Andy Rubin’s new job description includes policing. Google has decided that enough is enough and Android is getting out of hand and it needs to control it. Google is signing up ‘non-fragmentation clauses’ with all major manufacturers and Andy Rubin has to sign on any changes or customizations the manufacturers try to do.
What does this mean to the manufacturers like HTC and Motorola?
There will no MotoBlur or HTC Sense on the devices sold. The consumers will get what Google is putting in the Android code. There could be deviations and exceptions but for the most part this is the case. This would also mean that manufacturers cannot differentiate yet they have to compete. An HTC Android phone and a Motorola Android phone would look the same to the consumer if the hardware specs are the same.
Differentiating has been the biggest worry. It’s not as if these manufacturers had better options. Choosing Android as the OS was a decision which had freed them from royalties and are getting a world class operating system for free. The cost of developing entirely new operating system would be the last option on everyone’s mind. Even if they did, no one can replenish the apps to go with it. So manufacturers are out of options. They either differentiate in price or bring phones with better hardware faster to the market. But not all. Samsung which has quietly gained market share with its Bada OS will see this as an opportunity to sneak in more of its Bada phones.
Worry for Apple
Apple’s biggest edge over Android has been its tight control on the app store. Google has been missing that ever since it launched as Android was open source. Google which watched the million mutinies in the Android world silently for the past two years and decided that Apple’s strategy isn’t that bad at all. Apple at any time, will have only two mobile operating systems. One that’s on the phone and the one that can be upgraded to. Android is a completely different story. Many vendors in India still sell phones running 1.5 or 1.6. The latest software version of Android is 2.3. Phones sold by Google have this distinct advantage. When there is a new Android version they will be the first ones to get it. Would this be stifling creativity of the manufacturers? Could be. But do we have a better idea to stop the fragmentation?
Consumers who have phones from manufacturers like HTC and Motorola are at the mercy of the respective vendors to come up with the upgrade patch. With Google stepping in, that will change. It might take a while to get there but Android too will have only two operating systems in the offering.
With the fragmentation gone, What would Apple’s defense now be against the usurping Android?
What does it mean to the consumers?
Now you no longer have to worry about the OS version or app compatibility. You can go to the market place download an app and be cool with it. You also don’t have to worry about the OS upgrade. It could happen seamlessly. You know just like Apple folks are used to. Geeks have many ways to figure it out. For the rest of the mankind with Android phones, this little help from Google might make them feel like they are actually holding a smartphone. Many manufacturers which are selling Android phones in the Indian market are selling outdated phones. That might soon change.
Google still has one more battle to win. The litter called app stores.