The Challengers to Google Android

Not everyone is aware of it, but Google has two main versions of their Android operating system. The first one is something that everyone knows, where Android powers smartphones and mobile devices with their standard offering. This is the one you usually see, with Google mail, and other features of the Google operating system in place. All of these of course point back to Google (and give them your data in one way or another, no matter what you do on Gmail). However, there is another corner of the Android OS sphere that isn’t as well known.

This corner is where Amazon, BlackBerry, and Samsung are enjoying hanging out. They are a bit like three large boxers though, and Google is at a bit of a loss for what to do about them. Each has a niche Google would like more of, but doesn’t yet have access to, or the chops to properly fight for yet. Amazon has massive store frontage, sales, and customers who regularly buy things, while Android users by and large tend to run on the cheap. BlackBerry has longstanding inroads to business users, who rely on security and the privacy of their data, which Google unabashedly skims and uses to target advertising with. Few lawyers trust their confidential client email to a company like Google; so many breathed a sigh of relief when BlackBerry released something worth owning again in September 2014.

Samsung, however, is the big brawler in the room. They have about 80% of the Android market, and a shift from Google to their own Tizen OS would be a major blow to Google. Both companies are aware of this, but how it plays into Google’s strategies is a bit less clear. See, Samsung has been heavily pushing their Tizen operating system, and Google hasn’t been unaware of this, yet Google is also trying to set themselves up so Amazon doesn’t throw a knockout punch from somewhere too.

While the patent acquisitions Google touted as it’s main reason for purchasing Motorola were certainly valid, they were also part of a larger initiative to show Samsung and everyone else who was wearing the pants and who was driving (that would be Google on both counts). The rather large purchase price of Motorola, at almost £8bn, was the single largest acquisition Google has made to date. While it did net them a huge number of patents (enough to put out the patent wars that had been brewing with Apple and others), it also showed the rest of the mobile world that Google could easily jump into the device-manufacturing sphere – if it wanted to. A bit of flex, if you will, but flex that quickly put Samsung and the others in their place

With that gesture, Samsung shifted Tizen to a back burner. However, that doesn’t mean users will see faster Samsung speeds. Quite the opposite, as Samsung users will still see more sluggish response from Samsung mobiles versus stock Android devices, because of the Tizen wrapper, which slows everything down (try a Samsung Note against a Google Nexus, and you’ll see what we mean). That’s not to say that Samsung is a slouch, because they are not. Rather, it is to say that they are the cornerstones of Google’s Android Empire. Lose Samsung, and with them, up to 80% of the Android market. Then Google becomes an App store – which is what Amazon, BlackBerry, and Samsung mostly use them for anyway.

In fact, Amazon completely rips out Google functionality in their version of Android, known as the Fire OS. They seamlessly replace it with Amazon mail and similar functions, which no doubt stings Google, but what can they do about it? They could, as advertised, enter the mobile device manufacturing space, but what happens then to the rest of the device manufacturers out there? With 80% of the Android space occupied by Samsung, consumer centred purchasing dominated by Amazon, and BlackBerry holding the keys to the security gates, Google would be in a bit of a bind, and likely unable to effectively manage all of those battles. That’s why they flexed, but what remains to be seen is how much more flexing they can do. Or, more to the point, it makes one wonder when Google will follow in Microsoft’s footsteps, and just jump into the device pool.

See, that’s the wild card out there right now. With Apple giving away their OS for free, and Microsoft leaning towards that same tactic in the near future, Google is running out of space and negotiating room. Should Microsoft make their OS free (Windows 10 is supposed to be the same OS for both phones and mobiles), or at least free on devices purchased with it, Google will find themselves with little to sell. This is partially because Google has publicly stood by their skimming of user data and email content to send advertising to people, and as such aren’t well loved by a growing number of consumers. For their part, both Apple and Microsoft have taken stances against Google in regards to user data and how it is used (or misused, in the case of Google). That’s raised big privacy issues that the average person is not unaware of.

If Google misses a step, or stumbles, and Tizen takes off, or Microsoft starts to fill in that void with a significantly larger number of handset sales – at least in more developed nations, Google would be left with no choice but to enter the mobile device sphere. Unfortunately by then it might be too late for them. By way of example, one can see what missteps in the mobile sphere did in terms of BlackBerry, as they are a textbook lesson in what not to do. In fact, they are still hanging on the teats of Amazon and Google, but not really committed to either in any sort of inextricable manner. This has left some speculating that Google will buy BlackBerry next, leveraging their security and business profiles, but it’s just a rumour today, leaving many investors wondering just what Google is going to do with their money and unstable market dominance.

After all, nothing Google has ever produced has been anything other than a way for them to generate more advertising revenue. Likewise nothing they have ever produced has been earth shaking. Rather, they have hundreds, if not thousands of failures, quietly retiring them, and then slowly bringing the ones that work into the mainstream. For example, they made a smartphone OS so they would have access to more user data. That was only to be able to better target their ads. However, they build a social site that largely flopped (despite what some tech nerds have to say about it). In fact, the entire Google search ecosystem is built on of that advertising. The better a search is, the better it can serve up an ad. That’s something Google hides – even if they don’t always advertise it either.

While Google may have said that they want to focus on Android with the sale of Motorola, the truth is, they are far more concerned with furthering their market dominance through any means possible. While much of that may have to do with them keeping their top spot as a search engine, it’s not because they want to serve anyone anything. Rather, it’s because they want to generate more advertising revenue. After all, it really is all about the money, and Google has never hidden that fact from anyone.

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