Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal reported that Andy Rubin viewed Android’s most successful partner, Samsung, as a potential threat. Why?: Samsung could grow so popular with consumers, that it could eventually re-write Android’s code in an entirely customized way, and stop calling it Android altogether. The report said Rubin told a room full of Google executives that Google-owned phone-maker Motorola was a hedge against Samsung growing too powerful. Rubin’s comments indicated a view of Android as something to preserve and protect. Our source believes that Larry Page isn’t nearly so worried about Android itself. This source says that Page views it as a means to an end. He says Page views Google as “a cloud services company,” built on cornerstone products like Search, Maps, Mail, and YouTube. He says Page views Android as a way for Google to partner with hardware-makers to make these services more available to consumers. As a side benefit, Android has made it so that the world of smartphones is not dominated by a single player: Apple.
For all of Google’s obfuscations, at the end of the day they are a very simple company with a very simple maxim:
The more people use the web, the more money Google makes. And if they’re logged in, all the better.
If one keeps this in mind, and doesn’t view them through an Apple lens, then everything about Android makes perfect sense:
- The original vision of Android, which remember, predated the iPhone, was certainly to get people online in more places and on more devices. I imagine it was more of a side project at that point, but what a prescient investment it was.
- Google rightly viewed the iPhone as a serious threat. Having endured Microsoft’s domination of the desktop, Google more than anything wanted to avoid a repeat in mobile. And so they threw in what was for all intents and purposes an uncontrollable monster to eat the entire industry. This was not an accident! Would Google have preferred to lead the way with a unified, consistent operating system that brought the phone online? Sure, but once Apple was on the scene, it was better for Google if no one dominated, rather than to take their chances with Apple. Again, prescient.
- Chrome OS has always been a priority. Having Android doesn’t change that. And why should it? If the goal is to get people online in as friction free away as possible, then device specific OS’s make a ton of sense. Critics who insisted they “focus,” whereby focus they mean imitate Apple, are viewing Google through the wrong lens
I am no Google lover. I am a longtime Mac user who jumped on iOS from the very beginning; I was at Apple when Google really became the villain; and now I work for Microsoft. Moreover, I find their hypocritical grandstanding repugnant.
But I have been very guilty of allowing my irritation and disgust with said hypocrisy to cloud my judgment and appreciation of what they are doing.
Over the last couple of months, I have managed to look at things from a new perspective, and what I am left with is deep admiration for some brilliant strategy and execution.2 Google knows exactly what they are doing, and the sooner the rest of the industry takes them very, very seriously as a major competitor and threat, and not as a good-intentioned kid who is a little in over his head, the better.
- Veering dangerously close to too-much-information territory here, but I’m actually in the hospital, most likely with appendicitis. I wrote this entire post using Siri in between IVs, a pretty intense pain killer, and peeing in a jug. First off, please forgive any incoherence. Second off, I just LOVE tech. Seriously, it’s awesome and I feel so privileged to live in such amazing times. Oh, and updates may be a bit sparse for a day or two… ↩
- A significant factor in my rethink was getting a Chromebook; first the $250 one, then a Pixel. I love it. Yeah, shocks me too. I’ll be writing a lot about that one. ↩