Well well well, maybe the new guy in the CEO’s chair at Google
knows what he’s doing. According to a report
from the Wall Street Journal, Google is revamping how it handles its Android business, starting with Android 5.0 Jelly Bean. If the report is accurate, Google is about to make some interesting business moves.
Despite the fact that Android is the world’s top mobile OS, there are a couple of problems that it faces. Apple’s iOS is a constant thorn in Google’s side, not to mention the dent in Android’s market share that Windows 7 may eventually make. Further, because mobile carriers enjoy a certain amount of control over the services end users can get (and due to the very nature of the open Android OS), Google can’t control the Android experience as tightly as Apple does its mobile OS. There’s also the issue of Google’s pending acquisition of Motorola, which is sure to make some hardware partners uneasy.
It looks like Google is deftly addressing these issues.
Larry Page, Google CEO
For one thing, instead of choosing a lone hardware partner for Jelly Bean’s launch, as Google has done in the past, the company is reportedly working with as many as five launch partners. Thus, a variety of companies will get a crack at Android 5.0 early, resulting in a greater number of devices available early on in the Jelly Bean launch process. (True, one of the early Android 5.0 phones could be a homegrown handset, but for now at least, the playing field is probably level.) Having more phone options to choose from may bolster initial sales.
Even better, users will apparently be able to purchase the aforementioned devices directly from Google, unlocked, if they so desire. The company has been experimenting
with this idea already, but the Jelly Bean launch looks to be the first large-scale attempt.
Cutting out the middle man of the wireless carrier is somewhat of a bold move, but it makes plenty of sense. Android already comes in as many flavors as there are hardware partners; why not simplify things and keep wireless carriers from tweaking the experience further? Ensuring that most (all?) hardware makers are on the same update track will help maintain a more unified (read: iOS-like) experience across multiple manufacturers.
It’s not unreasonable to think that this direct sales approach is a shot across the bow for wireless carriers that have perhaps too much control over the mobile industry, but it most certainly will affect Google’s profits positively. If nothing else, it will be an educational experiment.
Tightening up control over the Android experience, appeasing partners, rocking the boat of the mobile industry, and boosting profits all at the same time? Well played, Larry Page. Assuming everything works out, anyway.