About a year ago I asked myself whether Android was dead. The answer is, a year later, probably not.
The trend we all can see is that Google is simply losing control over the Android ecosystem. If you ask them, they’d probably answer that control is not the point, and it’s probably not very far from the truth. After all, Android is just a means to sell more ads.
Samsung seems the maker that is getting the most out of Android, and that’s confirmed by Apple’s lawsuits. Samsung is slowly replacing the Android brand with its own. As someone already noticed a year ago, Android is just an item in a bullet list of features, probably below many others. Need proof? Go to Samsung’s website, find the minisite dedicated to S4 and search for ‘android’.
Samsung, you will notice, markets Samsung.
Samsung’s marketing folks carefully avoid mentioning Android and Google. They’re so good at it that they don’t even have to include it in footer copyright disclaimers.
What is Google doing to keep Android under its own wing? Nothing. Google releases Nexus devices every now and then but such devices, while being generally a bit more affordable than others, are not innovative. They’re average. Let me state this differently. Samsung phones are terrible. They barely stick together in one piece. Build quality is awful. Still they cost like an iPhone – or more. But at least Samsung is trying to innovate on the software side, with arguably mediocre results of course, but they’re at least trying. That’s why Samsung’s Android smartphones sell like candy. I still prefer Nexus, because I prefer a “pure Google experience”, but people are not me, and are buying Galaxy phones. Truckloads of Galaxy phones in fact.
Now, how is a Nexus 4 different from a Galaxy Nexus? Just negligible details. Faster hardware surely, and a different and probably better case, but nothing more. I just hope the rumored X Phone will be groundbreaking, otherwise Google will put the last nail in its own Android-branded coffin. Probably we’ll have more details at the next Google I/O conference in three weeks.
At any rate, Samsung is slowly, subtly pushing Google out of its own ecosystem. Samsung already has an app store for Android phones (I didn’t even know about it until today, but still). How long until they just quit delivering phones with Google Play? How long until they fork Android? How long until they start filing lawsuits against Google?
Now, it’s obviously more complex than that – Samsung and Google surely have agreements in place, and Samsung currently cannot afford to dump Google. Samsung needs Android, and Android/Google needs Samsung. But that’s today. What about tomorrow? I see Google is extremely weak as they stand now.
If you look at the big picture, it’s even scarier. Samsung produces all kinds of consumer electronics, but also medical equipment, chemicals, and… oil tankers. With 5x Google’s revenue, Samsung has immense firepower. They already are in most households with TVs, microwave ovens, and what-not, and in most pockets with phones and tablets.
What I see in my mind is Google gingerly playing with Android, and Samsung snatching it from the hands. “This is mine now. GTFO.”