A Less Small Thing: Forking Android

August 5, 2014

A few years ago, I was in China. I marveled at the multi-SIM phones. I fiddled with a half dozen models and bought an unlocked GSM phone running Android 2.3. The clerk in the store told me that there would be Android phones without Google. At the time, I was thinking about the fragmentation of Android. In hindsight, I think the clerk in Xian knew a heck of a lot more about the future of Android without Google than I understood. The Chinese manufacturers liked Android but not the Google ball and chain “official Android” required of licensees. Android without Google seems to be a less small thing.

I read “Google Under Threat as Forked Android Devices Rise to 20% of Smartphone Shipments.”The article points out that Android has a market share of 85 percent. The article points out that market share is one thing. Revenue is another. With Web search from traditional computers losing its pride of place, mobile search is a bigger and bigger deal. Unfortunately the money generated by mobile clicks is not the gusher that 2004 style search was. To compensate, Google has been monetizing its silicon heart out. You can read one person’s view of Google search in “Dear Google, I Am Writing an Open Letter from the Search Wilderness.”

I am sure Google will dismiss the NextWeb’s story. I am not so sure. As NextWeb observes, “The company faces a growing issue: The rise of non Google Android.” The real test will be the steps Google takes to pump up the top line and control costs at a time when complaints about Google search are becoming more interesting and compelling.

Stephen E Arnold, August 5, 2014


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