Google's non-paranoid Android

Google's non-paranoid Android

Summary: For an announcement with no hardware, no software and no business model, Google's Android makes a great deal of sense

If you were disappointed by Android, the subject of Google's mobile-strategy announcement, then you were hoping for the wrong thing. Many were, but expectations of an iPhone-killer were never plausible. Google's feelings towards Apple, iPhone or no, are warmly neutral.

Android and the attendant Open Handset Alliance (OHA) are aimed squarely at Redmond. With smartphone technology at a comparable stage to the PC market 15 years ago (roughly the time the internet arrived), there's still no monopoly operating system. Instead, there's a three-way split between Linux, Symbian and Microsoft, with Microsoft currently bringing up the rear.

Google will be happy if Android keeps things that way. It will be happy already that it has recruited handset maker HTC, Microsoft's most prominent hardware partner. Expect loud protestations from HTC that this doesn't mean anything, that its love for Windows Mobile is unchanged. Expect nobody to believe it.

Google's immediate task isn't to recruit more networks or equipment manufacturers; it's to demonstrate that Android can generate good results quickly. Producing the software development kit (SDK) before the hardware is a fine start (pay attention, Apple). So is setting a sensible year-long window before anyone has to worry about products. If Google is smart — and there is some evidence to that effect — it will do everything in its power to create and foster a lively developer community. That's one area in which Microsoft excels, and the OHA would do well to take notes. It takes more than just an SDK.

After that, it'll be a battle of cultures. Google's business model, mobile and wired, is based on the simple premise that, given the choice, users will prefer its offerings. Anything that restricts that choice — that locks users into a network, a handset, OS or application — is the enemy. The mobile world is still gripped by a terrible fear that, given the choice, users will prefer to move. Anything that encourages that choice is the enemy.

Google is fighting its corner in the same way it fought the search and online application battles. It's giving everything away. Although we won't know for a year whether that generosity will buy a market, the mobile world is due a revolution. Google has the right ideas and the right people, at the right time, to lead that revolution. That's worth far more than an iPhone.

Topics: Mobility, Smartphones

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
  • Place your bets...

    The next few years will be very interesting.

    The Android initiative, arguably good for the consumer, is what Google penetration of the advertising market. And rightly so...for Google.

    But questions abound about this initiative in which Google wins big. What about the other players? How will they benefit? Watching the destruction of the existing closed gardens?; losing proprietary control?; losing market share and revenue per subscriber to unknown new players?; watching the destruction of their business models?; and watching the end of known universe? Must they embrace unknown new change...or die?

    Are the members of the alliance subscribing because they share a belief in what is good for Google and the consumer? A blind faith in diversity and
  • I don't see the advert

    Where's the advertising? Where's google's money maker?

    I can see no way for google to tie users into using google's pieces considering every service can be replaced by third party apps. Microsoft could replace all the google bits with Windows Live services.

    The only 'unusual' thing I see here is that the software isn't open source like people have made out. It's an open platform like Symbian but google owns the source and it's keeping it. This may be good for all parties for the moment but I think google won't be giving it up any time soon.