The great platform war has now shifted. Once it was a constant battle between Microsoft’s Windows and Apple’s OS X, but with the rise in smartphones, it’s become a three-way split between those two mammoths of technology, and the search engine giant Google.
However, it seems like a truce is being formed between Microsoft and Apple, purely for the purpose of sinking the good ship Android by filling them with lawsuits. The very unique selling point of Android – its open source nature – might end up being its downfall as hardware makers are forced to pay up.
Android is Everywhere
Google has became the clear leader in the smartphone world, with Android significantly overtaking other rival platforms such as iOS and Windows Phone 7. In my own immediate family, the four smartphones used between myself, my parents and my sister consist of two that are powered by Google’s operating system. Like Windows, Android is available on a number of handsets produced by different manufacturers without the severe limits imposed by rival platforms.
Apple loves control. If you want iOS, you buy an iPhone. If you want OS X, you buy a Mac. This allows Apple to tightly control the success of their business because they have ultimate power over how their software is being used. However, on Google’s side, the hardware makers have a significant investment in the final product. This might mean you get a cheaper phone, or one that’s got the specifications you want, but it also means that, due to the diverse nature of the handsets, there’s many more opportunities for Google’s business to be damaged because they are reliant on these manufacturers. If the sales of a major player’s phones are dropped, Google loses money.
That’s because Google opted for a business model that profits from app sales, not phone sales, meaning a sizeable portion of their business was handed to a third-party. The very nature of Android’s success could damage Google’s business.
The tangled web of mobile lawsuits.
Apple, Microsoft and RIM Unite!
Apple is currently suing HTC, Samsung and Motorola. Microsoft sued Motorola. RIM sued Sharp. The connection between all these cases is the investment in Android each defendant has and the importance to Google’s financial success each one holds.
If the plaintiffs of each case forces the defendants to pay licensing fees for their products, the handset makers have a less profitable device on their hands. This kicks off the inevitable chain of events where the handset maker has less profit, meaning they end up with less phones and Google ends up with fewer new users buying apps and clicking ads.
The Scissors Are in the Wrong Hands
Microsoft, RIM, Apple and other patent holders now have the scissors to cut the tie between hardware and software. By killing off hardware makers, Google’s rivals succeed in losing Google customers, meaning the Android business loses money. Google has certainly taken a very big risk in betting its future with Android on a handful of third-party partners, but that is, unfortunately, one of their biggest selling points.
Patents are the bullets in the gun that will kill Android.
It’s really interesting to look at Google’s business model for Android. It’s very similar to what Sony did with the PS3, in that they made a loss on the hardware sale, but regained it back through Blu-Ray. Likewise, Google is very reliant on ads and apps. However, unlike Sony, Google is offsetting control of the hardware to others that take on liability. If they don’t have users using Android, they don’t have anyone buying apps or clicking on ads. It’ll be interesting to see how this turns out.