Why Google Hates Android

First, some facts.

Next, my hypothesis: Google wants Chrome OS to beat Android. There are lots of reasons for this.

History: Google’s history is web software, and they excel at quickly creating simple, scalable web applications. Android is native software (i.e. software that is stored and executed on your device), which they historically have eschewed. Consider the Google Voice Desktop App saga. If true, Google pulled a potentially killer desktop product because it was not ‘web’ enough.

Control: Android is almost fully open source, while Chrome OS’s web underpinnings inherently make it closed source* Chrome OS’s user experience is loaded over the wire after Chrome OS gets onto the Internet, ensuring that closed web apps take top billing on the OS. Because Android’s source code is readily available, other developers and device makers can fork it, customize it, even go so far as to rip out Google as the default search engine and drop Yahoo or Microsoft in its place. The same (likely) can’t be done to Chrome OS, because the guts of the operating system are loaded from Google’s servers when you turn the machine on. UPDATE: struck out the incorrect bits. Thanks, Mark.

Economics: Google’s decision to deliver the 30% cut of Android Market app sales to telecom companies, instead of keeping it for itself, results in a lack of incentive for Google to invest in the Android Market. Why would they? They make no money on it. This manifests itself in many ways:

  • Android Market pales in comparison to iTunes and (at least by the screenshot) Chrome’s upcoming Web Store. 2+ years and 100K apps after the first Android phone was released, there is still no web presence (outside of a couple hundred apps) for the Android Market, while the other two have (or will have) robust ways to navigate and discover new apps from your PC.
  • The developer console to the Android Market is plagued with repeated, significant problems. Most recent: developers with multiple apps have not been able to see all of their apps for many days now.

Having built such a success in Android, Google has no choice but to continue building upon it. But that doesn’t mean they need to be committed to it. I believe they will continue to invest the bare minimum to show progress and appease their wireless and handset partners. I believe this will result in the following outcomes:

  1. Google will lengthen Android’s release cycle from every 6 months to every 1 year… oh wait, they have already announced this. Increasing the cycle length reduces the speed at which features and functionality will be built into Android, and allows its competitors to catch up or keep moving past Android’s feature set.
  2. Google’s press/blog entries for Chrome OS will increasingly talk about how it will power phones.
  3. Google will fast-track Chrome OS to try to beat Android on tablet devices. The Galaxy Tab sold a reported 600K units in its first month. While solid, this number is still low enough to allow Chrome OS to supplant Android as the non-Apple dominant tablet OS. Google has to act quickly for this, however, as the momentum behind Android by device makers is very significant.
  4. Having considered Android, and the smartphone space as a whole, ‘conquered’, Google’s senior Android engineers will increasingly be allocated to Chrome OS.
  5. Unless Chrome OS dies out of the gate, future Android releases will be underwhelming in both user features and developer tools.

* Yes, Google released the source code of Chrome OS. However, much like Android, the key bits are either going to be closed-source (GMail, Calendar, Android Market), or hosted on Google’s servers where they are untouchable to outside developers.

Thoughts? Other points? Factual inaccuracies? I’d love to hear from you.

12 thoughts on “Why Google Hates Android

  1. Incorrect. Since ChromeOS IS the browser, they CAN’T lock out Gmail. In fact, ChromeOS is MORE open than Android considering it’s pretty much 100 percent GPL I do believe. Android has some components on the Apache License and while it is a open license, the manufacturers and carriers can modify it and not have to release the code. If Android was 100 percent GPL, then the manufacturers would have to release the code for TouchWiz, Blur and HTC Sense.

  2. gorkon,
    “Since ChromeOS IS the browser, they CAN’T lock out Gmail.”: My point wasn’t that GMail may be locked out, my point was that Google may not always be the default search provider on Android.

    “ChromeOS is MORE open than Android considering it’s pretty much 100 percent GPL I do believe”: In theory, I agree. In practice, I don’t. While the software that goes into Chrome OS may be 100% GPL, it has been Google’s intention that 1.) the bulk of the operating system is downloaded from Google’s servers on boot, and 2.) Google guides Chrome OS development. These two factors allow Google to claim love of open source software, while at the same time holding back all the proprietary bits/secret sauce on its servers. As proof, let me ask you this: even though Android (or for that matter, Google Search) is built on open-source software, how much of what they know about you are you allowed to view? How much of their server code do you have access to?

  3. “Android is almost fully open source, while Chrome OS’s web underpinnings inherently make it closed source*” — except, of course, that Google released Chrome OS as Chromium OS, under an open source license, over a year ago:

    http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/11/releasing-chromium-os-open-source.html

    Heck, they even mention that on a page you link to:

    http://chrome.blogspot.com/2009/07/google-chrome-os-faq.html

    “The same (likely) can’t be done to Chrome OS, because the guts of the operating system are loaded from Google’s servers when you turn the machine on.” — except that they don’t, and your link to supposed proof (the 2nd link shown above) says nothing of the sort. The only way your claim would make a lick of sense is if you define “the guts of the operating system” to be apps (e.g., GMail), and Google has also been moving to pull those apps out of Android and into the Android Market, for faster product release cycles.

    “Increasing the cycle length reduces the speed at which features and functionality will be built into Android, and allows its competitors to catch up or keep moving past Android’s feature set.” — or, it might also be a response to the ever-popular whining about fragmentation.

    Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently indicated that Android is Google’s direction for touch devices and Chrome OS is for keyboard-based devices:

    http://www.engadget.com/2010/11/15/eric-schmidt-chrome-os-aimed-at-keyboard-based-solutions-andro/

    (where, it should be noted, that he reiterated that Chrome OS will be open source)

  4. Mark:
    Yes, good points, and thanks for clarifying. I should have stated that, as inferred from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=62iBuf2btVI, Chrome OS’s user experience is loaded over the wire after Chrome OS gets onto the Internet. That is mostly true, as the OS is built for the web and web apps (“Chrome OS is Chrome”). What is not true is my statement that the OS loads itself from the web, and I will clarify in an update.

  5. While I do agree on some points made in this I believe that it would be silly to say that Google hates Android. Google TV is built on Android and the new UI revamp Gingerbread shows renewed focus on the UI experience for Android. I see more of Android as a stepping stone for Chrome OS.

    Google has show a large interest in their native client. Showing how native code can be downloaded and run in the browser such as Chrome OS. From my latest reading of how the inter-workings of Android work (Google This is Android for the Gizmood link) it would be possible for application developers to use a shallow implementation of a native library on the browser to simulate most Android applications.

    I’m not saying it would be playing Angry Birds in any respect but suddenly the Chrome OS market just added every functional Android application to it’s Marketplace. And given some time it is more than possible for the same openGL hooks that Android has to be passed though the native client to Chrome OS. Now it’s just a pipe dream but I’ve seen Google do crazier things.

    The real trick here is going to be the under-workings of the Chrome OS and how they achieve the fast boot they’ve been working towards.

    Part of the beauty of Android is the Dalvik runtime and how the underlying system can be ported to any device.

  6. What about the issue that Adobe’s inferior Flash application is currently the default, with no other option to view the many popular video sites?

  7. This is all silly talk. Android is Linux. Chrome is Linux. Android is an interface with phone extensions top of Linux. Chrome is Google’s interface on top of Linux. Much like Gnome or KDE on top of Linux. This is all good (*really* good) but still Linux. Ok…so someone coined a new word for servers and network drives and remote operation. Cloud. It’s cloudy here right now….

  8. “This is all silly talk. Android is Linux. Chrome is Linux.”

    Put away your developer hat and look at this argument from an economics and messaging perspective. Sure, they are both Linux, but using that as your argument is like saying Apple and BSD are both based on unix, therefore the organizations behind them are exactly the same.

  9. Google has already stated that Android and ChromeOS will likely merge over time into a single operating system. I doubt they actually hate android. Rather, I think that ChromeOS is an attempt to make a viable operating system for larger computers. I’m almost willing to bet that in a few years, ChromeOS’s feature list will make it more enticing for people to install on larger desktops, especially as it expands the app store. They say that it isn’t the plan, but I’m guessing that ChromeOS is their way of waging war against Windows in a subtler way.

    Wait and see….

  10. Wait and see indeed.
    Actually the Chrome/Android announcement happened two weeks after this post was written. I personally doubt it will be possible to “merge” the two projects. What will happen is that the best parts of A will make its way into B, Google will stop talking about A, every few months the tech press will ask “What happened to A?”, and finally Google will announce that they killed A.

  11. Hi,
    I just have few clarifications about Google Chrome OS, (Cloud Operating System). Sorry if i m posting this in inappropriate post. But i badly need to clear this.

    Previously, when i was working for Sun MicroSystem client. There, we use Sun Dumb Terminals from which we used to access our local server through our Sun Java Card. When we insert our Java card, it connects to our local server, where all the applications are installed and it is common for all the users in that location. Similarly we can access the applications in remote server locations.

    I feel Google Chrome is just an extension of that. Sun Wide Area Network connects me to the local Sun Server, where as now in Google Chrome OS, connects me to the Google Datacenter, where many users can be handled at the same time.

    Please do not mind that, i am against Google’s new technology. I am so much instrested in that =, thats why i wanted to clear my doubt about the Cloud computing system.

    I hope somebody clears my mind.

    Thanks,
    Subu

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.