Jan 30, 2012
Apple had big news to announce recently: for the quarter of October-December, they made a lot of money. How much is a lot? Well, they had the second-most-profitable quarter ever. Apple literally made more profit than Google brought in revenue in the last quarter.
The difference between Apple and Google is that when an iOS device is brought, that is money going straight into Apple’s pocket. When an Android device is bought, not much if any money goes into Google’s pocket because Android is free to use on any phone, restrictions only pop up when manufacturers want access to the Android Market and other Google services. A device like the Kindle Fire doesn’t bring any money or users to Google at all.
In fact, Android seems to bring in more money for everyone but Google. Samsung has used Android to power their wildly-popular Galaxy S lines of phones all the way to being number one in terms of smartphone sales in 2011.
At the risk of making a big, heaping stew of claim chowder, here are my two hypotheses on what will happen next:
Google will try to collapse the Android manufacturing market in order to bring more revenue directly into themselves through their own devices, manufacturered by the Motorola Mobility division. To facilitate this, they will push more mandates that make competing Android phones more like stock Android devices, instead of customized experiences, in order to help push their own Android phones down the line. Essentially, they want Android devices to be vertically integrated like Apple with iOS. Android can and will remain a free and open OS to use, but for anyone that wants to use Google’s features, it’ll be difficult.
Samsung, the biggest Android manufacturer, will hitch their horse to another OS long-term. Quite possibly even their own, with a global rollout of their Bada OS. They have a much bigger profile now than they did even several years ago thanks to Android, and if they wanted to do something like launch new Galaxy phones with their Bada OS installed instead, they could be in the position to do so. They would need a massive developer initiative to fuel a global launch (even a service like what the Blackberry Playbook has to easily port over Android apps would be a killer start), but Samsung could be at a point to where they could do it.
The fact is that it’s more viable for a company like Apple to be a vertically-integrated device maker, and it has to be attractive to the big names out there to act similarly in order to at least consider a similar approach, and I certainly believe that they will. The face of the Android landscape may be dramatically changing over the next year or two, and the battle may not be against operating systems after all, but manufacturers.