For several years now Google has struggled with its role within the Android ecosystem, always tempted to wade into the waters with its own Google-branded hardware in an effort to compete directly with Apple, while equally always worried such efforts would upset the Android partners it depends on to actually make this crazy open source project financially viable.
Granted Google has unveiled its own Nexus line of devices, but over the years these projects have been done in partnership with a variety of Android vendors, almost like Google throwing a bone to the likes of HTC, Huawei, and LG.
But recent rumours indicate that Google may be poised for a significant switch in its Android strategy, as the company is reportedly planning to release its own non-Nexus, Google smartphone by the end of 2016, the Telegraph reported on Monday, citing “sources familiar with the discussions.” Add this to the recent speculation that Google is planning on creating a proprietary, closed version of Android, and we could be seeing a radical change in Google’s mobile strategy.
For a second let’s say that all these rumours prove true, that Google is planning on closing the Android ecosystem, likely charging licensing fees for Android, and otherwise not allowing partners to alter that platform, given the changes in Google’s Android traditional revenue streams, it makes complete sense.
You see, for years now Google has made money off Android in one way, and one way only, advertising. The company has linked its entire revenue chain to partners building unique devices that get people to buy apps and click on advertising. While for years I’ve questioned the viability of such a strategy, there’s no question that it worked…at least while the advertising industry operated like the Wild West.
Now, however, things are changing, and there seems to be a general revolt against any sort of mobile advertising. This revolt has undercut Google’s financial stability, and so a new way forward was needed. Enter proprietary Android software.
Not only that, but if you’re going to close the Android ecosystem, what better way than on your own top of the line Android device? The search giant will be able to better control Android development, updates, and security, as well as better control the product that goes to market.
Of course this would serve as a titanic shift in the mobile world, as for the first time Google and Apple, both of whom dominate the mobile OS market, would be competing head-to-head in mobile hardware as well; saying nothing about what it would do to the already shaky Android ecosystem.