The Hills Are Greener: If Google Can’t Beat Them, Join Them

The Hills Are Greener: If Google Can’t Beat Them, Join Them

Apr 23, 2012

A lot is made of the fact that Amazon is using Android to power their own device, and their own app store is making more money per user than Google Play. The separation is interesting. But why does it continue to exist? Why haven’t Google teamed up with Amazon?

Now, the two companies are competing, particularly in that both are trying to sell music, movies, books, and apps to consumers. It might make such a relationship thorny because of that competition, but it’s no more competitive than Apple and Google, is it? Steve Jobs was famously no fan of Android, but Google still finds ways to make money off of iOS – and possibly even more than they do with Android, as was widely and possibly falsely reported.

The Kindle Fire

So what if Amazon wants to skin Android to look the way they want? Google would be remiss to not try and get their services on there. Get Gmail, their web browser (particularly Google Chrome), and their other services on the Kindle Fire.

They need to treat devices that use Android like they do Gmail. Users will sometimes use their own email client with Gmail. However, the ultimate goal is to keep them coming back to Gmail, and to Google services. They need to get on the Kindle Fire and keep people using Google services while they use their OS. Will it be possible to merge the Amazon Appstore with Google Play somehow? Unlikely, but the point of Android’s openness is that it was possible for this to happen. Even a possibility of merging purchases, like the way that some computer games offer Steam codes without actually selling the game on Steam, would help get people back on the Google ecosystem.

Of course, Amazon may be weary of relying on Google in the way that Apple may regret having Google services so tied in to their system. But Google is such an institution that it’s difficult to make a competent mobile device without integrating with Google services in some way. It would materially benefit the Kindle Fire and future Kindle tablets, if not Amazon. That’s where Google could come in from a position of strength.

As we’ve seen with the BlackBerry Playbook, it could be possible for Amazon to make their own OS while maintaining Android compatibility. Over time, that Android compatibility could be unnecessary, given how attractive the Kindle Fire ecosystem is. So Google needs to make sure they’re still a part of it, or they’ll be left behind.

If Google can’t beat Amazon, they need to join them if they still want to have some semblance of control over Android.

The Hills Are Greener: Defusing Thermonuclear War

The Hills Are Greener: Defusing Thermonuclear War

Nov 7, 2011

The “thermonuclear war” quote that has been popularized since the release of the Steve Jobs biography (available on the Android Market!) has been fodder for many internet pundits (myself included) to comment on the feud between iOS and Andorid for success in the mobile market. Apple and Google have an interesting dynamic, though; Google makes a competing OS, but provides search and mapping services to Apple as well. One hypothesis is now floating around that maybe Apple’s “thermonuclear war” against Google is not the attempt to destroy Andorid, but to actually eliminate Google services in Apple’s OS. This isn’t entirely invalid, but it still seems largely bunk, especially when looked at through the eyes of Siri.

Apple is looking out for Apple. They want what’s best for their products and design philosophies more than they do to compete. They are willing to commit to vendor lock-in because it benefits them if people become attached to Apple services that will help push future Apple product adoption. iMessage, iCloud, Siri; Apple introduces services for their OS only because they want people to use their OS. Google introduces services because they want people to use their services on as many operating systems as possible.

Could they possibly pull Google services out of iOS entirely? Sure, but it seems unlikely, given that Google is still the number one search engine; pulling Google out of iOS would ding that, but it wouldn’t be a killer blow at all. Siri is not a search engine, after all – it utilizes the data from search engines and services like Yelp and Wolfram Alpha in order to provide users its data. The intelligence that Siri provides from its speech to text service is its benefit, not that it is a search engine.

If anything, Siri won’t be a major factor for a long time; it’s still in the novelty and testing phase with iPhone 4S users; there doesn’t seem to be anything keeping Siri off of earlier devices besides just Apple trying to sell more units of the iPhone 4S. If Apple added more Siri-compatible devices, then maybe it would be a threat, but right now, Siri isn’t a threat to Google’s search empire. In fact, given the 65.3% market share that Google commands, losing every single iOS device would be a hit, but a small one at best.

The rest of the article’s suggestions as to Apple’s “thermonuclear war” seem silly at best. iMessage to replace IM and email services? They use email addresses as a backbone, and are more clearly a replacement for text messaging services, not email. They provide the benefits of instant messaging in many ways, but it seems more like an MMS replacement than that. Apple replacing Google Maps eventually seems possible, especially if they bought mapping services; after all, Apple’s been implementing their own wirleess location services, supplanting Skyhook.

Apple is trying to compete with Android, and they want to win, I’m sure. But remember – Google is perfectly willing to both work with and against Apple, and I doubt that especially a post-Jobs Apple would be willing to ditch the biggest search engine on the planet just because of what ultimately amounted to bluster from a leader who was hardly known for his restraint. It was why Steve Jobs made Apple a success. But I doubt that one blustery quote is entirely guiding Apple against their biggest mobile OS competitor. They’re smarter than that.

The Hills Are Greener: Stealing and Iteration

The Hills Are Greener: Stealing and Iteration

Oct 24, 2011

One interesting revelation came out from the Steve Jobs biography that was released to the press was that Steve thought Android was a “stolen product,” and that he would wage “thermonuclear war” in order to destroy the OS. Of course, this didn’t happen, and it’s ultimately for the best. Users can choose to buy Android phones with more customization and more device choices, or to buy iOS devices that feature a typically smoother and cleaner OS experience due to Apple’s vertical integration on iOS. Also, Apple has more cash than just about any other corporation, and is in the enviable position of outdoing their own lofty estimates, but having analysts think they’re able to do more. While Steve Jobs may be gone, he has left behind a technology behemoth in Apple that has a bright future ahead of it.

However, the problem with complaining about theivery is that rarely the person being ‘stolen’ from is innocent of that same thievery. While this article has a great rundown of why Steve Jobs and iOS are hardly innocent, one can even look at just iOS 5. After all, Notification Center is pretty much lifted directly from Android (or even just jailbreak extension Notified), along with non-obtrusive notification banners, custom messaging toes, geolocation reminders, speech-to-text dictation…many of these features existed in some form on Android.

See, here’s the thing, though. There’s a difference between stealing, and iteration. Namely, the improving of an already existing concept. That’s what iOS 5 did with Notification Center, offering a central system to organize notifications, the way they notify users, and to easily clear out individual apps’ notifications. In similar ways, Android iterated on iOS by offering homescreens that can serve only as access to the content users wnat to see with specific app shortcuts and widgets to help apps display information without actually going into the app. Iteration is healthy. Android has iterated on iOS features, iOS has iterated on Android. Mac has iterated on Windows, and Windows on Mac. Steve Jobs had, in his life, iterated on features he had seen and used in other products.

Iteration is necessary for improvement in technology. It happens on a daily basis, and it is ultimately a good thing. Outright stealing and copying is bad, but this is not what has occured with Android from iOS. A great discussion on iteration vs. cloning/stealing occurred on The Portable Podcast with Vlambeer, discussing the difference between what something like Ninja Fishing did versus what Muffin Knight did. There is a thin line between the two, but it is a big difference. The point is simple: tech companies need to make better products, and any one company won’t always be the first to have a great idea.

As the quote attributed to Pablo Picasso goes: “Good artists copy. Great artists steal.”