Monday, August 15, 2011

The end of Android as we know it

In my last post, I claimed the race for the mobile OSs was pretty much over. The two winning were iOS and Android, and I felt there was no room for anyone else.

Scratch that: Google just bought Motorola Mobility.

This opens up the race again. It is a fantastic opportunity for Microsoft, and also someone like HP with Palm.

What Google did is the harakiri of the third party OS strategy. The one that made Microsoft what it is in the PC world. They simply acknowledged that the Apple model is better, even if Android was growing like a weed.

Google has just told us that to be successful in mobile you need three things: an OS, a cloud and a mobile device. The whole thing. As long as Apple had OS and device, Google was fine. Now that Apple has iCloud, things are different. Google reacted. The cloud is where they are strong, now they need to catch up on the device.

What about the rest of the pack? What about Samsung and LG? Is there anyone in the world that really believes Android will stay the same, that if you are a device manufacturer you can still use it long term?

Nope, Google is your competitor now. You can't use Android long term. You can't count on the Google cloud anymore. You have to move. You need an OS and a personal cloud play. NOW.

Those who believe Google will keep Android as it is are smoking something funny. There is only one chance: that the move is only and purely about Intellectual Property (I think a big part of it is), and that they will take Motorola HW and sell it to a Chinese manufacturer, keeping just the IPR. I do not buy it. You do not spend $12.5 billion for IPR. That is a bit too much money.

Who benefits from this? Microsoft, Microsoft, Microsoft. I am sure they are calling all device manufacturers and they are saying "I told you so". They will claim they are the only option for a third party OS. And it is not just marketing anymore.

Who else? Nokia. The game is wide open now. They have a window of opportunity. Android is going to slow down dramatically. Nokia can make a comeback. They have the lead on Windows over anyone else. It is their great chance. Plus, if it does not work well, Microsoft is going to buy them to make sure they own the three legs of the stool (they have only OS and cloud, no device. With Nokia, they will be equal to Apple and Google).

Anyone else? Probably HP. They have said Palm is now something you can license. If you do not like Microsoft, they are now a good option. However, they still lack developers, so it is a long shot. In any case, they have two out of three (OS and device), if they can put together a cloud story they could compete with Apple and Google.

Losers? Samsung and LG, big time. They bet on Android and now they are screwed. I can hear them swearing in Korean even here from Lake Como. They can recover quickly. The rest of the pack is even in a worst shape. I would not want to be Sony Ericsson right now...

I think this is neutral for HTC and RIM. HTC has a long bet on Microsoft as well: they can recover. RIM just lost a potential buyer (not that I believed there was a fit) and now they have Google as a direct competitor. However, a slower Android could give them time to breath. They need time and they might just received it as a gift.

In any case, this is huge. I thought Android was the Microsoft of mobile, it was working so well and they just gave it up. They know better than I do (and the IPR situation was really messy) but I have a hard time believing Google will be able to be a great HW company. We'll see, but I have my doubts (a lot).

One thing is sure though: this is the end of Android as we know it. The fastest growing OS in the history of mankind. Open, meant to be the OS of the connected devices world. The backbone of the Internet of Things.

All gone. It is a proprietary OS. The third leg of the cloud+device+OS stool owned by a device manufacturer. Nothing more.