Tuesday, October 20, 2009

No, Google won't make a smartphone

There are a lot of rumors today about Google making its own smartphone.

I do not buy it. It does not make any business sense.

I have been a big supporter of Android from day 1. Heck, it is probably the thing that transformed me in the market, from an idiot to a visionary :-) I kept talking about mobile and open source for years. Everybody told me "you are an idiot, it will never happen, mobile and open do not go together". I begged to differ. Then Google came around with its marketing machine. Ooops, mobile open source became hot. The future of mobility is open source. Open is the new closed...

Well, unfortunately most of the people that thought I was an idiot have not changed their mind. But I have my inner confidence and I am not going to stop acting like one :-)

Back to Android. It was a big splash at the beginning. Then there was some disappointment around Mobile World Congress in February (no devices to show). And now it is an explosion. If you were at CTIA in San Diego, you know it: at least 50% of the phones on display were Android. From every device manufacturer. Amazing.

The Android phone are here and they are looking good (the Droid in particular).

Operators are pushing for Android like crazy. Yesterday I met a European carrier and he told me "We are launching one Android phone this year and ten (10!) next year". He said "We were terrified with the iPhone, we needed something open we can build on".

Booom, open source in mobile :-)

You have an operating system that is open. You can take it and ship it as it is, with Google inside (many have done it). That is an option, works with marketing, but includes the risk of moving from evil #1 (Apple) to evil #2 (Google). But you also have a second option: just take the open core, add your apps and move Google in second place (e.g. what Motorola has done with MOTOBLUR). Take the best of open source, keep the source and innovate on it. The best of both worlds.

On the side, developers are creating Android apps like crazy. It is the Google effect, combined with the open source effect. Nobody is going to take down my app. Apple is not controlling my business model. Think about it: if you have to write a social networking messaging app that will take a year to develop, would you go with iPhone? Would you risk to spend a year and then get rejected on iTunes because Apple is - obviously - building a similar application? I would not. I go Android. And so are doing all the other developers.

Android is the #1 mobile developer choice today, as long as there are enough phones out there. And the phones are out now. It is not the iPhone, because it is closed. And it is definitely not Windows Mobile (I second the comment from Laura Fitton to Steve Ballmer: "have you noticed very few people are developing Twitter apps for Windows Mobile?").

Ok, let me go back to the subject. You are Google. You have an ecosystem that works so well it is a miracle, you have displaced Microsoft for developers creating the dominant OS of the future (remember, everything is going mobile), you have phones coming out every day, almost all device manufacturers using your OS, carriers that bring you in even if eventually you are going to make them a pipe.

You have made it in mobile, coming from nowhere.

Now you screw everything up? You create a smartphone? A competitor to every new friend you made?? And you are a company that has never built hardware???

I do not think so.

Google won't make a smartphone (Microsoft will, because their Windows business model is broken forever, not being open source). Google won't do it now. Maybe in a few years if things change. Now it does not make any sense.