Is Google ready to give up on Android and make the Chrome platform its new priority? That’s the question posed by AppleInsider’s Daniel Eran Dilger in a new report that suggests the search giant is looking to distance itself from the world’s biggest mobile operating system and all of the intellectual property issues that come with it.
But I wouldn’t worry too much if I were you. Android’s not going anywhere.
“While Android has been widely deployed on smartphones globally and is almost universally considered a tremendous success, the platform and its close association with its namesake Rubin, who was himself nicknamed “Android” while working at Apple in the early 1990s, has inflicted more liability and expense on Google than it has strategic opportunity, revenues or profits,” Dilger writes.
“Evidence from multiple sources, including the design decisions behind Google’s latest Chromecast product, support the idea that the company now sees more future potential and interest in investing in Chrome OS than in continuing to support Rubin’s Android and defending the platform from ongoing intellectual property disputes, even if the company has no interest in publicizing those intentions.”
Android may have had its fair share of intellectual property disputes, but that’s what happens when you become a giant — your competitors will do what they can to take you down. So even if Google did drop Android and focus its efforts on Chrome, there will be plenty of rivals out there who will be prepared to fight it in court when it starts getting too big.
And Google has proven that it can handle those battles. It has fought Apple, Microsoft, Oracle, BT and other major corporations — and Android is still going strong. It hasn’t been derailed by these legal tiffs, and it’s highly unlikely it’ll be derailed by others.
The idea of Google dropping the world’s biggest mobile platform to avoid a few lawsuits, then, is ludicrous.
According to the latest figures from Kantar Worldpanel, Android powers over 70% of the world’s smartphones and tablets. It’s also used to power notebooks, smartwatches, set-top boxes, and more. What’s more, Android’s Google Play marketplace is now bigger than any other, with more than 1 million apps and over 50 billion downloads to date.
Google can’t just ignore that and turn its back on one of its most successful products.
Android may not be a massive money maker, but it’s good for other things, too. For example, how many Android apps have you downloaded that are filled with Google’s ad banners? How many Google services — such as Gmail, Google Drive, Google Docs, and Google Music — have you adopted as a result of owning an Android smartphone or tablet?
But Dilger believes that the first sign of Google’s intent to move away from Android is evident in its new Chromecast. He notes that the device’s OS is closer to Android than Chrome, with most of its code taken from Google TV. Yet it has been associated with Chrome instead.
That’s not evidence of Google turning its back on Android. Even if the company has shunned Andy Rubin’s prototype Android TV product, it does not mean it’s planning to shun the entire Android OS.
The Chromecast name makes sense for a number of reasons. If Google uses Android in its name, for example, or tells us it’s powered by Android, most people will immediately think it’s capable of doing everything Android can do, such as running apps.
But it can’t. That’s why the Chromecast hasn’t been too closely associated with Android — not because Android’s going to be going down the pan in the near future.
Dilger goes on to list “major problems for Android” since 2009, such as its involvement in the Apple vs. Samsung lawsuits, and the friction it has created between Apple and Google. He also notes that Google renamed the Android Marketplace Google Play (though there are obvious reasons for that).
But Google’s acquisition of Motorola and the efforts it has been making with its Nexus products are proof that Google is right behind the Android platform.
The original Nexus 7 was the most popular Android tablet of 2012, and the new Nexus 7 is even better, so it’ll likely be the most popular Android tablet of 2013, too. Google also launched a larger 10-inch Nexus 10 last year, and produced the Nexus 4, a smartphone that sold so quickly the company simply couldn’t produce them fast enough.
Sure, those sales may not compare to the iPhone or the iPad, but they are proof that demand for Google’s devices is growing — not just because they’re the cheapest, but also because they offer good hardware and great design. And the Nexus 4 and the Nexus 10 will surely get successors later this year.
Google will also be launching new Motorola handsets this year, like the Moto X, which will also be powered by Android.
“Google is certain to reaffirm its commitments to Android whenever necessary, but the writing on the wall appears very clear: Android’s days appear to be numbered at Google,” Dilger concludes.