Google’s Apple-like stance may force partners to look at alternative OS

Smartphones makers do have the choice of forking Android or using Samsung’s Tizen, but both would be costly and risky to develop, and only the largest smartphone makers could afford the investment

It is everyone’s belief that Google is going the Apple way with the launch of the new devices along with Google Assistant.

But this might have a ripple effect on partners (handset-makers) such as HTC, Sony and Samsung. Experts believe that these companies will look again at alternatives to Google’s Android.

“Google is pursuing a similar integrated hardware-software strategy to Apple with Pixel smartphones, Daydream View, and the other new hardware Google has announced. This is the final defeat for the operating system licensing model which Microsoft pioneered, and everyone tried to copy before Apple’s iPhone success,” Ian Fogg, senior director, mobile and Telecoms, IHS Markit, told HT.

“But Google’s culture and deep learning, intelligence, organisational, and software competitive strengths are very different to Apple. Yet, with Pixel smartphones Google is aiming at the same competitive areas which Samsung and Apple are: camera quality, cloud storage, and the ease of experience,” Fogg explained adding that Google needs to differentiate from other players using its competitive strengths around AI.

But for this, the Google Assistant needs to be on as many smartphones as possible to support Google strategy and so cannot be a long term differentiator for Pixel smartphones. Also, Fogg believes that the phones should have priced more aggressively to push sales.

However, the success of Android has so far stopped the success of any other operating system. “All the competition is either dead (Firefox OS, BlackBerry 10, Symbian, MeeGo), dying (Windows 10 Mobile, Sailfish) or a niche (Tizen). Smartphones makers do have the choice of forking Android or using Samsung’s Tizen, but both would be costly and risky to develop, and only the largest smartphone makers could afford the investment,” Fogg explained.

But experts also do believe that Android might face risks due to the option of Android forking. “Google still needs its partners. If they go wrong then Samsung may ramp its fall-back Tizen OS strategy, and more significantly Google’s many China headquartered smartphone-maker partners may fork Android and take their more proprietary Chinese Android variants into international markets,” he said adding that Android may be dominant now, but it’s not invincible if Google makes the wrong strategic moves and undermines its ecosystem partners.

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