Android - The critically important Google product
I follow Mike Elgan on Google+, he is very active and often has something interesting to say. He recently published a post called Here comes Apple’s real thermonuclear war against Google. Please take the time to read it, to summarise he says that Apple's real move won't be these law suits against Android device manufacturers but instead will be a divorce of Apple from Google services such as search and maps.
A mobile future
First let's get some context. There is a big, big world out there. Likely around seven billion people if the statistics are to be believed. Only 2 billion of us are online and it's highly skewed. North America, Europe and Australasia having around 65-70% population with internet access. Compare that to 10% and 20% for Africa and Asia respectively, we know where future growth will be. As we welcome this remaining 70% of the world population to the internet it will likely be through the screen of a mobile device. The cost of rolling out 3G or 4G is much smaller than creating a wired telecommunications infrastructure. And of course in the developed world we already are witnessing the mobile revolution.
Google predicted the mobile future
Google knew this mobile future was on the horizon and we see evidence for this in many places. Eric Schmidt's 'mobile-first' Google strategy was a clear sign the company was targeting mobile services. Let's rewind to September when Dieter Bohn reported on some of the files surfaced by the Oracle vs Google case. In particular this gem, an email from Andy Rubin:
"It is widely believed by that if an open platform is not introduced in the next few years then Microsoft will own the programmable handset platform: Palm is dying, RIM is a one-trick pony, and while Symbian is growing market share, it's becoming a Nokia only solution."
Rubin wrote this in 2005. Google had bought Android and the iPhone wasn't released until June 2007. So it's clear that Android wasn't a knee-jerk reaction to iPhone/iOS, it was being developed years before the iPhone, likely development started around the same time for these two platforms.
An Android critical future
It's easy to question why Android was even developed. Google doesn't sell devices unlike Apple, they open-source their OS and don't licence it unlike Microsoft, making money off selling content isn't a huge concern unlike Amazon. In this feared Microsoft dominated future how would Google implement its mobile-first policy? By default a Windows Mobile/Phone device would use Microsoft's web services, Bing Search, Bing Maps and so on.
It's clear that Google needs Android to ensure there is a platform out there where its mobiles services are not ignored, and if possible given preference. Google makes money by selling adverts to compliment its web services. A business that would be ruined if it had no way of getting search, maps, gmail and so on out to the world on mobile screens.
Not a perfect crystal ball
So Google saw the future, but wrongly predicted Microsoft as the one to watch. Who knows, in the long term they might be right. Apple surprised us all with the iPhone and it has been a real catalyst for innovation in the mobile market. Steve Job's may have seen Android as a 'stolen' product, I think the sensible among us realise that's not the case. This post in-fact proves that not to be the case.
Whether Job's was right to set Apple thermonuclear against Android isn't the point of my posts, my purpose is to address Mike Elgan's careless comments.
"But then Google recklessly chose to attack Apple head-on with Android.
Google’s decision to compete head-on with Apple for multi-touch platforms ended the alliance."
I make the following counter argument. Android doesn't exist to compete with Apple or Microsoft in sales, it doesn't exist to annoy these companies either. Google didn't recklessly attack Apple. Apple's divorce with Google won't be as a result of Google developing Android - it's the opposite - Google's development of Android is to stop companies having this kind of control over its services.
I'm sorry Mike, I respect you and enjoy many of your posts. But if there is anything reckless here it's your badly informed article rather than Google's creation of Android.