By Alok Saboo on May 16th, 2011
Google made no bones about the importance of Android for the company at its annual developer conference (Google IO 2011) in San Francisco. Google made several announcements (listed below) regarding Android and seems to be on track to make Android an even better platform, not only for phones and tablets, but for several other devices.
Android clearly has come a long way – it already occupies the top spot in smartphone sales; apps on Android market are slated to surpass those on the rival Apple store; and Android preference is growing by leaps and bounds. This seems to be a good time to take a pause and take a stock of the situation. Let’s see how the road looks ahead for Android and how it creates value for Google.
If you missed the keynote (video here), here is a brief summary of announcements made:
- Android Honeycomb 3.1 coming out and will be available even on Google TV.
- Next full version of Android – Ice Cream Sandwich – coming later this year to unify the tablet and phone versions.
- Movies and Music on Android
- Commitment to provide the latest OS update to consumers (to minimize fragmentation issues).
- Android Open Accessory to develop hardware accessories to work with Android devices.
- Android @ Home to bring intelligence to home automation.
Making Android ubiquitous
The underlying theme behind these announcements is clearly to make Android (and thus Google) all pervasive. Google is no longer only on your phones, but it will soon be on your tablets, computers, home appliances, TV, etc.
How does it help Google?
We are moving from an era of automation to personalization. So, while Search 1.0 was all about automating the process of information searching to provide the “best” information; we are moving to Search 2.0 era where the information is highly personalized to your tastes and preferences.
Personalization, however, requires deeper understanding of consumers needs, preferences, decision process, and mental models. Given that consumers often are not able to state these explicitly, companies rely on covert means to unearth such details. For example, Facebook uses information on your friends, likes, and comments to construct a social graph that may then used to personalize information (e.g., advertisements) presented to you. Given the richness of information that Facebook has, it is not surprising then to see the company valued at close to $100 billion.
As a search giant with avowed mission to “organize the world‘s information and make it universally accessible and useful”, Google hasn’t been too successful yet gathering this information from users. One of the primary reasons behind this is that often the value proposition for the users to provide this information is not immediately obvious. For example, how does clicking the +1 button on the search results help the user. Yes, eventually it may improve the search quality, but there is no instant gratification and hence users are less willing to engage in such actions. In general consumers are less willing to put in efforts when the benefits are not immediate and tangible. Facebook or Twitter get around this problem by providing instant benefit (ability to share information with their friends).
Android to the rescue…
Android holds immense potential for Google in this race for personalization. By embedding Android in potentially all the devices that consumers interact with, Google can harness heaps of information about the users. Across its services, Google can now determine who you interact with, what you are search for, where you travel, what you read, what you watch, what music you like, which movies you enjoy, what games you play, what and where you shop, etc. Most importantly, all this information is made available without the consumer making any efforts and thus more likely to be representative of true consumer preferences.
By providing a much better value proposition in Android, Google is not only in a better position to beat Apple in smart phone domination, but it is also in a formidable position to take on Facebook and Microsoft. The social graph that Android provides makes the Facebook social graph vastly inferior. Facebook only has information on how users behave online, which is clearly incomplete. Further, this information will enable Google to beat Microsoft not only in search, but also in several other domains (e.g., online document editing, collaboration).
If you were wondering how Android fits into Google’s strategies and why Google is offering it for FREE, you have some answer now.
Admittedly, the above analysis rests on several assumptions and there is a positive (and significant) probability that those assumptions may not hold. However, if the developer and consumer interest in Android is any indication, chances are Google can make all this happen. Google has the technical wherewithal, monetary resources, developer support, consumer trust, and most importantly the vision to deliver on these promises.
So, what do you think – Is Android the magic wand in the hands of Google?