Google, Closing an Open Platform?

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Google has definitely been the big winner in the war of the mobile platforms.  Being an open platform, with several OEM utilizing the OS for their mobile devices, from cheap budget phones, to high spec high cost phones, Android has flooded the market. And yet, because of this, no one seems to be making any money on the big winner.

Samsung, the one company that had been profitable making Android phones, had a terrible year, resulting in huge losses and executives being released from the company. In fact, the only party that seems to be making any money off of Android is Google itself. And Google seems to be taking the Apple approach, and reaching for ways to make more.

With so many OEM’s making smartphones based on the same OS, it has proven to be a difficult struggle to stand out. OEM’s have had two options, to make their own interface that differentiates their devices from other brands (Touchwhiz, Sense, etc) and to enter in to the “Spec War”, which leaves no one making money, and doesn’t make Android any less laggy either.

Google has recently started to lock down Android. Pulling in those interfaces that OEM’s have been using as a tool to give their devices an identity. The now dead Google Play Edition handsets were pure Google Android, and the expected yet never seen Google Silver program which would have standardized the Android experience on Silver devices, and cut off services for non-Silver devices.

While it’s easy to see where Google is headed with these programs, it’s not always so easy to see what they have already been doing in the past. We look at Apple as the closed garden. They won’t allow anything on their phones that they don’t want (i.e. something that they will profit from) and with iOS being a closed system, that is expected. Android has been different though, it’s an open system, they’ve previously allowed these things right?

As it turns out, they haven’t.

Yandex, Russia’s largest search engine provider, has filed suit against Google for anti-competitive practices. Yandex, like Google, has a variety of Android apps for it’s services. Apps such as search bars, a maps app, e-mail apps, and even a taxi app, which are of course tailored to the Russian environment which Yandex caters too. Russian handset makers however, are still being forced to bundle Google apps in to their Android phones, and are being blocked from including Yandex services. Last year Prestigio, Fly, and Explay, three Russian smartphone manufacturers who together hold 86% of Russian marketshare were blocked by Google from including the popular Yandex apps on their smartphones.

How can Google do this? It’s an open platform? As any BlackBerry user or Amazon phone user, or any user of a forked android OS can tell you, Google can do this by withholding their own proprietary services from an OEM that does not follow their direction. And currently, that direction is Google or bust.

What does this mean to a BlackBerry user? What that means is that as Google tightens it’s grip on OEMs, and as OEMs lose more and more money on their devices, we shall start seeing more of them looking for ways out. We already see Samsung working on it’s own Tizen. I suspect we will see more OEM’s start to fork off of Google Android, and it’s only going to get easier for them to do so. Google is trying to hold them in place with it’s Google Services. Those magic Google Services. Those irreplaceable Google Services. Oops, my mistake, TOTALLY REPLACEABLE Google Services.

More and more apps are now adding Google Services in to their coding. But we’ve seen that this is easily replaced with some other ‘services’. Let’s take for example, Instagram. First of all, we know Google Services were not needed for this app. And yet, such a popular app now has them shoved in to it. And yet Instagram is on Amazon App Store (not for BlackBerry users though, but that’s a story for another day). So how does Amazon have an app that requires Google Services? Simply look in permissions for the Instagram app on Amazon App Store and you will see a tell-tale hint.

Receive messages via Amazon Device Messaging

Instagram simply replaced the Google service with an Amazon service.

And let’s not forget the folks over at Cyanogen, who are working on a Google-less Android which will include their own app store, which I think it is safe to say, won’t be including Google Services.

As Google tightens it’s grip on Android, it’s beginning to look like most of Android will simply slip through it’s fingers.


Founder & Owner of UTB Blogs. Former BlackBerry Elite. When I'm not talking or writing about BlackBerry, you'll find me using my BlackBerry.