– Xochielt Sanchez
Answer by Glyn Williams:
There's something wrong in Android land.
The idea behind Android was simple. Google would make its own software version of Blackberry, encourage everyone to sign up to the free software.
This would suck mobile eyeballs into the Googleverse, like a super-massive black-hole pulling in every star in the Galaxy. Google would get all the views. And it would screw over Microsoft and RIM.
Later on, Google, switched the Blackberry goal for iPhone and things really took off!
Hardware manufacturers were delighted. No longer would they have to hire those hipster geeks who wrote software. ( They were always embarrassing at the office parties anyway. Who needs them?)
These Google guys would just write the software for free. And the real phone engineers would slap that stuff into their hardware and ….. profit! Think how much richer they would be, now that they don't have to waste cash on code monkeys.
Flash-forward by half a decade and things got both incredibly good and incredibly bad at the same time.
The entire world wants a smartphone. Smartphones were bigger than toasters. Bigger than TVs. Families wanted not one but one each. Smartphones are big. Literally.
But something funny happened with the business. It split in a weird way.
The wealthy eyeballs all got Apple phones. So the really big profits all vanished from the market. But then at the low-end of the market, there was competition. Really really serious competition. Those people who wanted a cheap phone, could go to anyone and get the same thing. So the only way to compete was to make an even cheaper phone.
It was like a force of nature. Like gravity. Prices just spiralled down. And suddenly no one was making money. HTC – great phones -Makes a loss.
Sony – world-class cool designs -makes a bigger loss. Sony are now considering shuttering their phone division because it cannot scrape a profit.
Every single Android handset maker was losing money. Sometimes losing billions in a year.
With just one gravity-defying exception.
Thanks to the most the incredible upward thrust of its marketing engines, Samsung managed to overcome gravity. It alone was profitable. Spending $14bn a year on marketing, it could escape the downward spiral.
And then, last year, it too started to falter. The top end of the market lost ground to Apple, the bottom end lost ground to low-cost local manufacturers like Xiaomi and MicroMax. This year it looks like Samsung will have it even tougher. Peak Samsung has happened. It too is going into free fall.
So this solution to a business problem has become a business problem.
Last week, Android looked out the window and said. Now I am become Death, the destroyer of brands.
For people developing on Android this must be a lot of no fun.
Trying to cope with all the variants, and screen sizes and different OS versions must be nightmarish. Even when their software is remarkable, the consumers are reluctant to pay for it. So devs are obliged to do stuff that must be monetised through advertising.
I don't think Android will die anytime soon, but if this continues it will become a toxic brand which consumers will associate with cut price hardware and poor experience. It will only be important to manufacturers who don't care about such niceties, the ones who despite being technology companies are happy with margins smaller than go-ahead industries like sheep farming and plumbing supplies.
Google may not wait around for Android to go toxic.
Google are clever, and sometimes ruthless. They may see a better solution.