Product Management :: Product Marketing

23 November, 2007

Google mobile objectives: Open Handset Alliance / Android

Google make a huge foray into the mobile arena, by providing a phone operating system for free 'Android'. It has launched Open Handset Alliance as the vehicle to facilitate its penetration into the mobile market.

See Sergry Brin introduce it:

Four handset manufacturers are on board: Samsung, HTC, Motorola and LG. Operators?? Sprint, Nextel, T-Mobile, China Mobile, Telefonica and Telecom Italia will sport the Google-powered phones - the first of them will be available late 2008.

This announcement is more than a poke in the eye with significant mobile OS providers such as Microsoft, Research in Motion, Palm and Symbian.

Clearly, everyone is feeling everyone else out with this new offering - 'of course, I'll participate, but I'm not going to jettison any of my existing partnerships that I have nurtured for years'.

I think this strategy is too early for Google - mobile internet isn't what 99% of users require out of a phone at the moment. Another desktop player, MS, took years to gain traction in the mobile sector. Admittedly, this strategy isn't home grown, it came from the acquisition of Android in 2005 - so it will have a better chance than MS, but still...

Google's behemoth is advertising - the mobile industry is a lot more sophisticated and VERY different to the internet. 'Free' isn't word that is trips off the tongue of mobile executives.

I reserve judgment. As I've said before, when people with lots of ammunition are wandering around the battlefield, be careful, they don't have to know too much about what they are doing to be very dangerous.

UPDATE: Here's a biting critique of Google's announcement from a report from Analysys:
As a strategy to bring fundamental change to the mobile industry, Android is way off target.
In reality, a free OS will not be sufficient incentive for major players to write off investments in established software platforms and adopt a platform that offers nothing new from a development perspective.
Manufacturers have a financial liability for their devices, and cannot contemplate the prospect of an open-source OS that could release a virus or trojan into the market. The required investment in OS security and stability would be high, as it has been for Android’s predecessors.
They (members of the Open Handset Alliance) can exploit the publicity if the initiative is successful, and minimise their exposure (as one of several players participating in numerous initiatives) if it fails. In cash terms, partners will invest little in R&D to support this programme.
Ultimately, Google’s primary strategic and revenue objective is to encourage the use of its search engine. If, by backing an OS alliance, Google can expand the scope of its search box placement by cementing relationships with established partners and developing deals with new partners, arguably Android will have done its job.
No surprise that I agree with this viewpoint!

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