The lesson of Google Android fail

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.