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The Challenges Google Needs to Deal With at I/O

We’re now in what’s arguably become the most significant period of the year for three of the largest consumer technology companies in the world — the developer conference season. The developer events for Microsoft, Google, and Apple now end up shaping much of what’s to come from these companies in the next year, from new versions of their operating systems to new products and services and, in some cases, new hardware. We’ve already seen Microsoft’s announcements around Windows 10, HoloLens, and more at Build, and next on the docket is Google’s I/O developer conference. As it approaches, there are three key challenges Google needs to grapple with if it’s to maintain its momentum.

Retaking control of Android

One of the big themes from last year’s I/O was Google’s attempt to retake control of Android. This imperative has, if anything, become more urgent over the past year. The combination of Chinese OEMs building Android devices based on AOSP, Cyanogen mounting a brazen attempt to wrest control of Android from Google (now with Microsoft’s help), and the continuing attempts by both OEMs and wireless carriers to layer their own services on top of Android all mean Google is in danger of losing control over the platform it created. Google doesn’t make money from Android per se – only from using Android as a vehicle to put Google services in front of end users. To the extent the versions of Android end users experience either don’t include Google’s services or promote other services more prominently, Google’s major strategic objective for Android falls flat. Yes, it foiled Microsoft’s (and, in the end, Apple’s) attempts to dominate the smartphone world, but if Android doesn’t serve as an effective vehicle for Google services, it fails in its secondary objective also. Last year’s I/O included several attempts to rectify this situation, including new flavors of Android that allow for very little customization by OEMs (Android Wear, Auto, and TV), and the Android One initiative, designed to replace AOSP versions of Android with stock Android in emerging markets. At this year’s I/O, Google needs to use both carrot and stick to get OEMs to buy into the vision of Android as Google sees it, with Google services intact, while feeding their need to differentiate themselves in meaningful ways in a world where price is becoming the most compelling differentiator for many.

Defending the web against apps

One of Google’s most significant challenges as a company is the shift from a browser-centric desktop internet to an app-centric mobile internet, because its business models are so heavily predicated on web-based advertising. Google has recently sought to defuse speculation that mobile ads are less lucrative for the company than desktop ads, but the reality is Google faces far greater competition in mobile. It also suffers from a lack of good native mobile platforms that can replicate the success of its desktop search dominance. In a world of apps, search is something that happens behind closed doors rather than on the open web and Google has been working for several years to rectify this. The rise of products such as Facebook’s Instant Articles intensify the pressure on Google to find ways to remain relevant in search. At last year’s I/O, Google talked about “app indexing” – allowing search to reach deep inside apps to reach content not traditionally searchable from the web. But it’s heavily dependent on app makers to buy into this vision and, while some smaller ones will, many others will want to protect their content from disintermediation by Google and keep it exclusive to their own apps. As Google still seems determined to use its search graph to surface content without taking you to websites, developers will rightly be skeptical that Google will treat them any better. Google needs to reassure them.

Convince developers Android users are worth targeting

Last year, Google shared numbers of both the total number of Android users (over a billion) and the amount paid to developers over the previous year ($5 billion). While both numbers are impressive on their face, they combine to give the impression of a platform which delivers only relatively small spending per user and which is likely to skew increasingly to the low end of the global market as premium users switch to iPhones and new users come in at the bottom end in markets with much lower disposable incomes and poor payment options. Google badly needs to convince its developers it’s worth developing for Android first or at least in tandem with iOS. But, as long as the monetization options on Google Play are poorer than those on iOS, this will be a tough sell. Google needs to ramp up its work with mobile operators to offer carrier billing more broadly on a global basis, especially in markets with low payment card penetration. But it also needs to talk up the profiles of Android users in mature markets and help developers find more diverse ways to monetize their usage through more than just advertising.

Take Android beyond personal computing devices

To date, Android has been designed largely with smartphones in mind, with tablets an important secondary form factor, and recent versions for TVs and wearables added to the mix. But many companies have used Android over the years for things it was never intended for, from meeting room displays, appliances, Internet of Things deployments, and others. Android is free and flexible, but it’s not optimized for these use cases. With Android Auto, Google has created an Android overlay for the car, but it’s still not an option for the car OS itself. One of the things Google should be doing and communicating about at I/O, is creating optimized versions of Android for things other than personal computing devices (tablets, smartphones, wearables, and so on). Optimizing Android for these other environments will make Android attractive for more than just its price and flexibility. But this means making Android a far more reliable platform in some of these environments too – industrial, automotive, and other settings have far lower tolerance for faults and bugs than smartphones do. I think we might well see car support specifically as part of the M release of Android, but Google should go far broader.

Demonstrate a clear value proposition in TV

At last year’s I/O, Google showed off Android TV, the latest in a series of unsuccessful efforts to participate in the TV space. Though it promised broad support from some OEMs, and some products have indeed shipped, Android TV as a platform remains a tough sell to consumers. What does an Android-TV-based television do uniquely well? As Sony, Apple, and others work on providing TV services which can be tied to their TV-connected boxes, how does Google play in this arena? If Google wants to make its TV offering more compelling, it needs to create a TV service as the headline attraction. Unlike Apple and Sony, Google is uniquely well-positioned to use tracking and targeting to provide advertisers with the insights they want when going after TV subscribers, and will have few of the qualms that make Apple’s entry into the TV space challenging.

Continue to unify Android and Chrome OS

Some time ago, Google put both the Android and Chrome (and Chrome OS) products under Sundar Pichai, and the hope since has been he would start to bring the two together. Android is by far the more adopted and flexible of the two and so it’s always seemed, in some ways, the logical choice for unifying developer platforms across devices. But all the signals in the past couple of years suggest Chrome OS is here to stay. At last year’s I/O, Google showed off the potential for Android apps to run on Chrome OS, although relatively little has happened with this effort since and it remains more of a test than a fully-fledged, large scale effort. Google needs to start providing a clearer roadmap for how these two separate platforms will come together over time. Will Chrome OS continue to exist as a separate entity, with the Chrome browser becoming more powerful as its own platform on Android devices? Or will Google eventually extend Android to the laptop world too?

Differentiate against Amazon and Microsoft in the cloud

As principally a consumer technology analyst, I’m less focused on Google’s cloud initiatives, but they took an important role at I/O last year and are a major part of both Microsoft and Google’s overall offerings for developers. Apple’s approach to cloud services is focused exclusively on its own platforms, with offerings like CloudKit, but both Google and Microsoft compete head-on with Amazon in the broader cloud computing space. As the basic offerings become commoditized and prices continue to drop, it becomes increasingly important for cloud providers to move up the stack into more differentiated services. Amazon is attempting this by moving into the productivity sphere, but I think it’ll be challenged there. Microsoft already has a more diverse set of cloud offerings, including Office 365. But Google hasn’t yet defined its unique differentiators well in this space, and needs to begin to articulate these more clearly.

These won’t all be solved at I/O

Needless to say, this is a long to do list and not all of this can be solved at one developer conference. But Google at least needs to demonstrate it understands these challenges and is planning to deal with them. We should see at least basic attempts to address many of these challenges during I/O. If we don’t, it’s a sign Google underestimates the challenges it’s facing.

Published by

Jan Dawson

Jan Dawson is Founder and Chief Analyst at Jackdaw Research, a technology research and consulting firm focused on consumer technology. During his sixteen years as a technology analyst, Jan has covered everything from DSL to LTE, and from policy and regulation to smartphones and tablets. As such, he brings a unique perspective to the consumer technology space, pulling together insights on communications and content services, device hardware and software, and online services to provide big-picture market analysis and strategic advice to his clients. Jan has worked with many of the world’s largest operators, device and infrastructure vendors, online service providers and others to shape their strategies and help them understand the market. Prior to founding Jackdaw, Jan worked at Ovum for a number of years, most recently as Chief Telecoms Analyst, responsible for Ovum’s telecoms research agenda globally.

52 thoughts on “The Challenges Google Needs to Deal With at I/O”

  1. Interesting post, thank you.

    Retaking control of Android: I’m not aware of any momentum either way, I’ve not seen any figures: China is AOSP by force (no GMS there), and once you take that out, AOSP is very marginal, and concentrated on the low-value users you dismiss 3 paragraphs down. Plus I haven’t seen any info on whether AOSP users are worth less than GMS users once that lower intrinsic value is accounted for… where do AOSP users’ ads come from ? I’d say the bigger issue is to come up with something, anything, for China, if they’re ready for Apple levels of principles-shelving.

    Defending the web against apps: That’s an impossible battle, hopefully Google is focusing on offering better in-app ads instead.

    Convincing devs: Didn’t Google’s appstore revenue overtake Apple’s this year, even before adding the other, non-Google, Android AppStores ? Maybe that’s an important factor…

    Other devices: I’m not sure that’s worth it. OEMs can tweak Android themselves for niche markets (projectors, watches -the full Android, not Wear-, gaming consoles/tablets,…). As for a consumer OS being the main car OS, I think that’s an utterly bad idea, the design goals & constraints are orthogonal.
    If I were Google I’d focus instead on convertibles, where Apple isn’t playing and MS is trying to get the foothold it needs to get some traction in Mobile.

    TV: I’m puzzled by the whole category. Chromecast seems to be doing fine, then along comes the umpteenth incarnation of Android TV… The market is so fragmented by rights issues that maybe the only way forward is an acquisition, or turning YouTube into Netflix ?

    Android & Chrome OS. I think the main attraction of ChromeOS besides price is that it is locked down and easily manageable. Adding Android to it is nice for personal users, but most sales must be in managed corp or edu environments. Not sure those want Android apps ? At the very least I think the slow pace of app validation is by design.

    Cloud: AFAIK, Amazon and MS (and Apple) are still playing catch-up. I think a bigger issue is Social, where Google’s repeated failures are a huge issue, even if MS Amazon and Apple haven’t done any better. Not managing to grab a significant share of messaging, video chat or anything social while being in the hands of 80% of Mobile users is mind-boggling.

    1. Regarding Google Play revenue vs. iOS AppStore revenue, I think you are a bit confused. App Annie reports that Google Play revenue has not closed the gap with the iOS App Store, and that the gap may even be widening (the link below is only games, but Google Play is actually more dependent on games revenue than iOS. Including other categories, the gap would be wider).

      I suspect that you are confusing this with the recently release report from Opera’s mobile ad platform. This data point hasn’t been backed up by another source, so I’m not sure that we can trust this as of yet.

        1. I think we need to be clear that it is China Android that puts Android slightly ahead of iOS. From your article:

          “However, Google won’t be celebrating just yet. In working this out, Digi-Capital has also included revenues from the Chinese Android app stores, which don’t stock Google apps and don’t give Google any cut of the revenue. Google’s suite of apps aren’t available in China after all. iOS revenues still dwarf either Google Play or the China Android stores, but together they just make it to the top spot.”

          The chart in the article shows clearly that Other isn’t significant and that it is China Android that matters. So the question is, how common is it for a developer to build an app for both Google Play and China Android?

          Also from your article:

          “The rise of the Chinese app stores and their revenues will be be of alarm to Google. It’s a sign of the growing significance of the Chinese market, one it does not have a foothold in. A rapidly increasing share of the global smartphone business is out of its reach.”

          1. If you look at AppAnnie’s data by country, the wealthy countries dominate app revenue, even on Android. If, as the report suggests, Chinese app revenue is almost as large as Google Play itself, this means that there are a lot of wealthy Android users in China, as much as the rest of the world combined.

            Therefore, in my view, the issue is how many of these users will switch to iPhone in the next few years.

          2. Yes. There’s also the possibility that Google begins to do the hard work of integrating/curating in the way that Apple does, or to the extent that Google can. Or perhaps some OEM takes this on, but can any of them really do software well enough? Can any OEM actually integrate enough? Can any OEM resonate with the premium segment? Poor sales of Samsung’s new ‘premium’ phones would seem to tell us the answer is no.

            I do think the closed integrated model is now table stakes to serve the premium consumer market. Premium consumers don’t want to tinker with their own hot rod, they don’t want a high end specialty car that requires tons of maintenance, and they certainly don’t want a cheap car with a thousand options. They just want a BMW in the color they like.

            Google probably has to decide if that premium segment is worth the effort. We should get some hints from the upcoming Google I/O. I expect Google to move towards a more locked down/abstracted/simplified experience on Android.

            Still, China is a conundrum for Google. At the same time China is a great market for Apple. Could Google wane based on its inability to compete in China alone?

          3. I agree that for Google to compete in the premium segment, they have to work closer in cooperation with OEMs. Bickering over who exerts more power over the ecosystem is not productive.

            However, I’m looking more into the failure of Lollipop itself to live up to the promise of a major Android release. Most data I’ve seen point to a slower adoption than even KitKat, and the new Android Runtime and battery saving technologies, although very promising when introduced, aren’t exactly getting rave reviews. The OS itself (even without the issue of OEMs) seems to be having problems as of itself. At the same time, iOS has seen widespread excitement over the extensions features, for example, which is arguable a feature Android had for ages, but is nonetheless making iOS users very happy.

            At least by comparing the promises made last year, and the state this year, I’m not sure what Google *says* at Google I/O has much relevance anymore.

          4. I think Loliipop’s slow adoption is due to 2 main things:

            1- Android probably has had its WinXP moment sometimes at the 4.x stage: it’s good enough, users don’t care that much about the incremental advances of later versions. Plus Android is modular, not monolithic à la iOS: even while on an older version of Android, you still enjoy the latest GMS-related goodies, the latest versions of Google’s (and everyone else’s) apps… I’m unable to tell anyone “You must get a 5.x phone”, because… ” It’ll be a bit nicer, but 4.4 isn’t a dealbreaker.

            2- There was a nasty memory leak in 5.0, that wasn’t fixed until 5.0.2. OEMs probably -and wisely- chose to wait until that was fixed to deploy 5.x.

            As for the premium segment, I think the OS has precious little to do with it. Windows has no issue handling the gamut from $100 tablets to $10,000 workstations, and I can’t think of OS-level features that are specifically required to serve the segment… the few niceties (pen, multiwindows, edges, touchID, weird cameras…) are, on the contrary, a nice way for OEMs to provide the differentiation analysts (here for example ^^) seem to think is vital.

          5. I understand your points, and I actually had them at the back of my mind when writing my comment. However, my point isn’t whether Android has had a WinXP moment or whether iOS will have one soon. My point is that unless Google demonstrates real progress on the plans is set out last year (which includes Lollipop), there is little reason to believe in the visions that Google will lay out this year.

          6. Here’s what The Next web (first hit in… Google ^^) says Google announced at I/O 2014:

            – Android One: technically delivered, businessly looks like a dud.
            – L: delivered, mostly a yawn.
            – Wear: delivered, semi-successful
            – Auto: I have no clue where that’s at ?
            – TV: delivered, 2/4 major ISPs in France have it on a box, still smells like a semi-dud at best.
            – Chromecast: still going strong, whatever the business model is ?
            – Android for Work: never heard of it ^^
            – Google Cloud: seems to be doing fine, behind the scenes.
            – Google fit: I’m not following that at all. There’s product available.

            I think there’s an interesting contrast between MS’s and Google’s issues: MS have trouble delivering something, and to make it appealing to users; Google do deliver, and deliver nice things, but they have trouble rallying partners up and down the value chain.

          7. Thank you! That’s a good review of what we saw last year, and how that ended up 12 months later. I think that your list should have been included in the original article somewhere to demonstrate the difference between “planning” and “solving”.

            If, as you say (and I agree), Google’s problem is “rallying partners up and down the value chain”, then what we need to see from them is not a bunch of plans at a developer conference.

          8. Well, I/O *is* about product & tech, so it’s normal those should be the focus. There’s supposed to be a second, ongoing, “business” phase afterwards. I’ve never quite seen whole conferences about those, at best a press conference with two star-crossed .. partners.

          9. Yes, exactly. That is the issue I have with Jan Dawson’s original article. Regarding the issues that Google currently has, Google I/O is not important at all.

          10. The other thing that strikes me as weird is the focus on issues, not strengths and opportunities.
            0- Overall, Android has taken Google from a weak position as a search company to a strong position as an ecosystem owner. Apple and MS could block them overnight, Google still wouldn’t vanish, which wasn’t the case before Android.
            1- there are plenty of those strengths and opportunities. I know many around these parts are Apple owners, Apple stockholders, or Apple (-derived) job seekers, but still, Android is probably the more important mobile ecosystem (as in, its disappearance would be more disruptive than iOS’s), better positioned for the next billions and the “good enough” phase of the current billions. There’s a huge opportunity in Android desktops and laptops, which have flourished pretty much in spite of Google & ChromeOS.
            2- You mostly achieve greatness by focusing on strengths, not by running around sealing off issues. Apple is a great example of that. And, for example, 2 years ago everyone was going on about Android’s so-called fragmentation… the situation hasn’t changed, the purported issue hasn’t been solved, yet the talking point has vanished in the thin air it was made of and Android has forged ahead. I think the “take back ownership of Android” pseudo-issue is in the same vein: OEMs are contractually compelled to have **only** GMS in available markets, there’s neither a credible alternative nor momentum away from GMS, and the impact on the bottom line of non-GMS phones isn’t even clear. The real issue is Google’s absence from China, but that’s a different problem.

          11. I generally agree, but if the WinXP moment continues for Android, that’s not a good sign at all. I would like to see Google really move ahead with Android. The ART runtime and project Volta etc. in Lollipop, were promising, but are at this point, they are still rather disappointing.

          12. True, it’s what Google can actually do that matters. It’s tough when you don’t make the whole widget. Perhaps the modular system is destined to serve the mid to low segments, just as Microsoft ‘won’ the PC wars but the Mac continues to dominate the premium segment.

          13. A very narrow view. Within Windows and Apple systems as well as within Android there is a premium segment. There are also economy segments. Within the Apple ecosystem the economy segment is grossly overpriced, hence harder to see. Heck, the premium segment is overpriced as well due to lack of internal competition. It’s a rigged game.

          14. Certainly all companies have offerings across segments, but there isn’t much debate on the subject of Apple dominating the premium segment, at 80 to 90 percent share with the Mac and approaching 80 percent with iOS. The more interesting question is why is this happening. My current hypothesis is that the premium segment is looking for specific jobs-to-be-done that are only delivered well via a curated, controlled, closed, vertically integrated user experience. Premium consumers *want* abstraction and simplification. You are actually an example of this with your purchase of a BMW. Using this hypothesis I predicted the success of the Apple Watch when others were questioning whether it would sell much more than Android Wear’s current poor sales.

          15. Please don’t presume to know what I want. My BMW isn’t vertically anything. Not any more than any other vehicle of it’s class or price point. In fact, I would say Lexus is the overpriced Apple of the car industry. If it weren’t for traffic where I live (ridiculous traffic) I would drive a manual transmission. Alas I drive an automatic for this reason alone. Besides that, Audi and Mercedes are always on my radar when lease time comes.

            No question Apple owns “profit share”. As one being strictly concerned from the buyer side, that’s actually a ding against them IMO. It takes a certain audacity to sell a $2500 desktop system, powered by an i5.

            Is my Dell XPS 13 or my SP3 (i7) or my self built desktop any less premium?

            Let me ask you this. Are serious gamers any less premium customers than Apple users? You know, the one’s that purchase $5K to $8K boutique systems. Where are those machines from Apple?

          16. All modern vehicles are abstracted, simplified, and vertically integrated.

            Apple owns more than profit share. If we look at market segments there is no debate that Apple dominates the premium segment. Again, the interesting question is why this is happening.

            Serious gamers are certainly high end customers (in a very specific way re: jobs-to-be-done), but not a significant percentage of the premium segment.

          17. When you don’t make the whole widget, the next best thing you can do is to collaborate. That is what Apple recently did with the IBM collaboration.

            If we see something as substantial coming out of Google (like a collaboration with SalesForce, Oracle, SAP, etc.), then *that* would be something.

          18. “Yes. There’s also the possibility that Google begins to do the hard work of integrating/curating in the way that Apple does”

            Dusting off my old Moto Razr should that happen. Always have a laptop with me anyway.

          19. Exactly. This is why my dad doesn’t buy new vehicles. He only buys older vehicles he can still work on and fix pretty much anything that goes wrong on his own. But he is not the future. Modern vehicles are not built for users to work on and tinker. Computing devices are simply in an earlier phase right now, but a similar future is inevitable.

          20. Sadly, I agree in cars. They are made so it’s harder for everyone, including professionals, with all the proprietary parts. Most these proprietary parts are made artificially incompatible, thus ensuring profits for the manufacturer. This is NOT something I consider to be a good thing for the buyer, but it is what it is.

            In computing we are LOSING that important flexibility, and it’s not a good thing.

          21. This inevitable progress can be viewed both ways. It is bad for some, but good for a larger number of people. You’re only losing a specific kind of flexibility. I understand that it is important to you, but many more people don’t even consider it, and don’t need to.

          22. “…this means that there are a lot of wealthy Android users in China,…”

            Might mean that there are a ton of buying Android users in China, wealthy or not!

          23. “I think we need to be clear that it is China Android that puts Android slightly ahead of iOS.”

            I don’t know the numbers, but if you say that do you subtract out China iOS as well?

          24. I don’t have numbers for iOS in China, but App Annie does publish rankings. You can get their free report from the attached link. What they show is that for iOS, China is second in downloads and third in revenue.

            The interesting thing about the BI article that obarthelemy linked to is that it shows that China Android revenue is almost equal to total Google Play revenue worldwide. Hence if we combined the two, China would be the undisputed leader by far for Android app store revenue.

            This is probably not only due to China’s massive population. Looking at App Annie data, east asian countries like Japan (1st), South Korea (3rd) and even Taiwan (5rd) rank much higher than their population and GDP would predict, which shows that east asian countries like games a lot. This fondness is probably also true for China, hence the massive app revenue.

            So in conclusion, if we stripped out China from both Android and iOS app revenue, who would win? The data suggests that iOS would still be on top by a healthy margin.

            Also, looking forward, there are figures that suggest that iPhone is gaining momentum in China. If this truly happens, then we can predict that the massive Android app revenue in China will start shifting towards iOS.


          25. Actually, this is possible due to the presence (non-exclusion) of other App Stores and I view that as a very good thing.

          26. I just thought that you wanted to do an apples-to-apples comparison of app store revenue, and to do that you wanted to subtract China revenue from iOS App Store revenue. I hope I’ve been able to answer that, although the data is very sketchy.

            I’m not sure either is a good thing or a bad thing. For Google, it surely is lost revenue and lost control over the ecosystem, but on the other hand, it enables them to expand the Android presence to countries which it ideologically doesn’t agree with. It’s good and bad for them.

            For Apple, it might mean that they will have to bend their principles to stay inside China. They might even already have, although Tim Cook does look like a person who would stand firm on human rights. So it’s currently good but potentially bad for them too.

            On the other hand, if we trust the BI article, it looks like the revenue opportunity in China is absolutely huge. Looking at the chart below that I copied from the App Annie report, you can see that North America is only ~24% of Google Play revenue (excluding China). Add the Chinese app store revenue which is close to total Google Play according to the article, then North America is only about ~15% of total Android revenue while China will be something like 40%. So in terms of app store revenue, Google is losing out on a market that is 2-3 times the size of North America.

            That’s pretty bad, but the consolation is that Facebook and Twitter are missing out as well.

          27. I was, at first looking at an equitable comparison, and you taught me something I never would have considered for myself. For this, I sincerely thank you.

            “For Apple, it might mean that they will have to bend their principles to stay inside China.”

            This is the point of my previous comment. We could use some principle bending right here. Software repositories have been around for generations now, and have been usurped by the App Store. iOS can use some internal competition. The internal customer deserves options of where to shop.

          28. They aren’t my numbers, they’re from obarthelemy’s linked article. Click and see the chart. There’s no reason to subtract China iOS because that isn’t a version of iOS which Apple is locked out of. It’s a very interesting problem for Google, the fact that China Android is a different beast and is as large as Google Android, or close to it anyway. And it is growing.

            I still wonder if it is common for developers to target both China Android and Google Android. Maybe they do. Or maybe we’ll soon be looking at three targets for developers, Google Android, China Android, and iOS.

          29. Your thinking in terms of business matters. I don’t care about business matters. When looking at user base, if you subtract out China Android, thus the factor that puts Android slightly ahead of iOS, you most certainly need to subtract out China iOS as well.

          30. There’s no such thing as China iOS. It isn’t a different enough beast to bother separating it out. China Android is very different, that’s why it is separated, and that’s why it is interesting. If you’re just looking to keep score I think Naofumi has covered that for you.

          31. Doesn’t change the fact that iOS is one ecosystem. You might as well separate out iOS by country now. That would actually give us some useful insights, but it’s off topic. Apple isn’t excluded from iOS use in China or China iOS, or whatever you want to name it. Google is excluded from China Android. Now, the question is what impact this will have (is having) on Google as well as developers. Does this create two separate targets re: Android? Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. Will Google address this challenge at I/O? I would hope so.

          32. Sure, technically a lot of things can be lumped into a pile called Android. That has nothing to do with the issue being discussed. Did you just want to make sure everyone knows Android is ‘bigger’? Yes, everyone knows that. Now how about adding something useful on the topic of China and Google.

          33. Actually it was obarthelemy that started this with an incorrect statement: “Didn’t Google’s appstore revenue overtake Apple’s this year, even before adding the other, non-Google, Android AppStores ? Maybe that’s an important factor…”

            Then Naofumi and I corrected obarthelemy. The point is that you have to combine Google and non-Google Android to get app revenue to a point where the Android total is slightly ahead of iOS. In absolute numbers though Android will always be larger, that’s the nature of the more modular system which is what naturally serves the mid to low market.

            But the question remains: Are Google and non-Google Android going to be two targets for developers, or still one somehow? And what happens to Google re: China?

    2. “Cloud: AFAIK, Amazon and MS … are still playing catch-up”

      Wondering how you figure this.


        1. Wasn’t trying to be snarky. Genuine question. If you don’t want to answer, just don’t reply.


  2. Firstly, would replace MSF with Facebook, nobody is really interested in MSF developers conference anymore. Secondly,what if MSF goes AOSP?

  3. I agree with the points that you bring up but, as you yourself note, most of these issues were addressed last year with various projects that did get quite a bit of media attention. It has been clear since last year that Google realised the challenges it was facing.

    The real problem is that Google hasn’t been able to make their initiatives work. Lollipop has shown even weaker adoption than KitKat, Android Wear sales have been weak, Material Design on the web (Polymer) has not seen any real traction outside of Google’s own sites, and reports suggest Android One hasn’t been much of a success either.

    Even if a bright new idea is presented at this year’s Google I/O, given last years execution record, I would be skeptical of their ability to follow through.

    It’s important to note that what brought down Microsoft in the 2000s was not the lack of ideas. It was the lack of turning those ideas into compelling products.

  4. Instead of Cyanogen, I’m wondering if Amazon isn’t better positioned to crystallize an AOSP-based alternative to GMS:
    – they already have the OS and ecosystem, 1 or 2 revisions late but that probably doesn’t matter much
    – they have some GMS replacements, and could probably do more easily.
    – they have the appstore and the media stores
    – they’ve done some of that already, I think BlackBerry is using them for their Android apps
    – they have the incentive, with some cloud services, and, above all, virtual and real goods from to sell

    Apart from the obvious compatibility issues, I see maybe 3 problems:
    – revenue generation. AFAIK, Amazon doesn’t sell advertising/profiling, which must be one of Android’s main earners ?
    – revenue sharing. The pie is smaller, the split must be harder. Google has a level-2 GMS agreement w/ kickbacks to manufacturers
    – governance. Amazon’s agenda is about as predatory as Google’s, especially if the economics are iffy to start with: get ads, media, apps revenue, and add goods sales. Might feel like a Charybdis-to-Scylla situation to OEMs, unless some predictability and transparency (if not participation) is injected into the setup.

    Still, I think they’d be a more credible alternative than Cyanogen, who seem to have issues getting business cred to complement their technical nous.

  5. With all these issues, could Google cut Android lose without any real repercussions? According to the NYT “A recent analysis by Goldman Sachs estimated that Google collected about $11.8 billion on mobile search ads in 2014, with about 75 percent coming from ads on iPhones and iPads.”

    Would taking any of the steps you suggest actually serve to increase revenue from Android, either directly or indirectly? At what point would attempting any of these measures be more work than the return on the investment?

    We all know what Google’s core competency is and it is not anything you have listed. Does it need to be?


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