This statement is not as blasphemous as you think it is. Google, under Larry’s able guidance, is gradually cutting down 90% of its services that do not make much sense for the company from a long term point of view. Quite a few of the incredibly useful but sparsely used services have been axed already or on the deathbed.
Looking at the direction the company is heading, I am sure the following services will soon be put on that list.
- Google TV
- Google Groups
- Google Earth and Mars
- Google Moderator
- Google Newsandroid-ondeathwatch
You just have to look at the services offered in the “Even More” menu that you see burried in their “More” menu in the Google navigation bar. Can you find any of the aforementioned services in there? News, maybe. But the rest are nowhere to be seen. In fact, I am quite sure a few of you do not even know what Google Moderator does.
However, I sense that Google’s flagship mobile OS is also getting prepped up to join this list.
Why do I think so? Here are some reasons.
1. Andy Ruben’s departure from Android team.
2. Grouping Android with ChromeOS division.
3. Android is no longer a Google brand! – If you don’t believe me, ask any of your friends holding a Samsung phone a very simple question. “Who owns Android?”
A resounding majority of the answers would be “Samsung”. In some cases it would be “HTC”. Very few people can actually tie Android back to Google. Google’s pure Android experience devices (Nexus 4,7,10) are not exactly setting the market on fire, though we, in the tech industry, can’t seem to stop singing praises about them. (I love my Nexus 7 and my Nexus S – Yeah! I still use that three year old phone and still love it. Don’t judge me now.)
The problem with Android is it is Open Source! So every Tom, Dick and Harry can take the source code and fork it into the direction they want. Amazon changed Android into something totally unrecognizable for its Kindle Fire. Samsung, though based on Google’s version of Android, skins it so comprehensively that it is almost an entirely new user experience compared to navigating the pure Android flavor on a Nexus device.
And sometimes, that Samsung experience is better too.
Setting aside the subjective argument of which flavor is better, it is clear that Android is not doing anything really positive to the Google brand. Given the fact that Google spends a considerable portion of its bandwidth into developing this platform, Google would want a better ROI.
It all boils down making money. Google is into Android for the purpose of making money. However, the revenue from Android is not as significant as Google would like it to be. The desperation is evident from Google’s purging of Ad blocker programs from its Play store.
Moving the man who lent his nickname to this platform out of Android division kind of ratifies this understanding. Android is no longer Google’s baby. It is Samsung’s baby. It is HTC’s. It is Amazon’s. But for Google, it is as no longer a focus area.
Android – On Death Watch?
There is another angle to this thought. Google now competes with Apple and Microsoft at various levels. Both Apple and Microsoft have pretty good operating system offerings on all types of devices. Microsoft’s Windows 8 works on all form factors. Apple has the Mac OS for desktops and iOS for mobile devices. Apple is bringing the Mac OS slowly into the realm of iOS to offer an integrated seamless experience for its users across all types of devices. In contrast, Google just has a mobile OS – Android and its desktop OS – Chrome OS is not at all in the same boat. Also Chrome OS is not a popular OS and it has its share of limitations. You need an always-on internet connection to do any meaningful work on the device.
It is in Google’s interest to come up with an OS offering that extends the mobile experience onto the desktop/laptop category. Clearly, Chrome OS – in its present avatar – is woefully inadequate for this purpose. However, by having both Chrome OS and Android under the same leadership team, Google can now focus on creating a hybrid OS that has the best features of both platforms and offers a unmistakable “Google Experience” to its users.
Of course Android as an open source mobile OS will always be there but Google will not be actively developing it. Instead Google will most likely fork out Android and actively start developing that fork while letting the main tree be handled by the open source community – (Perhaps gift it to Apache foundation?)
Is that good or bad for us? We will have more choice in the desktop OS market – definitely a welcome thing. However, it will spell trouble for Android as an open source operating system. The moment Google forks it, it loses its sheen and probably will die a natural death unless someone like Apache Foundation meticulously takes it forward.
Samsung will continue to innovate in that area, probably aided by Google. It will also throw its weight behind Tizen, the OS Samsung hopes will prevent it from becoming overly dependent on Android.
Google will transform into a radically different company with two business units – One that handles the bread and butter of the company – Its search and related functions; the other handles the devices – The Google PC, the Google Tab, the Google Phone and the Google Camera – not to mention the Glass, the Watch, the This and the That – all powered by a sleek operating system that builds on the best features of both Android and Chrome OS.
Well, it may not come to this – but Google forking out Android seems to be a real possibility whether or not it develops an integrated OS.
So, here I am – calling it first – Android, On Google’s Death Watch!
What do you think is the next service to be wound down? My bet is on Google TV!
-With inputs from Prasoon Gupta.