At first glance, Google shareholders and Android fans have a lot to celebrate. After all, this mobile OS seems to have hit the ball clear right out of the park. In fact, the Apple iPhone is clearly in the rear view mirror of Android and fast fading into the background. More and more people, specially in the developing world, have developed an appreciation for the Android and assume that that this will be the OS they will be buying. Sounds good so far? Well, there is one part to the whole Android story that makes tech observers scratch their heads-there doesn’t seem to be an easy to identify game plan. What’s the point of handing out Android for free? Where will all this lead to? What does Android’s global market mobile OS dominance mean for Google? Read on and see that things may not be what they appear.
Make no mistake about it, Android has sewn up the vast majority of the smartphone market and continutes to grow in the tablets market. It is not unlikely that Android will completely dominate both spaces. Its secret? This OS is free. Cheap hardware makers can afford to engage in a race to the bottom that would flood the market with cheap Android devices because an otherwise pricey component-the OS-is free. This is a winning strategy but where does it lead to for Google?
As Samsung, HTC, HuaWei, and other Android-driven hardware makers continue to rack up solid gains-and billions in revenues-none of these billions end up in Google’s coffers. Sure, the Android brand is flashed on billions of devices but this doesn’t result in direct money in Google’s corporate wallet. The answer to this paradox is that we have to look behind the scenese.
Maybe we need to measure success differently
Google knows what its doing. It isn’t one of the most highly valued public companies in the world if this were not the case. It knows that there are different ways to measure success. Sure, it can measure success by asking hardware makers to pony up cash everytime they slap Android onto a device. This would, of course, act as a brake on Android’s adoption and Android wouldn’t be the beast it is now if it had a price tag from the get go. Instead, Google uses an advertising style metric for success-you measure success by being ubiquitous. Android get Google in front of more eyeballs. Everytime you enter a search in the main field of the browser Android ships with, you are searching Google. More eyeballs mean more advertising revenues. Moreover, these are fast-growing eyeballs since mobile is growing faster than traditional computing. Android cemented Google’s relevance for many years to come. No small feat in a tech industry wracked with disruptions every few years.
The puzzle of Android’s end game highlights the importance of proactive analysis. We have to look beyond what we see. Things are not always what they seem. Moreover, we can’t always measure things based on old ways of measuring success. By applying a broad minded approach, we see that Google’s Android gambit was actually a stroke of genius that opened a valuable future-friendly front for this massive search engine company.