Wednesday, November 7

Note of caution on Google' mobile strategy

Holy stratosphere, batman! GOOG hits $741.79 on the back of its Google mobile OS announcement. My note of caution: it's a industry coalition! Can anybody point to an IT industry coalition that works, or has worked, for longer than a year?

Google needs the hardware manufacturers to stay on-board. I suppose it could get into hardware manufacture if it felt it needed to, but that's a business it has shied away from in webservers and desktops that it could have been in a decade ago if Google thought that was a good rate of return. And unravelling the Open Handset Alliance first would take time and money. So it's stuck with herding handset hardware cats - good luck with that.

Not all the biggest cats are even in the herd - most prominently Microsoft (well, duh!) Nokia, SonyEricsson and Palm.

Are all the handset makers in the herd going to chuck it all in and adopt the Android platform without hesitation? No, they're going to take a few tentative steps only, keeping most of their eggs in their own proprietary OS baskets, where after all, most of their brand and experience equity is tied up.

It's not the buttons or the battery in a Moto that makes it a Moto, it's the user experience, which is derived entirely from the OS and the apps that leverage it.

The significant risk for a handset manufacturer is that using an open OS also used by other manufacturers leaves them wide open to competition of the sort none of them truly feels capable of beating.

So yes, there's definitely a lot of big names signing on to develop Android devices, but how deeply they invest in it depends entirely on their own strategic machinations, not on how cool users think a GPhone might be.

I could be wrong, this could be the first industry coalition to hum like a well-oiled machine for the next two decades. Or it could be yet another industry coalition which starts losing its way at the end of the first year under the competitive tensions between its members.

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