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Android is Google’s Future [Opinion]

While most of us hate the litany of lawsuits that have become commonplace in the tech industry, one positive result has been revelations from emails, recorded transcripts, and testimonies that would have undoubtedly remained under wraps. Without the Skyhook lawsuit we wouldn’t have nearly as many details about the Android device approval process. Apple and Samsung’s lawsuit pressured Apple to reveal that despite Steve Jobs’ nuclear reaction to Android as a product, he was willing to offer a licensing deal to Samsung (probably because Samsung provides so many parts for Apple).

Like the legal battles that preceded it, the Google/Oracle lawsuit has revealed more details about both companies. For example, apparently Oracle considered entering the smartphone race by buying RIM or Palm. The more troubling revelation to come out of this lawsuit came from none other than Google’s CEO, Larry Page: “I believe Android was very important for Google. I wouldn’t say it was critical.”

Page was responding to the question of whether or not Android was critical to Google’s strategy in 2010. While Page might have a different response for Android’s importance in 2012, it’s hard to believe that Google’s CEO does not think Android was critical to Google’s success two years ago. By 2010 Android had become one of the dominant mobile operating systems on the market. Page certainly knew that having a successful mobile strategy is essential to controlling the future of the company, so why would he think that Android was not critical? In what world would Google’s future be secure without Android?

The idea that Android was not a critical asset to Google in 2010 raises the question of Android’s importance to Google in 2012. The implication is that Page believed Google could still be successful if Android wasn’t on the market. Obviously since 98% of Google’s revenues come from search advertisements, Google’s immediate financial future will be secure for some time. Google would have been able to remain profitable without Android on the market, but it wouldn’t be able to secure control of their products’ future in the mobile market without their own mobile operating system.

Earlier this month Page tried to soften the enmity between Google and Apple by claiming that Steve Jobs didn’t really hate Android and was only trying to rally Apple around a common enemy. Having read Jobs’ biography and his biographer’s response to Page’s claim, I have serious doubts about Page’s version of the story. This, coupled with his more recent statements, however, leads me to believe that Page is trying to downplay Android’s importance to Google’s future in order to defend it. If Page can convince people that Android isn’t important to Google, its competitors may be more inclined to ignore it. It’s totally possible that Android is still more akin to a hobby at Google, but surely Page doesn’t believe Chrome OS is the future of the company.

Page knows that mobile is the future, which means that Android is Google’s ticket to relevancy in the next ten years. If people keep seeing Google’s dependence on Android, Google competitors will continue to attack it. Oracle decided to just sue Google instead of buying RIM or Palm to actually compete. Apple is suing Google’s partners instead of trusting that the market will let the best product win. There’s a reason why companies like Oracle and Apple are suing Google over Android: they know that the future is mobile, so by taking down Android they can take down Google.

I’m not sure why Page has decided that he needs to put Android on the defensive by trying to minimize its importance, but maybe that sort of deception will work on most people. Maybe Google’s competitors will believe that Android isn’t absolutely essential to Google’s strategy in a world that is constantly continuing its march towards mobile computing. I think Google’s competitors will see right through Page’s rhetoric. Page would do better to acknowledge that Android has been and continues to be more than a critical asset to the company – it is the company’s future. Pretending that Android isn’t critical to Google isn’t fooling anyone.

  • they dont advertise because there are so many bugs in everything

  • Google has survived long before Android came to the picture. Google’s been a search company and that’s where they make their money, that and their ads and advertising content. Now Google+. Google makes pretty much zilch for Android, it’s open source. To say that it’s not super critical to the company is absolutely right. If Android didn’t exist, Google would still be very popular. Most people only use Yahoo for news. Same with MSN. When someone searches something, it’s always on Google. Have a question about something: you Google it. You search it up. Google has dominated primary search for over 12 years!!!! 

    Sure Android is a big part of what Google does, but Google can survive without Android and Google has a lot more money than anyone realizes. Google could probably pay off the U.S. debt…..

  • WickedToby741

    Chrome OS IS the future of Google. Eventually, platforms will fall by the wayside and we’ll all be using web apps instead of native apps. It just makes a lot more sense. Write once, run anywhere. There’s still a lot of maturing that web technologies need to do to make this happen, but Chrome OS is simply further ahead of the game than Android.

    • It’s possible that Chrome OS will be a part of the future, but it probably won’t be called Chrome OS if and when it does. It’s going to have to change dramatically before it can be written once and run everywhere. The future is mobile computing, but that doesn’t mean Chrome OS is ready to be a part of that future just yet. 

  • I believe the Children are our future. Not the Androids. Oh wait, never mind.

  • Madcowdisease25

    This is worse than the last one.

    You just arbitrarily ascribe the motivation to page when you have no idea if that is why he said that.

    • No one does, hence it’s an opinion piece. 

  • A_Rod

    True story.  Used my G-Nex today at McDonalds to pay with Google Wallet.  Girl behind the counter said “Now I really have seen everything!  That must be a new iPhone!.”  When I told her no, she actually called 5 employees and her manager over to look at it, and they looked stunned at the technology.  If you get that reaction at a McDonalds using NFC, doesn’t that speak to the lost opportunity to market this technology that isn’t new?

  • Tyler Chappell

    Android isn’t critical to Google’s success, but there is no doubt that for millions of people, it broadened their idea of what Google is.  Before I had my Android phone, there were only 3 services I used, GMail, Google Search, and Maps/Earth  Now, after having an Android device, I use virtually all of Google’s major services.  When people are shopping for a phone who don’t know a whole lot about the technical details they may think “oh, an iPhone, Apple made my iPod, so why not just get an iPhone too since I use iTunes and like my iPod so much.” And then they think “Hmm…Android, that means it’s a Google phone….but whats so special about that? How could it be any better than an iPhone?”

    That’s where Google really needs to put a lot of focus on showing the capabilities of Android in addition to their most popular Google services and how nicely the entire ecosystem integrates.  I bet many people who buy iPhones with the intent to use navigation may just assume that they will be using Google Maps in some form or another.  When I’ve seen people on the verge of buying an iPhone just because its an iPhone and I tell them it doesn’t use Google Maps for navigation, they have a surprised look on their face.  People need to realize that there’s a lot more to Google than just a search engine, So while Android isn’t critical to Google’s success, informing people about all the advantages of Android is critical to Android’s success.

    Also theres the whole whole thing that people are convinced that iPhones are so much easier to use, but I’ve shown people in the store before how to do fairly basic things on an Android phone and simply seeing that its not difficult to use really peaks their interest in it.

    I’ve been teaching my mom how to use her LG Lucid and Acer A100 tablet, for someone like her, the capabilities of these “touchscreen devices” are overwhelming and she feels like she has so many new things she has to learn, but once I show her how simple it is she is more inclined to take advantage of it.

    • SolipsisticPsychologist

      Very well put, especially when you said Google needing to better show the phone’s capabilities is essential to Android’s success. They have completely failed at doing that in my opinion, and you illustrate that perfectly. They leave it up to the device manufacturers and carriers to show the world what an Android phone can truly do and how it’s just as simple to use as an iPhone. But they fail miserably in my opinion, and instead give ads with robots and explosions, where Apple as much as I dislike their draconian stance on a closed environment of a phone, they actually market and show what the phones can do in a non-intimidating way. If Google could market the wonderful aspects of what you can do with an Android phone, the same way Apple does, they would probably control like over 80% of the mobile market.

    • Maps on iOS uses Google Maps. You’re right that Android pushes users to use more Google services, which means more ads are seen. That’s why Android is critical to Google’s success. We still do a lot of work on traditional computers, but we’re moving closer and closer to doing everything on mobile devices. If Google doesn’t have its own OS running on those devices then there’s no guarantee that their services will be on them either. That’s why they need Android to succeed – to ensure the future of their services on mobile devices. Even if their services are better than alternatives, that doesn’t mean they’ll be available on other platforms. 

  • bakdroid

    Nope, wrong again Ron. Google has survived without android and would continue to if it disappeared. Android is just making them even more successful. Yet another dumbass article from the BGR writer, DL iOS lover. Moron.

  • Liderc

    Google needs to make phones, it’s as simple as that.  We all know that stock android is better than any skin any manufacturer has yet to create. 

    They’ve proven that when they work with other companies they’re capable of developing good phones and good software.  They should revamp Motorola mobility and start making phones themselves.  It’s the only way they’re going to keep their strong hold on the mobile market. 

    • Jacob121791

      This is what makes the least amount of sense to me in all of what Google has done with android.
      Google now has a perfectly good hardware manufacturer that excels at making the best radios around.  I don’t think they should pull an Apple and close everyone else out but why not take this new acquisition and run with it???

  • toopretty

    “The best trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he didn’t exist”

  • Larry Mao

    “Page knows that mobile is the future, which means that Android is Google’s ticket to relevancy in the next ten years.”

    Your whole argument rests on this assumption. I believe it was wrong in 2010 and it is still wrong in 2012. You see, from the get go, when Google entered the mobile space with Android, it was never about being the most dominant OS in the system, it was about getting advanced phones, i.e. smartphones, into as many hands as possible. The more advanced the phones, the more people would use them in every day to day aspect of their lives. Google desired this, but Android is not its only vehicle for achieving it. Google’s main concern has always been that people use its free products, like Google search so that it can serve up ads to them. Sure, its good that Android is now the top mobile OS, but even if it wasn’t, Google would still be making a killing in the mobile space. Google makes tons of money off iOS, Blackberry, WebOS, and others simply by existing as the most popular search engine. Android, for Google has always been a vehicle for pushing the boundaries of what mobile phones can do, the end goal has always been, to make it easier for people to use Google services and through them feed them ads, which make up a majority of Google’s revenue. So in this way, Andy Rubin can say that while Android is important to Google, it is not critical.

    • Jacob121791

      Agreed. Very well said.

    • blix247

      This article is based on a false premise.  Listen to the question asked, was Android critical to Google in 2010? Of course not.  If Android goes away, Google loses what percentage of its total revenue?

      The article incorrectly assumes the question was whether Android was a critical element of Google’s future strategy, which I believe the answer would be absolutely yes.

      It may be true that Android is not critical in an environment where Google is the only real search engine option.  Is that really the situation we’re in today?  Google is dependent on other companies who may or may not choose to include Google in their platforms.  What if some (or all) of the platforms you mentioned become hostile to Google or see Google’s revenue streams as something worth taking?  In that sense, Android absolutely is the focus from a strategy perspective, as it guarantees Google a certain percentage of the market.
      You can’t get to be the number one OS provider in the world for mobile phones by having it *not* be a focus of your business.  Just look at Google IO last year (and presumably this year), and tell me that its not a critical focus.  Its all about Android.  Google is forward thinking, their focus is not on whats critical today, but on what will be critical in the future.  Thats how smart companies operate.

      • Android is critical to Google’s success because that is the only way to ensure that people are using Google services, which show users ads, which gives Google money. I did not assume that the question was about Android’s future, but it obviously has implications for the future. By 2010 Google knew that mobile was the future, which means Android is their future. 

    • You’re right that Google’s man goal is to serve up ads. The question is, can Google guarantee that their services will continue to be those used on iOS, Blackberry OS, and webOS? webOS stopped using Google Maps. iOS appears to be moving away from Google Maps. webOS still defaults to Google search, but there are hardly any users left. Windows Phone may be on the rise in users (we’ll see next quarter), which doesn’t help Google at all. So what is the best way to ensure that people are using Google products? Put your own OS out there are has those services integrated. That’s why Android is critical. 

  • Android was not and still isn’t CRITICAL to Google’s success.  They make their money through ads and services.  If Android died today, they could still deliver all their ads and services through the iPhone and other OSs.

    I know we all love Android and consider it critical to our lives (by definition, this isn’t even true), but it is not critical to Google as a company.  They said themselves that Android was simply created (yes, I know Google didn’t create Android) as a way to deliver their services to mobile users.  They can do that without Android, but Android makes it WAY easier.

    • Can Google guarantee that their services will be available and used on other platforms? No. That’s why Android is critical. 

  • ddevito

    It’s not important because:

    1. it doesn’t make them much money


    2. It’s not a direct revenue stream

    Their board and investors don’t want to hear something about a division of the company that only makes them 5-10% of their annual revenue.

    A Google branded smartphone that Google makes themselves, on the other hand, well that’s a horse of a different color.

    • MikeBytes

      People need to listen more.  Page said it *was* important.  What he said was that it wasn’t *critical*.  

    • Dliuzzo110

      Like a pink unicorn?

    • It’s important because it pushes users to use Google services. It’s critical because without their own OS Google can’t guarantee that people will be using their services on mobile devices. 

  • Google

    “Page knows that mobile is the future, which means that Android is Google’s ticket to relevancy in the next ten years.”
    This isn’t true at all. Mobile search, gmail, calendar and by extension ads are the only thing that actually matter to Google in the mobile sector. 

    • Yep, but how does Google guarantee that people are using those services and therefore seeing those ads? They can’t guarantee that their services will be on other mobile platforms, which is why having their own is critical. 

  • He downplays it so when they’re in court, he can spout off that it’s not their main line of business of stealing patents or other companies’ ideas. It’s a damage control mechanism in a legal sense, not a PR one. Of course they know it’s important, that’s why they bought Moto for so much. Waste of time reading this. 

  • if 98% of your revenue comes from search ads… how many of you actually use (or even see) search ads on your android phones?

    if back in 2010 someone was judging my company on a $/click and saw Android on the bottom of that list… do you think that you would call that critical? i certainly can see Page’s comments. 

    those of us who cling to the latest Android news aren’t typical users. Android is a strategic arm to get you to use their integrated services on any platform to sell more ads. that’s it. that’s why it’s free. and that’s why Google has gotta come up with an alternative to the Fire, because someone has figured out to take a Google product, and completely remove its services.

  • Important? Yes. Critical? No.

    The word critical assumes some sort of dependency. Are you saying Google wouldn’t exist now or in the future if android never happened?

    I think Page is right in what he’s saying, we who love android might not entirely like that it’s not critical, but it seems like a clear truth to me!

    The only thing I think is critical is their ad business, and Google search.

    • Google

      Exactly. Android isn’t making lots of money on Android so it by definition cannot be critical. Search is the only critical aspect of their business. 

    • Right, but the only way Google can guarantee that services like search are on mobile devices is to have their own OS that people are using. They simply cannot guarantee that their services will always be available on other operating systems. 

      • I agree, that makes android pretty important for Google, which is what Page said…? Not critical, certainly not at the time either.

        • More and more, people are using Google services only on their mobile devices. If mobile computing is the future then Google needs to ensure their services are used on mobile devices. They can’t guarantee that Apple will keep using Google services on iOS or that RIM uses Google services for Maps, etc. The only way to ensure that people are using their services is if people are using their own OS. That makes it critical. 

          • Their services are the things that are critical, without those Google has no business. Android is a delivery mechanism, to deliver those critical services.

            Delivery is very, very important. But how do we know they couldn’t deliver in some other way? Partnerships maybe? We don’t know. But they would still be here without android, not without their services.

            One is critical to the company, the other is very important.

          • Yes, the services are ultimately the most critical, but without the delivery mechanism they are irrelevant. You ask how we would know they couldn’t deliver them some other way: apparently Google didn’t feel comfortable trying to answer that question. They decided to buy Android and develop it to ensure that their services would be used in the market. Regardless, at this point we’re debating semantics, so I’ll let you have the last word if you’d like. 

  • elemeno

    This article has no content [Opinion]

  • Matthew Ryan

    I don’t see the critical nature of Android. All of Google’s services would still exist and if Android didn’t exist everyone would just use the Google Suite that was available years ago on my first phone, a Blackberry Curve. The only aid that Android really provides is making the Google brand more pervasive and hopefully drawing people into Google services because of it’s cohesion.

    It may be increasingly important to them as time goes on though, that’s like any business venture that gains traction though.

    • SolipsisticPsychologist

      Yeah, Google would still be around and I would assume still be doing well without Android today. I love my Android devices, but I just can’t agree or see how it’s their number one source of relevancy today. Like the one post said, it’s good that it keeps doing well and gaining traction, but I don’t believe it to be their number one focus, it’s just one of their focuses.

    • Right, but they can’t guarantee that their services will always be available on other platforms. That’s why Android is critical. 

      • Matthew Ryan

        Sorry for the late reply, just noticed this haha. I don’t think WP7 or iOs would make the mistake of disallowing Google from their ecosystems. The only thing that would do is hurt them because they’d then be lacking a service that a large portion of the audience uses.

  • Jak_341

    Shut the front door. An Op-Ed of Ron’s I agree with. The thing about Android that is concerning is the lack of a desktop environment. Windows phone will have Windows 8. iOS will be unified. Android has…? (Not counting Ubuntu, if that project works). I can see this is the way things are going. Goggle didn’t hit it off with Chromebooks.

    Think about it. If the future will be a smartphone attached to a dock that can run basic office functionality (word processing, spreadsheets, internet, etc.), there will be no reason to own a laptop. A full size screen, full keyboard, and anything else running from a smartphone. I could see businesses eating this right up.

    • Binglut9

      I think jelly bean will be a desktop os how sweet would that be I want widgets up on my screen

    • Fattie McDoogles

       I don’t think a desktop service is the next thing I would focus on if I were Google. Everyone keeps trying to build these things from the ground up and shove them down people’s throats and hope for the best. What they should do is start with a series of applications that work on all operating platforms. Evolve Play Music into a full desktop program not just a streaming service. You already have Chrome that syncs seamlessly with the phone (4.0 devices). I agree that an official Google office suite is definitely something that needs to happen soon (This would especially help with tablet adaptation) and it would be great if you could use it on computers too. Things like this are where Google needs to focus their immediate attention and let the process naturally evolve into its own OS when it’s ready. That’s one of the reasons that Macs are so popular nowadays. They released iTunes for PC’s. It allowed people with iPods and iPhones to be able to sync them with their PC’s and allowed them to be able to experience bits and pieces of Mac OS without having to spend $1500 just to test it out. If Google takes that same approach they could easily build an following for a Chromebook style OS because people would already be familiar with how it works.

  • -= )v(urphy =-

    Couldn’t have said it better.

  • as Clarence said I didn’t even know that anyone can earn $8402 in 4 weeks on the computer. did you read this web site …..  http://ho.io/Espngocomnewyorknba

    • Sp4rxx

       who’s clarence?

      (ignores the ‘don’t feed the troll sign)

  • Ginosylum

    Google HAS TO embrace a real marketing push for Android… there is almost NOTHING a iOS device can do that Android can’t and there are lots of things Android can do that iOS can not.. but people just don’t know it.  Even most android users don’t know what their phone is capable of.  I blame Google for not pushing the way Apple does.  Moto, Samy, HTC all fall into the same problem of not marketing well, but it needs to start with Google.

    • Leroy1983

      Exactly because all they was doing was playing a spec war and most folks don’t understand those things. Apple talks about specs as well but they also tell you why those specs make for a great user experience

      • Josh Groff

        Yeah they do, Apple has a brilliant marketing strategy to sell last year’s technology at top tier pricing. I love that about them.

        • Bob

          Yeah the fact that when released Apple products have the best screens, best cameras and best chips(this doesn’t mean biggest number in front of the ghz) just screams last years technology. Stop trolling. 

          • Liderc

            The “best screens” aren’t still 3.5” small. 

          • iWebDroidBerry7

            A bigger screen is factually better now? Only on Droid-life is suppose.

          • Josh Groff

            Yes, because the OMAP 4 can’t outrace an A5. The only edge the A5 has is in the GPU.

          • Fattie McDoogles

            No he is right… Apple does not make the best camera or screen and they most certainly do not have the best chip set. What Apple does have ( and this is what has made Apple the company they are) is they have the best software. They have nothing but average pieces (with the exception of the screen) and they have great software engineers that work to really get the best out of the hardware they can. They use all Samsung parts. You think Samsung would really sell them a high quality product then what they use in their own phones?!

    • Michael Forte

      I agree. I mean what is one thing that Google does well? Serves ads right? Why are they not advertising the things that Android can do?

    • Yup. It’s amazing to this day how many of my friends with Android phones don’t even know about Voice Search, which has been around in the OS for a LONG time. 

      • Ginosylum

         i heard someone say they wish they had iTunes so they can buy music like on an iPhone.. had NO idea that there is a music store and book store in their phone already…

        • Raven

          Music and Books yes, but what about buying Movies?  Sure you can rent them, but you cannot buy and own them like you can on iTunes.  As much as I love Android and hate iTunes, that is still the biggest gap that bothers me.  I have at least 20 iTunes movies that came free with Blu-Ray Digital Copy Editions, but they are forever limited to my tiny iPod Nano, and there is no equivalent even available to purchase for Android.

    • Google

      Here is the problem with what you said. While it is true that Android can do plenty of things that iOS cannot, most of those things are not stuff that your “average user” is going to be doing. The average person makes calls, searches the web, takes pics and uses Apps. All of those typical things that people do can be done on iOS. 

      • Ginosylum

         This is exactly what I’m talking about.  Remember when Apple had that ad campaign showing off the fact that you can take a picture, then tweet it right from the camera app? it was a big deal and people were like “wow, that’s so cool”.  Android had been able to do that for over a year before iOS… does the average person know that buying a smart phone for the first time? No, so they buy the iPhone, because they saw that cool commercial…. Android has the jump on iOS for lots of things like this, but no one knows… Built in turn by turn navigation for free, NFC technology already working.. the list goes on. But this will look like new cutting edge tech you can’t live without when Apple makes ads a year later when they introduce it to the new iPhone…. My point is that google is dropping the ball left and right when i comes to showing off what this OS really is.

        • Patience

          Perhaps they do this to fly under the radar. After all, this article mentions Larry downplaying Android… wait til the patents pile up and Google’s bank accouunt grows more, that’s when they will strike. They don’t need a bigger bullseye on their chest right now.

    • Fattie McDoogles

      Could the issue be how fast Google is rolling out OS updates vs. how slow OEM’s and carriers are rolling them out? I remember a month or so ago there was a pie chart that shows that ICS is on less than 4% of Android devices, and Jellybean will be rolled out the end of this summer… How can you market something that isn’t readily accessible? I agree that there needs to be a lot of marketing done, however, I believe there are other things that need to happen first.

      • Ginosylum

         i’ll give you that, sure, you are right… I even talking about the basics, things that can be done with Gingerbread… People just don’t know AT ALL that the things that make the iPhone great are not limited to the iPhone…

        • Fattie McDoogles

          Don’t get me wrong, I agree with you COMPLETELY… That would have been great to do with Gingerbread. However… Gingerbread has JUST become the top software version in the last 5 months. Right around the time ICS was released. You can’t spend marketing on last year’s software when this year’s software is out. 

  • Android definitely plays a HUGE role in Googles future. Google may not NEED Android to remain successful, but it cannot be dismissed as not playing an important role either.

    I think that the Chrome OS was a spin-off from Android. I believe there will be a desktop version of Android being released in the near future to replace Chrome OS, which will allow users to integrate their smart phones, tablets and PC’s.

    • Leroy1983

      The thing about chrome os was that google as trying to get into the netbook market but then what happened was a few months later the iPad was announced & the netbook market just dead after that. But for some crazy reason google still wanted to push out Crome os on a expensive hardware. Chrome os was had riciclious pricing where you can get a android taket or iPad. Google needs to stop putting out stuff that’s just good enough be ause these days that doesn’t cut it anymore

      • Jak_341

        I want an android taket. 🙂

    • GuntherHo

      Reading comprehension is not your strongsuit, huh? Page said that Android was important (thereby making your point, pointless) but not critical (a totally different animal than the one you seek to defend).  

      •  Reading comprehension is not MY strong suit? (By the way, strong suit is not a single word)

        If you read my post, then you would have noticed that I never referenced or quoted anything Page said. I was simply stating my opinion about Android and Chrome OS.

        Better luck next time.

    • I think they’ll have to use Android instead of Chrome OS too. That, or Chrome OS is going to have to change dramatically. That said, Google does need Android because it is the only way to guarantee that people will use Google services on mobile devices. Google can’y assume that their services will be available on iOS, etc.