Google is being too nice and humble with Android

Engineers are humble. Take a problem to them, they would leave everything else and start debugging together. You can use their code for free (with the comments intact). They’ll accept the bugs and maybe even tell you beforehand about the bug which is not on the list. They’ll even create a single-use prototype for the benefit of other people. Google is that engineer who wrote Android.

Carriers & vendors are manipulating Android to push their own agenda and Google who could be the cop is just playing an ombudsman.

The end consumers of Linux suffered because Torvalds is humble. Everybody screwed around with the source and companies monetized at the expense of users. There are 10 different ways of installing a small piece of software on any distro. We know the Linux story. I fear that could be the Android story as well.

In the US, Verizon is pushing it’s own version of apps, screens,  and if I have read it right elsewhere, one of them does not carry the Google search app. Why can’t Google call the chops a la what ‘Intel Inside’ did for PCs? Why a buyer in India does not need to know that a Micromax mobile carrying Android is built by Google Engineers? Why the brilliant marketing campaign myfirstandroid.com does not carry any Google branding?

Yes, it can be argued that the charter of Android is not to control what the carriers and vendors do to the phone. Isn’t seamless customer experience a big charter enough which Google can define?

It can also be argued that this is not scalable to build relationships with every phone vendor and telco. Good news, there are only 150-odd who are worthy of business in the markets which matter. Wouldn’t Micromax give a warm welcome to an Android engineer? Any help from a large company, plus, the permission to use the logo is always welcome!

Android does not want to be iOS, but it cannot be Linux  either. It needs to find a middle ground; maybe it needs to learn from the Intel ecosystem. Intel does not leave it on to ISVs to shuffle the chips but controls the whole ecosystem inside the PC. Intel was reportedly not nice to it’s partners. As a consumer I’m not bothered whose arms gets twisted–I need my clean screens with apps I can trust.

More than Android, Google–the brand, is losing opportunity to get into the minds of buyers for whom the phone is the first computing device. Being nice is not serving the purpose of users; Android is just a year old, it’s time to call the shots and establish some rules. Carriers do not have a choice and Google has to realize that. If it continues to be nice, I fear it would end up being the project coordinator.

Disclaimer: Using Linus’s effort is to prove a point and to wake Google up–not an attempt at taking pot-shots. He is a Deva for every engineer.

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  • Hey, I have been thinking on these lines too.I am an android user and completely agree with the analogy…however, I think we might be missing a point here. I think Google is not being humble but is just dormant right now. They are letting people use it and get used to it. Once they know they have enough users who wouldn’t trade an Android for an iPhone, am sure they would start pulling on the line.

    If you want proof on this, you should look at google’s history. You will see similarities in their approach when they launched chrome/analytics/search…..you will see the pattern am talking about

    • Can they really pull it off when the control has been passed to the carriers and phone vendors? In case of search/analytics they were distributing directly to the end-consumer in the chain..but here there are powerful intermediaries..

  • Vinay Katwe (Veekay)

    Android was supposed to be for mobile phone but you can see android tuned for tablets, laptops, STB, Home automation and so on.. all these innovations are happening only because Google is being too nice and humble with Android.
    Google is adapting these changes in new versions and entering different market segment, it wouldnt have happened if google had restricted developers.
    No matter any ODM OEM plays around with Android, they will have to ultimately fall back to new Android release to get the benefits and the main tree is tightly controlled by google.

    • Good point about the source tree. However, once a vendor takes a source..there has to be some control on it running amok.

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  • I’d love to see how the WP7 ecosystem evolves. From what I read, they seem to be enforcing much more stricter terms on the carriers and OEMs… But there’s the whole lack of consumer interest angle to WP7 too!

    • N Patel

      I have played with WP7 & its nice phone. consumer may start using it in a year or so. Google has to get their act corrected before android loses its dominance over Smartphone market

  • Hello Vinu,
    Pretty good article. I’d like to invite you to cross-blog at http://ItIndia.com.
    regards,
    shar