Last time (read article Google’s Biggest Problem – Focus, Google’s Biggest Problem – Focus Part 2), I spelled out what Google was doing with Android. Today, I’m going to wrap it up and bring it home, providing a recommendation that I hope Google will listen to. Unfortunately, given their track record, I’m not getting my hopes up. Unfortunately, neither should you.
Android is attacking the market en masse. It’s the only way the fragmented OS is capturing share. Its lack of focus provides for a quick product introduction cycle by its 3rd party supporters. For example,
T-Mobile USA currently offers 16 Android smartphones from 6 different manufacturers.
AT&T offers 22 Android smartphones from 7 different manufacturers.
Verizon offers 34 smartphones from 6 different manufacturers.
Most of these phones are either running FroYo (Android 2.2.x), or Gingerbread (Android 2.3.x). Very few of them will run or officially support Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0.x). Each manufacturer has added their own launcher and customizations on top of the OS. Nearly all have provided customized versions of some system level apps or components, originally developed by Google. This has unfortunately created a bigger divide between stock Android and what end users actually use on their devices.
What does this mean, exactly? In many cases, Google provides the shell and relies on the 3rd party developer to complete the structure. Until recently, and by recently I mean the last 12-18 months, Google resisted the development of an ecosystem. It provided an operating system that would allow users to organize their lives, communicate with the outside world, run apps, listen to music, watch video and read books. However, it failed to provide a way for users to purchase, organize and manage that content on those devices. Their philosophy – we provide the means, YOU (meaning the hardware OEM or 3rd party developer) provide the way. In the process they’ve lost out on potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in sales and royalties.
It finally recognized this when it introduced Google Music. From there, you could buy and then stream music directly to your Android phone. It also modified its Android Market allowing for the sale of not only music, but books, movies as well the standard and familiar device apps. Music purchased there could be copied to your device and your PC and then synchronized with Google Music’s online music locker.
While this signifies a move in the proper direction, not only for Google and its partners, but for users as well, it doesn’t completely solve the problem. Google needs to further lock down the platform – hardware manufacturers and OEM’s shouldn’t be allowed to have devices with up to three different revisions of the OS in active support at the same time, and shouldn’t be allowed to introduce new products with outdated OS revisions, as they have in the past.
Google is developing focus, but it’s taken approximately 4 years to get here. Frankly, I think Google’s gotten very lucky. Hopefully, they’ve seen the error of their ways, have seen the success their major competitors have in their own ecosystems, and continue to stay focused.