Google Will Abandon Android

In short order, Google will launch their tablet. And in doing so they will start down the path of abandoning Android.

TL;DR

  • The Google tablet will be called the “Google Play”.
  • Brand is as much a part of the end-to-end experience as the user interface, device, OS, apps, and services.
  • Google will distance itself from the Android brand; instead they will invest heavily in the Play brand.
  • Fragmentation of Android will accelerate.

TRON abandoned in Petworth

UPDATE: June 27, 2012 – On the cusp of Google I/O enough about the Google tablet has leaked to show that I was wrong about it being named “Play”, but I remain convinced real point of this post is spot on.

As I explained in my article on how to think about Android fragmentation, fragmentation is not the end of android, but means Google has lost control of Android. Google has lost control of both the Android platform and the Android brand.

Google is desperate to compete in the phone and tablet spaces (not to mention social networking). Android is a perfectly suitable technical platform to build on, but as a brand it is atrocious.

In that article I suggested one of the tactics Google will try to use to regain control of Android would be to “Invest in the Nexus brand”.

Nexus is Google’s “pure” Android play. The idea is a phone with a more rigidly defined user experience, more consistent hardware, the latest OS with a consistent upgrade policy, a single marketplace, and consistent (Google endorsed) services. I love this strategy from an end-user’s perspective. Nexus phones will sell fairly well. But the numbers will pale in comparison to the non-Nexus phones sold. But Nexus will only be “fairly” successful because it is counter to what the carriers want and every dollar Google spends on advertising it incents the device manufactures and carriers to spend more on advertising their differentiated products.  Nexus actually worsens fragmentation along most axes by introducing yet another “Android model” into the mix.

I no longer believe Google will invest in the Nexus brand (at least for tablets). Instead I’m betting the Google tablet will be called the “Google Play”. This makes perfect sense given Google’s recent rebranding of the Android Marketplace and consolidation of apps, music, books, and movies into a unified Google Play. Google Play logo

Moving forward, Google will invest heavily in the Play brand. To effectively create new brand you have to mute your usage of other brands in the same space. At the most, any further use of the term “Android” in consumer marketing and branding will be relegated to “ingredient brand” status (“Certs with Retsin!”). Google will start distancing itself from the Android brand completely.

Why?

Because Android has become an ill-defined mess of a brand that Google does not control. If Google wants to create a phenomenal end-to-end user experience that has a chance of competing with the iPad juggernaut in the tablet space they need to control all aspects of the experience. If they are smart (and I think they are) they will recognize that brand is as much a part of the end-to-end experience as the user interface, device, OS,  apps, and services. 

Remember how much power the mobile operators and device manufacturers/OEMs are in the mobile space? For the same reasons Windows Phone 7 struggles, so do Google’s Nexus branded phones. But tablets are not phones and the power of the MOs and OEMs is muted in the tablet space. A tightly controlled user experience, device, OS, and services model built around the Google Play brand can be successful even in the face of MOs and OEMs.

I predict Google will go so far as to push the Play brand over Android even with developers. They’ve already started this with marketplace submission and you can bet there will be a new, more stringent, app certification program under the Google Play moniker in an attempt to raise the quality of apps for the new Google Play tablet. Watch for Google Play specific APIs and services as well.

Don’t believe, for one second, Google building it’s own tablet and getting behind a cohesive brand strategy will reduce Android fragmentation. It won’t. It will accelerate fragmentation across all axes. Google knows this; which is all the more reason they will abandon the Android brand and focus on something they can control.

The tablet space is going to be hugely entertaining in the next 6-9 months as Google makes this transition, other Android based tablet makers continue what they are doing, the iPad continues to sell like gangbusters, and we see how successful Microsoft is with Windows 8 ARM based tablets.

© Charlie Kindel. All Rights Reserved.

121 comments


  1. Trevordaniel2

    if they move quick they can get out of this. as you say. no end user has really gone into a shop and asked for an android phone specifically. if they ditch android, rebrand and up the revenue model they have a chance.

    • Verity

       Supreet above says that in India Android is a popular brand and people seek that out. So it may be too late..

      • aardman

        Without meaning to dis a whole subcontinent, India’s per capita income is not the same as the US’s and so Apple has not really done much to drum up business there.  It’s a very different competitive landscape from the US, you can’t just take what’s going on there and apply it over here indiscriminately.

        • orthorim

          I also think the iPhone came to India really late, and when it came it was super expensive?! Not sure… 

          Apple is focusing on China… smart, IMO.

      • orthorim

        In the USA iPhones are now outselling all other smartphones combined on all carriers. Except Verizon, where the iPhone is about even with (all other smartphones combined).

        I think Apple’s platform juggernaut is unstoppable at the moment. The advantages gained from building a solid platform are subtle but they give you an advantage that’s cumulative… in the end, there may be ups and downs but the odds are stacked in favor of the strong platform.

  2. Adam

    Spot on. However, given how bad the Nexus devices have been (better than other Android devices, but far inferior to iOS), the prospects for the Play brand are pretty dim. Just take a look at the Play store which looks like some awful garbage built by Samsung.

    • foobarbaz

      I think you’re confused. Nexus devices are hardware. iOS is software. Saying Nexus devices are inferior to iOS makes no sense.

      Nexus devices have actually been quite good hardware and compare favorably to Apple hardware, in some cases beating Apple hardware. I find the Galaxy Nexus to be a nicer hardware solution than the iPhone 4s.

      The Galaxy Nexus has a 1280×720 screen compared to the 960×640 of the iPhone.
      The Galaxy Nexus has a a dual-core 1.2 GHz Texas Instruments ARM Cortex-A9 processor compared to the iPhone’s dual-core 1 GHz Samsung ARM Cortex-A9 processor.

      The iPhone 4s has a nicer camera but the Galaxy Nexus can output 1080p HDMI to my HDTV while iPhone can only output 720p movies. The iPhone 4s has bigger storage but the Galaxy Nexus has twice the RAM and is thinner and weighs less.

      It’s one thing to argue that iOS and the Apple app ecosystem are far superior to Android and the Play store. I won’t argue there. But to say that the Nexus devices are obviously inferior to the iOS devices is just silly

      • Adam

        It’s not silly at all. That’s exactly my point. Specs are irrelevant. Usability trumps all.

        • fishman

          And how useable is a 3.5″ screen? I can’t help but chuckle when I see people trying to type on that tiny screen. Apple really have to lift their game here with the next iPhone.

          Realistically, at over 300dpi (which in apples own blurb constitutes retina), you can’t make out pixels on either device – they’re both superb screens, but at 4.65″ the Nexus has a massive advantage.

          iOS offers a superbly fluid user interface and experience, but is essentially an app launcher, so offers very limited useability in that regard. I have an iPad and love the device, but the OS is almost childishly simple – great for their target market, but please don’t trumpet useability when I can’t even add a widget to the home screen.

          A phone UI experience is a mix of hardware and software – apple have been masters of squeezing great performance out of limited specs by locking down the software – good for them as its a hugely profitable strategy. MS are trying to do the same thing with WP. However, Google took a major step in addressing UI performance with the ICS upgrade (if your saying a Galaxy Nexus is jerky then you’ve obviously never used one), and they’ve completely changed the game with the new Jelly Bean release, to the point where as a user of both OS’s I can comfortably say its up on a par with iOS.

          Take the fanboy blinkers off – iOS, Android and WP all now offer fluid and functional OS’s, and its up to consumers to decide what functionality/specs/ecosystem they want at their given price point.

      • Matt

        I had a nexus and whole the specs are slightly better than the iPhone 4s the 4s still is faster because of superior os and also the speaker is a peice of crap on the nexus, what is the point of a phone if you can’t hear the ring.

      • Dan Andersen

        @f3ada405ce890b6f8204094deb12d8a8:disqus : “The Galaxy Nexus has a 1280×720 screen compared to the 960×640 of the iPhone.”

        That is very misleading. In fact, the resolution of the iPhone is much higher than the effective resolution of the Nexus’s AMOLED PenTile-based screen. In addition, the pixel density (fineness) of the iPhone’s screen is much higher than that of the Nexus.

        “The Galaxy Nexus has a a dual-core 1.2 GHz Texas Instruments ARM Cortex-A9 processor compared to the iPhone’s dual-core 1 GHz Samsung ARM Cortex-A9 processor”

        …and yet, the Nexus has significantly poorer performance than the iPhone, has halting, jerky user interaction, and poorer battery life. Go figure…

        “…the Galaxy Nexus can output 1080p HDMI to my HDTV while iPhone can only output 720p movies. ”

        That is incorrect: The iPhone 4S can output 1080p using the Apple AV Adapter. See support article HT4108.

        “to say that the Nexus devices are obviously inferior to the iOS devices is just silly”

        Clearly not. That assertion, like most of the others in your post, is untrue. And all that concentration on hardware specifications ignores the most important thing of all when it comes to a personal digital device–usability. iOS devices like the iPhone provide overall usability that is far superior to that of competing devices.

    • John Thomas

      I disagree with your assessment of Nexus and iOS. It partly comes down to taste. I’m typing this on my iPhone only because my preferred Android phone is charging. There are many unimpressive Android phones, IMO but the best Samsung, HTC and Motorola models beat iOS comfortably.

      • Glenn Millam

        I agree there. I have an android phone and an iPad. I prefer the iPad as a device, but I like the android well enough, and it has no long term contract like an iPhone would. And it even takes dictation. No hate n Apple, just a matter of choice.

        I do agree with the logic of the main article, and with the guy who says Google may be making their own Zune in Google Play tablets. My main irritation with Android is its fragmentation. What if Microsoft allowed OEM PC manufacturers to screw with the interface and updates of Windows the way Android device makers do? I look at my kids Android phone and have problems figuring it out because the OEM (ZTE) decided to do it all their way. Windows allowed you to buy a new PC from whomever you wanted with the knowledge that you would be familiar with its operation, and all your stuff still be there for you. Android… not so much.

        • VoiceofReason2012

          Why do people keep Saying this? I’m currently on Ginger Bread…when I want to upgrade..the “Experience” will be exactly the same with Ice Cream Sandwich—-You still have a “settings” (all the same, you still set up your email, Facebook accounts and syncs the same. I can still build my own desktops. Where do people get this Idea that a 2.3 or a 4.x are “radically different”..yeah, under the hood….but in terms of “User Experience…I can pick up a 2.3 or a 4.x….and the things I “DO” with the phone are the same…

          • HughesHilton

            Hey Mr. “I have 132 IQ and a Master’s in IT” guess what?  Not everyone is YOU.  The same stuff may all be there, but Android users experience the same “who moved my cheese” syndrome as Windows users (just look at the litany of protests over how you have to do 3 taps instead of 2 clicks to shut down Windows 8).

    • The Nexus devices have been significantly better than iPhone for me, FWIW. The only way I’d use an iPhone 4S is if it ran Android – the OS is that much better than iOS on phones.

  3. IDK about the customer sentiment in US, but in India people go looking for non apple smart phones with two brand time in mind ‘Galaxy’ & ‘Android’. Most of them them have no idea that android is associated with Google.

    • shankness

      Second that. Many buy android phones just because of the looks of the interface and dont know that they wont even get updates.

  4. Dsjfalk

    the apple brand is going on crash and burn from iphone 4. what you are saying is not the true future.

    • Matt

      I would say that all IOS devces are getting more attention and more sales and not less. You opinion of the devces does not matter, it’s the sales and the iPhone 4s sold more than the 4 so no, it’s is not “going on crash”.

    • babelchips

      Crash and burn? What you write is the opposite of reality. What on earth are you thinking!?

    • aardman

      That would be a very impressive assertion if we live in a world that is not evidence-based.  Maybe we are.

    • RTW/RTW

      APPL market cap: 586.76B
      GOOG market cap: 208.94B

      APPL gross profit last quarter: 43.82B
      GOOG gross profit last quarter: 24.72B

      Please, explain how Apple is crashing and burning since the launch of the iPhone 4? I would love to hear what possible explanation you have for this, unless you are Fred Wilson.

      • Wave9x

        Your numbers are wrong. Apple: $46 bil in revenue, $13 bil in profit. Google: $10.6b in revenue, $3.5 bil profit. Yes. Apple generated more profit last quarter than all of Google’s REVENUE.

  5. James

    The Nexus line is meant to be a reference design and a developer platform.  Why must people read more into it than that?  The N1 was the template for a dozen very similar, very popular phones.  Likewise the Android tablet market needs leadership and a reference design.

    • No, the Nexus One was a new type of phone, the Superphone designed to be future proof against future upgrades (we know how that turned out).  Likewise, it introduced a “new” way for consumers to actually shop and purchase phones without the carrier friction.

      At least that was what it was when announced.  I guess if you have a series of flops, calling it a “reference” design or a “developer platform” is a way to save face.

      •  Doesn’t anyone here get it?  I want 4 phones:  work, play, travel, going out.  I want to compute and communicate on my terms; not Apple’s or an OEM or someone else.  I want MY LIFE enriched by not being tied to one device.  Done right, all the OEMs and Google can benefit.  But best of all, the end user benefits the most.  Make all phones state-driven, with total synching and back to the cloud and features/devices totally configured from the PC/ultrabook/tablet.

  6. Play is an approrpriate name for a device where all you do is consume content.

  7. Two years ago I wrote this and got dumped on by everyone who thought they knew better:

    In Two Years, Only Google Will Use Android
    http://ebooktest.wordpress.com/2010/01/09/in-two-years-only-google-will-use-android/

    The mess has gotten worse since then and you might even be correct about the diminishment of the Android brand.

    Like you, I posted a few weeks back and also said I expect it to be called the Google Play tablet too.

    However, I don’t expect it to succeed.  Like Google+, they will screw it all up.

    Samsung better start thinking about MeeGo or Open webOS.

    •  Huh? It seems that your prediction was completely wrong, yes? Why are you boasting about it?

    • xdmix

      It’s funny how you were completely wrong two years ago and still completely wrong now.

      You obviously either:
      Do not / have not owned an Android device
      or
      Own / Did own an Android device but have no idea how to take advantage of the platform

    • aardman

      Why would Samsung have to start thinking about MeeGo or Open webOS when they have a very good chance of taking control of Android in the near future?

      There is only one way to cure Android’s fragmentation –the emergence of a dominant Android device manufacturer.  Once Samsung becomes that, all Android developers will code for compatibility to Samsung’s devices.  The other Android device makers might then design their devices to be Samsung clones but then Samsung can lay  a proprietary interface on top of Android and that’s the end of the Samsung clone industry.

  8. Walt French

    “Google is desperate to compete in the phone and tablet spaces…”
    I’m very interested in your thesis about giving up on managing “Android” in favor of a different brand. But it seems to rely quite a bit on your quote above, which I find problematic. I can’t disprove it, but I don’t find good evidence for it, either.

    Evidence showed that Google bought Android in 2006 to prevent Microsoft’s WM from dominating mobile internet, and locking Google out from mobile. (Yeah, the “one man, one company…” who was going to control the internet was not originally Steve Jobs.) Perhaps a bit hastily—without looking more than a move or two in the chess game—I can’t imagine anybody remotely dreamed of Android’s success in capturing such a huge number of mobile, internet-capable devices.

    But they have a tiger by the tail. They are now in competition with Apple, who has incentive to collaborate with Microsoft in ways that would’ve been unimaginable five years ago. They have unwittingly strengthened Baidu, on AOSP, Pure Android® and now iOS. The company that people loved because it created an order-of-magnitude improvement in search, is now spending its energy trying to protect its project from slick, well-organized competitors.

    Google might be well-advised to do what Nixon did re: Vietnam: declare a victory and pull out. If it’s “desperate” to compete (badly) in phones and tablets, it’s only because it refuses to realize that it has achieved what it wanted with Android, and should re-evaluate how to best serve users (yeah, I use that as a synonym for “grow”) in light of today’s realities.

    • HI Walt.

      I don’t think Google invested in Android in 2006 because of Microsoft. It did so because (a) it was clear mobile was going to be big and (b) Google makes all its money from search and controlling the mobile OS would be a great way of ensuing search revenue from mobile.

      They are desperate because the strategy failed. Mobile search ad $$ is infinitesimally small compared to what it was was projected to be by now. And mobile is just as big as people thought it would be. It is clear mobile/tablets will shortly dwarf PCs in #s. The traditional web browser google.com search model simply does not work as well on mobile.  But it has a chance of working on tablets. 

      So google needs to be in the game, big time, in the tablet space. 

      • capnbob67

        They did purchase it to head off MS since it was entirely believable that MS would control mobile with their 40 OEMs. It was a valid concern. Apple came along later and destroyed MS in mobile and turned Androids copy model to iOS. Their worst fear was reduced because Apple partnered with Google but it is always a risk that Apple will turn off acces or charge even more. Hence android as a hedge. Problem is, it is expensive and is netting way less than their iOS revenues because they have mostly taken the lower slices of the market.

      • kibbles

        am i the only one who doesnt get it? i use google on my ipad, iphone too. i go into the search box and do my search. so…why exactly does Google need to sell a tablet in order to get those hits? in case Apple/MS banishes them from their tablets?

        • They care because MS could come in and offer Apple a lot of money to be the default search parter on the iPad, while at the same time shipping Bing as the default on Windows 8. This will drive all mobile search revenue towards MS.

          It is also not crazy to imagine Apple making their own search engine. They have their own browser, they are making their own maps, why not cut all relations to Google search while they are at it?

  9. Great piece. I hadn’t thought about the branding of Play “playing” into their device names. Very good point! I agree with you about Android getting out of hand. If you have 50%+ of the market share and a huge chunk of that is using a sub-par experience, those people are going to be switching when the contract ends. Ecosystem is key and I feel like Google really has nothing superior to bring to the table for mass consumers. Most of their services are great, but nothing that truly locks you into their OS like their competition has. Google has made itself so open that it has lost not only true control of their open OS, but also it’s presence in the brand and that is a problem. I work on the front lines at a wireless store and I can assure you, there is a huge percentage of people that don’t know Android = Google and those people are the average consumer. It is going to take more than specs to win these people over. They want something that just works, and does so in an intuitive way.

  10. You think Nexus phones get upgrades?  How adorable.

  11. Scott Seab

    The barrier to enterprise market adoption may well be the same as it was with BlackBerry’s ill-conceived name for its tablet. The PlayBook simply does not have a positive connotation in work environments. Neither does Google Play. Jobs had it right with the non-categorical silo with the iPad.

  12. Jimmy

    Wow! You make some great points to think about.

    However could you explain “Brand is as much a part of the end-to-end experience as the user interface, device, OS, apps, and services.” a little more? I think you are stating that brand will be more important than usual but I don’t fully understand why that is.

    Thanks again for the great post

    • Jimmy, hopefully this helps:

      Let’s take a really simple product, like a pack of Sugarless
      Bubble Yum Original Flavor bubble gum as an example.

      The end-to-end experience for a consumer of a pack of Sugarless
      Bubble Yum goes something like this (in temporal order):

      –         
      At some point in the past the consumer gained
      some awareness of the product category of “gum” and the sub-category of “sugarless
      bubble gum”. This could have been by observing someone else chewing gum, a
      general advertisement, or a scene in a movie. Or it could be that this “point
      in the past” was when they first walked into the 7-11 to buy a Big Gulp and
      noticed a big display of colorful items near the checkout counter.  In any case, at some point the consumer
      became aware of the category.  Category
      awareness is easy for things where the category has existed forever (like gum),
      but hard where the product category is new (like inexpensive portable tablet
      computers).

      –         
      At another point in time the consumer gained
      some awareness of the Bubble Yum brand. Brand awareness happens different ways,
      but, in general mass media advertising is primarily about making people aware
      of a brand.  Word of mouth is also an
      important media for generating brand awareness. Brand awareness does not happen
      by accident. Companies spend the vast majority of their marketing budgets on
      driving brand awareness.

      –         
      Then came awareness of the specific product, and
      the branding used to differentiate it from other products (in the same category
      and even within the same brand). In our case there are multiple variants of
      Bubble Yum bubble gum. I happen to love the original flavored Sugarless Bubble
      Gum and can’t stand the non-sugarless watermelon variety. The Hersey’s company has
      carefully ensured that the branding of each variant of Bubble Yum gum is
      distinct and conveys clarity about the product. Original flavor uses a pink
      wrapper while Cotton Candy flavor uses a blue wrapper. Somewhere along the
      line, our consumer was educated (likely via advertising or product literature)
      how the branding sorted out.

      –         
      We’re now at the point in time where the consumer
      is aware of the brand, and even has knowledge of specific versions of the
      product (flavors of gum). We’ve caught up to the point in time where the user
      is in the store, at the gum display, and is reaching for the pack of Original
      flavor Sugarless Bubble Yum.  At the
      moment the user touches the pack, we’ve crossed a threshold from “knowing” to “feeling”.
      How Hershey’s packaged the gum becomes very, very important to the end-to-end
      experience. Is the wrapper smooth or coarse? Does the wrapper feel flimsy or
      high-quality? How these questions are answered (by the consumer!) impact the consumers
      perception of the Bubble Gum brand.

      –         
      Next the consumer takes the gum to the counter
      and pays for it. Again the Bubble Gum brand gets reinforced (somewhat
      subliminally, of course) by the price. Hershey’s very carefully picked a retail
      price point that balanced competitive, category, demographic, and other factors
      to ensure high-sales, high-margins, and repeat customers. 

      –         
      Shortly thereafter the consumer unwraps a piece
      of soft & chewy Sugarless Bubble Yum, Original flavor, and starts chewing.
      Most people equate “product experience” to just this phase. But this is where
      most people are wrong. The period of time where a consumer is actually using
      the product is, generally, much shorter than the other phases. More
      importantly, though, for the success of the business the part where the
      customer actually uses the product is just one part. It comes back to brand.

      –         
      Once our consumer has blown a bunch of bubbles
      and gone through the entire pack (perhaps making others aware of the Bubble Yum
      brand by giving a few pieces away) the end-to-end experience starts to wind
      down.  Or, as you probably intuit, circle
      back to the beginning again when in a few weeks our consumer is in another
      store and has a craving for some bubble gum…

      Great businesses are built through an understanding of
      creating a cohesive and holistic end-to-end experience where brand is a
      critical ingredient. I used bubble gum as an example because it’s simple. But
      the same concept applies to technology products such the rumored tablet
      computer that Google is going to build and sell.

      • Jjohnston

        Excellent – very helpful – especially the part about new product categories.

        Thank you very much for the time you spent on the response. I’ve learned a lot this morning.

  13. Splat

    The Android brand is almost as messed up as the Java brand.

    • orthorim

      Android is turning into Google’s Java – hugely successful, wide spread, and not making any money for its creator.

  14. Phuoc Do

    Linux OS might give some hints about where fragmentation of Android might go. Google will continue to maintain Android as the OS kernel. There will be a few identifiable consumer Android brands (like Ubuntu.) But there is a key difference between Linux and Android: Google is playing double game, building the core and the top. There are two possible outcomes: (a) a unified experience and vibrant ecosystem, (b) an ecosystem with distrust between partners. I think the key for success for Google is to keep the partners close in the loop. Building awesome UX as the guiding light, not to compete with their partners. Then, outcome (a) will be more likely to happen than (b). The game is still on. I wouldn’t call Android dead yet.

  15. Macs

    Imho there is one aspect that you are not considering: the nexus phone has never been technically superior to the other Android phones (mediocre soc and mediocre camera for example). Why?

  16. No no no, what they will do is abandon carriers. Who uses an office phone any more? No one. In two years we’ll ask: who uses a carrier for minutes and subsidies? That is what is changing. 

    The “phone” is disappearing, in its place the mobile computer.

    • Very good point.  You are one of the few on this thread to see this.  Apple has control over carriers.  Droid does not.  Only way for that to happen is for OEMs to get together and monetize/control the platform better; including agreeing on concerted roll-outs of upgrades and dictate terms to carriers.  Duh!  And Google should support this.  Imagine if ICS were rolled out universally in H2 instead of in dribs and drabs as is likely.  iOS would be huffing and puffing going into the Xmas season and people would be yawning at an LTE iPhone5.

  17. GREAT TITLE!!! I could not resist it and was bound to be disappointed by the rest. The only sensible option to compete against Apple was/is to use a loosely banded Militia of outsiders who join up because they don’t have another ‘viable’ way to play, Duh. Kudos to Google’s approach, send in the Militia and ready the archers! Does anybody else see, even in hindsight, a better way? Just look at the hell bound marriage Microsoft and Nokia joined themselves to just to stay relevant.

  18. Android, fragmented as it’s brand may be, has become a powerhouse in the market that iPhone “owned” a few short years ago. It’s making inroads into iPad’s territory, but unlike the iPhone, the iPad doesn’t replace a necessary item with a better one, it is a new device (ignoring the forgotten predecessors) that people have to be convinced is worth their time. And convincing people to buy a device they hadn’t ever needed before is what Steve Jobs did like no one else.

    Androids fragmentation means that your limited-use device doesn’t have to subsidize my high-end device, and my high-end device doesn’t have corners cut to make the cost work for your limited use. “One size fits all” is fine for raincoats you throw on when you have to run through the rain, but not so good for pants you wear every day.

    The “Play” brand is inherently doomed. I already don’t want “Play” displayed prominently on a phone I use for business purposes, and the place you get your initial sales with these devices is the business sector. Branding it “Play” makes the business sector think it’s designed for the preschool market, and will drive them straight to iPad and might give the dismal joke known as Windows 8 a sliver of a chance.

    • This is not about phones.

      ________________________________

      • dshan

        It has to become about phones sooner or later. By rebranding Android 5.0 as PlayOS, taking it closed source with a curated app store, etc. and bundling it with Moto-made Play-branded tablets Google can only get so far. They walk away from Android, not updating it anymore, Samsung faff around with it, eventually give up and go Windows Phone, Canonical setup their own Ubuntu Android project and so forth. All of which only makes the phone situation worse, even more fragmented and unusable.

        Google can’t just ignore phones, they have to offer PlayOS for phones at some point, presumably they do a line of Play phones by Moto, maybe they license PlayOS to others as with Windows Phone (though I doubt many manufacturers and networks would be interested after Google have screwed them over by abandoning Android).

        So what we could end up with is a tablet market consisting of Apple, Amazon and Google and a phone market consisting of Apple and Microsoft. I’m not sure that’s going to help Google much.

      •  You are so right.  Google attracted people because of the (simple) user experience.  The same held/holds for Apple.  When will the OEMs and Android market, including the carriers understand this?  People are comforted by the consistency of the Apple experience across all the platforms.  OEMs have to stop thinking devices, carriers stop thinking networks and google stop thinking search (it’s information management!).  Ideally Android is a platform that let’s me take my computing/communicating experience from one device to another; and I will have many:  handheld for work, play, travel and going out; tablet for reading and leisure; ultrabook for heavier processing.  So that’s 6 devices right there, not including interacting with a plethora of semi-smart flat screens and home  boxes/devices.

  19. Leon

    What evidence is there that “Google wants to create a phenomenal end-to-end user experience…”? Or that Android users value that very highly?

    It seems to me that Android phone/tablet users fall almost completely into two groups:
    1) People who want a lot of control over the OS and actually like fiddling with it.
    2) People who bought the device based SOLELY on price.

    The “user experience” folks are already using iOS… or soon will be.

    Google would be better off employing the Amazon model

    • aardman

      In your category of Android users, #1 is a niche market, #2 is a thin-profit market.  I doubt if those are the markets Google set out to capture when they started Android.

    • And the Amazon model is, what?

      The amazon model is to create a phenomenal end-to-end experience around media acquisition and consumption centered on reading. Amazon has defined a clear brand for that experience, Kindle.
      If you believe google should follow amazons lead then you are reinforcing my argument.
      Please go read my experience post.
      ________________________________

    • orthorim

      3) People who don’t buy an iOS device for one reason or another. I think the 5M Samsung Note customers fall in that category (although not sure if Samsung actually sold those notes, or just shipped them to resellers… probably the latter).

      I think the VAST majority of Android handsets are cheap devices that people mostly use as modern phone rather than actual smart phone. They’ll use email and the web browser, but they won’t go to the app store and look for apps… 

      Here in Asia phones are unsubsidized. iPhone costs around $600; Android phones start at $150… even the most expensive Android phones are cheaper than an iPhone 4S – that seems to be the magic ceiling. Forget about selling an Android phone that costs more than an iPhone – might as well try selling a piece of lead.

      In the USA, carriers are (or were) pushing Android phones – higher profits. In Asia it’s the same thing – most of the hundreds of independent shops can’t get an iPhone cheaper than market price; so they’re not selling them. Instead they sell Androids in all shapes and prices…

  20. Fragmentation will hurt most when a developer decides it’s easier to build a Windows Phone + Windows 8 app than an Android phone + tablet app due to the stability and willingness for each OS vendor to invest in their respective platform. And I don’t see Google putting in real time and energy to get there.

  21. Soo… in order to compete with Apple, they have to become LIKE Apple in all the ways that make people hate Apple?

    • aardman

      A lot of people already hate Google, they might as well make Apple-like money if they’re going to receive Apple-like hate.

      Although there are a lot more people who like Apple than hate Apple.

    • Chris

      They’re thinking different.

    • capnbob67

      The people who hate Apple on tech blogs are a market irrelevance. They are such a small slice of the market, their opinions are worthless. The majority of the market either buy Apple or wish they could buy Apple since they have no interest in the tech or the open philosophy. android sales are massively propelled by cheap and underutilized devices. The superphone category that interests nerds here is dominated by Apple in both volume, revenue and profit. Samsung doesn’t release sales stats because it would reveal that most of its sales are Aces and Minis not GS2s or GNex’s. Every company wishes it was Apple since they financially dominate their industries like almost no company before it.

    • Zantage

      Apple has a business model that works, but they didn’t originate it: innovate, control, improve. Rinse and repeat. Google was unable or unwilling to “control”, and “innovate” and “improve” doesn’t work for very long without it. (Microsoft used to have the same model, but they now just “control” and “improve” and that doesn’t work forever, either.)

  22. aardman

    Yes Google has lost control of Android. In fact if they did their homework when they were still thinking about making Android free and open, they would have realized that Android will either be an anarchic mess or it will be controlled, if at all, not by them (Google) but by the dominant Android device manufacturer, which more and more seems to be Samsung.

    So now Google wants to pull a Zune to Android’s Plays For Sure.  The problem with that is just because they launch their own exclusive brand, it doesn’t mean that people will buy it.  It’s not as if Google Play shows up and Android then goes away.  Samsung will have something to say about that, and Samsung will probably fork their own version of Android, run with that and leave a very low price umbrella for Google Play.  Unlike Plays For Sure when MS abandoned it, Google’s abandonment of Android will not kill it because Google in its shortsighted wisdom, made it free and open.

    ‘Open’ caused IBM to lose control of the PC market to MS. ‘Free and open’ ensured that Linux will never succeed as a desktop OS. You’d think Google would have the sense to look at these two very prominent cases when they were hatching Android.

    BTW, I don’t hear much talk about Samsung’s Bada anymore.  I think they lost interest in it when realized that they’re on the verge of scooping up control of Android.

    • I love the “pull a Zune” part. LOL, I wish I had thought of that. But you are too focused on Android as a technology v as a brand in your points, I think.
      -cek
      Sent from my Windows Phone. Expect brevity & dangerous driving. ________________________________

      • aardman

        Thanks for the kudos.  Actually I am not as focused on the technology aspect as I am on the strategic competition aspects i.e. how companies gain and lose dominance in a particular market or industry.

    • orthorim

      Pretty sure Samsung is still working on Bada. I also think Samsung is delusional enough to think they can make software when in fact, they can’t’. But that doesn’t mean they can’t ride ICS for all it’s worth.

      Google is naive and inexperienced when it comes to platform strategy games. Apple hasn’t done anything else for 30 years…even though they lost the first platform war, they never stopped building platforms and with iOS it looks like they have come back with a vengeance.

  23. jeff3yan

    Should be an interesting tablet war ahead. Will Google price their tablets cheap enough and still make enough profit? Will Apple leverage their economies of scale and take the lions share of the profits?

    Whoever does well I don’t care :D but $GOOG and $AAPL seem like decent bets right now.

  24. I have a fundamental problem with this hypothesis, although I will grant you that taking control of the platform is the most efficient way for Google to make the products it wants to make.

    Google’s entry into mobile was predicated on getting devices into users’ hands and pulling revenue from mobile ads. The “getting the devices into users’ hands” part was wildly successful. If they “abandon” Android, OEMs will need to turn to other platforms and Google’s Android market share will plummet. Putting all the eggs into the Play basket – in the way that will allow them total control of the brand – will limit them to one manufacturer (Motorola). I know it’s en vogue to talk about how little Google makes with Android, but I think “ditching” the platform is recency-dictated short-sightedness. Android was a platform designed to put mobile eyeballs on ads; limiting the volume limits the eyeballs. 

    For this Play strategy to be successful as you outline it, IMO, Google needs to develop its Play brand stride-for-stride with Android.

    • You clearly get it.

      Time will tell, but my belief is that being more focused will have a higher chance of succeeding than supporting two brands. And I don’t assume the leadership at google is stupid; I’m betting they will do the smart thing and focus.

      ________________________________

    • aardman

      But despite all the Android devices that they have seeded in the landscape, Google gets most of its mobile ad revenues from iOS devices!  And it’s pretty lopsided, something like 80% I think.  So something isn’t working right. Google is spending tons of money developing and maintaining Android and the returns are mostly going to Samsung.  Google is reaching the point of “this can’t go on forever!” and that’s understandable –no business survives for long giving valuable stuff away for free.

    • Seran89

      If Google abandoned Android, the OEMs would continue to do what they do now: ship their phones with an OS that is 2-3 years old, slap a layer of junky fluff on top of it, bundle a set of crapware and off to the warehouse. Their value proposition centers around price and hardware specs, anyway.

      • Yep, seran89 nailed it. It’s really important to recognize that the model Google has created means the OEMs do not need Google (or at least they think they don’t need Google).

  25. albsure

    For me, it all boils down to the fact that all these companies with their “fancy” business models have to actually make money at some point in time. I’m so tired of hearing the  “potential”, or the “number of users” or the “market share” argument for all these companies as if it is proof of them winning. The reality is, in the long the run the only ones that are winning are the companies who are selling something for way more than it cost to make. It is that simple.

    Android could survive fragmentation, it could survive poor user experience, it could survive all sorts of rubbish if it was actually making money for the people who put their time and effort into it (i.e. Google). Clearly its not. It might be making money for Samsung, or HTC or  MS, but its not for Google. So in reality, like all business ventures that dont perform, it will be cut loose. 

    People have often said to me that I worry about the profitability of companies as if I owned them. As if its doesn’t matter who’s making the money. I counter that with the fact that the only thing that guarantees that any one can keep doing what they love is if they can afford to. Apple can afford to make things their way, so can Samsung etc.. It is important that the company that makes the products you like to use, profits from these products otherwise you will not be able to use these products any more.

    So for all those that think Google is some benevolent charity giving their time and money for the “internet cause” .. wake up! They bleed just like everyone else..

    • aardman

      With all the different products and services that Google has ventured into, search is still the only one that makes them any real money.

      I suppose, when you don’t like to spend time, money, and effort to offer real customer service, there are only so many people who will use your product, even if it’s free.  Especially if you are in an industry that is famous for product complexity.

  26. Guest

    Google should buy RIM.  
    1) Google could drive Play to the consumer market.  
    2) Then re-brand BB Playbook for the enterprise market.

  27. mhikl

    Everyone likes a good circus. There are animals, rides, feasts for the eyes and mouth, but the freak shows are the best part. If Apple is the feast and Google the Animal then the Android freaks will be the fun ones to watch with wonder and horror. I suspect MS could take many for a good ride. I wouldn’t fight to be first in that line though.

  28. Zantage

    There is absolutely no way that Google is going to call their tablet the “Google Play.” The connotation of “play” is incompatible with purchases by critical market segments such as government, education, and business.

    • That didn’t stop RIM form calling their’s the PlayBook

    • Google already has a hardware brand for government/education/business markets: Chromebooks. Manageability is the big selling point, and from what I can tell, they’re doing a decent job getting Chromebooks in schools already. 

      (I’m not sure about gov’t/biz contracts, but getting corporate IT buy-in is a longer-term play anyway. Eventually someone will notice how much cheaper it is to support a Chrome-only device instead of Windows. It’s essentially disposable computing — Did something go wrong? Here, grab another one off the TP roll.)

  29. Siflan

    This is goin’ to be one turn of events.  Will Google be the new Microsoft?

  30. Andriba

    So, if “Play” is the new brand for devices, are the apps, videos, books, music etc. going to become the “Playload”?

  31. I’ll one-up you in the prediction department: The Google Play tablet won’t run Android at all.

    Take a look at the Chrome SVN logs. Google’s been putting huge resources into touch support for ChromeOS. Chrome’s getting a new window manager called Aura. NativeClient lets desktop-quality apps run inside the browser. The Chrome Web Store has better quality control than Android Market ever did.

    Add to that the hardware requirements to run Android well on a tablet, and it makes sense that Google would have its own branded tablet run ChromeOS instead. At that point, the Chrome Web Store gets rolled into Google Play and will be *more* prominent than Android apps.

    Google wants to compete with the Kindle Fire — but there’s no way to get decent performance out of Android at the $200 price point. Building a ChromeOS tablet would make it possible.

    • Excellent sleuthing Aaron. I think it’s pretty unlikely you are right, but it sure would be a bold move, and I do believe Google wants to do something bold.

      • I think it really comes down to whether Google thinks ChromeOS is mature enough to go toe-to-toe with iOS and Amazon. Android always felt like a stop-gap and not terribly “Googly” in terms of Google’s vision for the future of the internet. The rushed/botched launch of Honeycomb may have guaranteed Android’s failure in the tablet market.

        Add to that the fragmentation (made infinitely worse by Kindle Fire), Market quality control problems, carriers/manufacturers refusing to push bugfixes/updates, and the absolutely AWFUL state of Android tablet apps, and it’s pretty clear Google’s done with the Android brand, and possibly the platform altogether. (At least for tablets. I’m sure it will live on for phones for several more cycles.)

        I may be a bit early in predicting a ChromeOS tablet, but you’re spot on in recognizing the imminent demise of the Android brand.

        • Larry Hawes

           I completely agree that Google is building up and positioning Chrome as the branded ecosystem/experience that they control. One that is more palatable to the enterprise buyer. Play will be Google’s consumer brand, with Android continuing as an important technology, but disappearing as a brand (for Google).

          We could very likely see two lines of offerings (tablets, phones, apps market) from Google in the future. A consumer-grade, lower-priced Play line and an enterprise-ready, premium-priced one branded Chrome. The latter will also include laptops and desktops (as it does now with Chromebooks and Chromeboxs.)

    • fishman


      but there’s no way to get decent performance out of Android at the $200 price point.”

      Well you really screwed up on that prediction!!! $199 for a quad core tablet running the latest Jelly Bean OS. Read some Nexus7 reviews and you’ll get the picture. General consensus is that it’s moved Android up to the same level of UI performance as iOS.

      I can also personally vouch for JellyBean – I’m running it on my Nexus, and even on a dated OMAP4 cpu, it’s running like a dream :-)

      • Yep. I really didn’t think Google would find a way to make a Tegra 3 tablet for $200, even if they’re selling it at cost or as a loss leader.

        That said, the Nexus 7 is NOT branded as an Android tablet, and the first home screen widget is a full-screen Google Play bookshelf. And Chrome is the default browser, of course.

        So I think I get partial credit for predicting the direction Google was going, if not the right OS.

        I’m still curious when we’ll see a ChromeOS tablet. The Dev channel has a High DPI option, but it’s listed as a ChromeOS flag, not an OS X flag. So someone out there is running ChromeOS on HDPI devices.

  32. Lucky for me my that I decided logging into Disqus on my Android phone was too much of a hassle when I read this article a couple of days ago. I definitely thought you were way off track and was going to tell you so. I thought the Nexus brand was what they were going to go with.

    But today I noticed the following toolbar pop up on my Google Voice page. Now I’m just impressed.

    (If the image is blurry you can view it at http://bit.ly/HfvnQl).

  33. google has been known for bring great applications. Hope that they will bring new greater heights in tablet entertainment.

  34. wnemay

    Google did not just spend $12 billion on Motorola to let Android die…

  35. Iliamuriente

    Excellent discussion here. As a consumer I pay “roughly” $100 per month on a 2 yr contract where I am pretty much forced to use my device longer than I wish. Has any of these companies ever considered offering a new devise (when I want it) instead of paying a carrier for connection service and outdated technology. When carriers are no longer necessary I will gladly pay for the newest and best technology out there for the $1,200 yearly “investment” or “expense”, however you may view the Product’s value.

    • orthorim

      This has nothing to do with devices, and everything with the hopelessly dysfunctional carrier market in the USA.

      Here in Asia, I paid full price for my iPhone 4 ($650) and $20/month for 300 minutes/200 sms/unlimited data on 3G, and tethering. With no contract obligations. If another carrier offers a much better deal I can dump this one tomorrow and switch over. New SIM card and that’s it.

      For those too lazy to do the math that’s just over $1000 over a 24 month period. Plus I own the phone and can pop in any SIM card I like which is nice on international travels.

      The whole subsidy model is a scam…

  36. Google play means that Google wants to distance itself from Android as a brand – it doesn’t mean that Google wants to kill Android as an OS.

    In the worst case scenario (for Android), Google will just rename the whole OS and forces manufacturers to use the new name.

    Am I the only one who thinks that they could have come up with a name better than “Google Play?”

  37. orthorim

    Yesterday, I’d have said hahaha, yeah right. 

    Today I read that Samsung is creating its own ad platform which it will run (presumably) on all Samsung phones. Cutting out Google. Lost control of platform? Check.

  38. VoiceofReason2012

    Thank GOD–Microsoft Did one thing and hired  Thom Gruhler–at least he’ll put a stop to this “Fragmentation” FUD nonsense. The only people that understand what that could POSSIBLY mean in their Handset experience are the “geeks”–that have already adopted Android. 

    Further more, I find it highly disingenuous for a former 27-Year Veteran of Microsoft, who oversaw a $200MM spend on Advertising Windows phone, and the Handset failed to even hit 2% penetration (1.7% is the actual number). 

    Further more, the biggest problem Microsoft has is NO ONE CARES, nor has to about MSFT anymore. Once again, I’ll explain to you. BY DEFINITION Android is a platform that is supposed to be *CUSTOM* to the Handset Device Manuf./Carrier. ABSOLUTELY THE BEST arrangement both can have. What Carrier would not want to work with a device Manuf and have it PRECISELY designed for it’s network and what it wants for it’s user experience (the inevitable “bloatware”–they all install). 

    Guess your “Middle Finger” analogy—really won over Device Manufacturers./Carriers Huh? 

    Walk into your local Best Buy—I literally counted 84 phones. People were in the  way, etc, could not count all . So let’s assume a nice even 100 were on display. 

    They had *MORE BLACKBERRY* phones on Display than they did Microsoft phones.  And, if that were not enough, I asked if they carried the Windows Phone. He asked ‘Which Carrier”–said I have not decided yet. We just happened to be where the Windows Phone was (surrounded by 92 Android Phones). He said “This is Verizon and the AT&T is around here somewhere” and walked off. 

    And if that were not enough. The Windows Phone (working display)–looks like it was placed on the floor as an after thought. I’m a smart guy. I have a 132 I.Q. I have my Master’s in I.T. I’ll give MSFT the benefit of the doubt. However, the phone simply did not work. I tried pushing for Pictures…nothing, I tried other blocks…Nothing 

    And finally, are you really serious that a * Feature* is the fact you cannot customize your Windows Phone desktop? I have * Five* desktops I can use at the simple touch screen management. 

    You honestly think a C.E.O./C.I.O/C.F.O—any “C”–would want a shortcut to a * CAMERA* application on their desktop?  And, you know as well as I do, the day the person gets their Android, they’ll simply hand it to their Personal Assistant and say Please set up the desktops as follows….and the assistant will do it. 
    A 5-year old Child can use an Android/.IPhone/IPad. I * GUARANTEE* you’ll never see YouTube video’s of their children playing with a Windows Phone. (well, unless the MSFT STOOGE you placed at the helm of Nokia—the only Device Manuf. That would work with MSFT after MSFT bought them off, puts one up. (or maybe the few 100–Indian App Developers MSFT hired to populate the 40,000 or so apps in the Market. 

    Hate to break it to you Charlie–but the Days of Microsoft Dominance *ARE LONG GONE* A Dinosaur of the 20th century. There is a reason over 850,000 *NEW ACTIVATION’S A DAY* occur on Android and over 200-MILLION Android Handsets are out there. How many was the last number MSFT had? 10,000 a day? No one camped out to buy a Windows Phone (despite windows “OWNING” the Consumer Market Desktop—that should tell you a WHOLE LOT—it’s not 1995 anymore Kindel—–

    Oh, and regards to your “tried linux can’t do it’—Seems as through the company MSFT holds a minority stake in–Facebook *ONLY* codes on Linux and *ONLY* Runs *NON MICROSOFT SOFTWARE*–ie. world’s largest Deployment of MySQL—-very telling analogy.

    • Walt French

      But please be reasonable, Mrs. Lincoln. Other than THAT?

      Heh, quite a post. But how is it that the belief that Android is at risk of disintegration says much of anything about how well-thought-out the MS strategy is? Isn’t it [quite, IMO] possible that both Samsung will take the Android ball and run away with it, and Microsoft will continue to look kinda clueless?

  39. VoiceofReason2012

    Last but not least, I know Microsoft is *ADAMANTLY* against “Open Source” software.

    Ballmer, couldn’t even see the”threat’ IOS/IPhone and Android where creating beach heads on. It’s on you tube somewhere. Ballmer was asked (about the first roll out of IPhone)—his essential response was are you kidding me? Who’s gonna pay the highest cost *EVER* for a Mobile Handset Guess it didn’t see that coming when 10’s of Thousands of people all over the country CAMPED OUT to buy the phone. Then, when Ballmer asked “What about Android”—he essentially scoffed and said we have no fear of a FREE OS, that’s barely developed. Again, didn’t see the tea leaves 

    What “apologies” do you have that the revenue Microsoft received from “The Phone” silo consist more of Threatening Patent litigation (Patent Trolling)–vs. actual sell through of the phone…and you are PROUD of this accomplishment??? This “Legacy” you left with MSFT?. 

    Maybe you Bill, Ballmer should sit in a room and try to comprehend the Linux model. How many “distros” what 100 of that “Brand” of Distros are out there. There’s no such thing as “Fragmentation” in an OPEN AND FREE WORLD of experience!. 

    My 20-year prediction, Microsoft will become the “X-Box” type Gaming Publisher
    They’ve lost the Web Search Game
    Lost the rip off MP3 player game(will lose the Phone Game)
    Probably see some slippage in DB–as Facebook posts more and more of it’s schema MYSQL deployment.(already proven MYSQL is a WORK HORSE of a DB—SQL Server could *NEVER* handle a Trillion Page Views/Transactions a day. Will lose the Cloud GameThe only Product stack pretty much anyone has any respect for with Windows, is the Gaming (Last I read a MSFT 10-Q–think they said they lose money on ever XBOX sold).  

  40. Android is a great OS. Why abandon a great os that even apple cant even follow and focous on things that they could control? So what if manufacturers put in custom UIs onboard their devices. Does this mean that Android is meeting it’s end? I do not hope so.

  41. lol, what a funny post… Apple may be popular today but it wasn’t always, the mighty can always fall, and just ask nokia or RIM., or Microsoft… arrogance and blinders won’t help you predict the future.

  42. Hacker For Hire

    Speaking of fragmentation, how are those low end Windows Phones doing in China and what’s your excuse going to be when WP 8 isn’t compatible with the current generation of WP 7 phones?  It’s going to be fun watching all of those Windows Phone fanboys choke on that.

    • fishman

      Yeah, MS really shafted all the WP7 early adopters, and the current Lumia phones (and all other WP7) devices are now dead in the water until WP8 comes out. Way to go MS.

      Given what I’ve seen of the Nexus7 now its been announced and reviewed, it seems that a large chunk of this article has been proved wrong. What they’ve shown is that they’ve recognised that services and content are as (and possibly more) important than OS at least in the tablet space – Play is their way of addressing this, and Nexus7 is a tablet device to leverage/promote this. JB also shows they’ve finally recognised that UI performance experience for the user is paramount for all devices.

      Looks like the Nexus line is here to stay for a while….

  43. pete

    OK so I am sorry but it is very clear that next to nothing of what you are saying is reliable.. Google is changing android to mold to a more current market and currently own just shy of 70% of the worlds smart phone industry apposed to apples 17 percent. They have no Watson to abandon it especially considering their launch of project butter, fragmenting being a part of that. In fact, fragments make development much easier and more professional applications are being released as a result. In fact its us in the gmail application and drive as well as every other google mobile product including aspects of the android os as well. I don’t know why you would make claims like these but you should really do more homework on the matter. Android isnt being abandoned, that’s absolutely absurs

  44. I have been convinced for some time now that Android is not a brand. Ask a non-Apple smartphone user whose phone they use and you’ll hear the handset maker and the carrier before you hear Android. And don’t ask what release of the OS they don’t know about.

    No, it’s Apple vs not-Apple. A new brand and their own hardware is essential for Google to make this work for consumers and developers alike.

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