Those of a certain age will remember an early Steve Jackson game called Ogre. It was a two-player game where one player had a single piece, a powerful piece called the Ogre. The other player had everything else.
This pretty much sums up Google's Android strategy against the Apple iPhone. Apple in this case plays the Ogre. (Picture from Steve Jackson Games.)
The combination of Apple's proprietary iPhone design and its exclusive deal with AT&T has proven financially powerful. Apple created a market no one thought existed for a data-driven mobile Internet client and everyone else is playing catch-up.
Everybody gets to play the way they want. Carriers can get exclusives on designs, and negotiate any deal on the resulting data flow they wish. Both new and old manufacturers get to play in the phone game and try to innovate on the margins.
All this work feeds back into the Android ecosystem, and all content sales feed into the Android marketplace. Google just wants a place to advertise alongside the content.
It's a fun game, whose knock-on effects are a direct challenge to Microsoft, Symbian, and the Blackberry folks. Google seems destined to be the market's #2 player by early next year, #2 with a bullet.
But please note this. All Google's pieces taken together don't yet add up to the power of Apple's iPhone. The Ogre still has the power. But Google has the dice.