act as they do, and why Google acts as it does. It's the difference between acting on an assumption of scarcity and one of abundance.

      I prefer abundance.

      And I make no apologies for referencing past work, and demonstrating that I've seen this kind of behavior before. It's the one advantage I have over reporters who are younger, so I use it.