Android design chief Matias Duarte says that being a phone maker is really tough because hardware is all about the same, leaving software and “system design” as the only way to stand out.Duarte made the comments in an interview with Wired published this morning.
It’s a funny point of view coming from the Android team.
The entire premise of Android is to give phone companies a cheap, baseline set of software to build smartphones on. It’s up to them to add their own innovations so they can stand out from each other.
Now, Duarte basically seems to be admitting that hardware isn’t enough. Phone makers have to add their own software on top of the standard Android stack to have any hope of standing out:
[People] can see at a certain point, the capabilities for everything are going to be the same, and what’s going to matter is how those capabilities are executed. What the fashion is in which they’re executed. And that’s what’s going to drive people’s purchasing decisions….It’s really tough. Especially because these guys aren’t services people or applications people.
Later this year, Google’s deal for Motorola will close. Suddenly, one Android phone maker will have a deep base of expertise in services and applications. Google says it will run Motorola as an independent company, but they’d be crazy (and probably irresponsible to shareholders) if they didn’t take some of that expertise and share it with Motorola.
So when Duarte predicts “consolidation” in the handset business, he’s probably not thinking of Motorola.