Monday, February 8, 2010

Android+Google=always true? -February 8th

By Craig Turner
A very tech-savvy friend was telling me recently that he had heard of a phone that is under development with Android but not Google. He wanted to know how that could be possible. At first glance, the answer seemed obvious; of course it is possible; Android is available as OSS, you can skip getting it certified if you do not plan to include any Google services or get the Google branding on the phone.

But then I got to thinking. Can you really take the Google out of Android? The other side of the argument could be that, with Google as the original contributor of Android source code and acting as a key driver in the Open Handset Alliance which determines the contents and timelines of each Android release, it would be impossible to completely remove the influence of Google from Android. Even if you build a device purely on the OSS release of Android, the influence of Google on the core components of operating system is built in.

And what does it mean to separate Android from Google? Android is a mobile operating system with growing importance in the mobile computing sector. Google is an internet services provider and, more importantly, one of the world's strongest computing brands. The Android brand's real value comes from the association with Google. If you don’t get certified with the CTS, you are not allowed access to the online marketplace, which is called the “Android Market” not the “Google Market”. To again take the extreme case, the device owner can always claim to have built their product based on the Android OSS release – even there for the average consumer there is an automatic association with both the Android and Google brands.

So, which is more important, the operating system or the brand? Google would likely survive without Android, but the opposite is unclear. Nevertheless, the Google brand alone cannot make great mobile devices. That is the result of a combination of a high-quality operating system and Google's mobile services, certainly in concert with further software and services provided by the rest of the value chain, including ODMs, OEMs and operators. It will be an interesting case study in a few months to compare the success of the Google Nexus One with that of similar unbranded Android-based phones.

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