The Wall Street Journal’s Amir Efrati has a great story out about how Andy Rubin, the genius behind Google’s mobile operating system, Android, is nervous about the success of Samsung.Efrati writes:
At a Google event last fall for its executives…Mr. Rubin also said Samsung could become a threat if it gains more ground among mobile-device makers that use Android, the person said. Mr. Rubin said Google’s recent acquisition of Motorola Mobility, which makes Android-based smartphones and tablets, served as a kind of insurance policy against a manufacturer such as Samsung gaining too much power over Android, the person said.
So, why is Rubin so nervous about Samsung? Shouldn’t he be happy that it’s selling so many phones, loaded with his operating system?
There are two reason he’s so nervous.
The first reason is that slowly but surely, people are starting to think of the phones that Samsung sells not as “Android” phones.
Increasingly, they are thinking of them as “Galaxy” phones.
Here’s a chart we’ve been following that illustrates this:
The second reason Rubin is nervous about Samsung is that between the two companies, Google and Samsung, Samsung is profiting much more off the Android platform than Google is.
Here’s our favourite chart to illustrate this point:
So why is Rubin nervous?
He’s nervous because Samsung has lots money and brand awareness.
It could use that money to develop a new operating system — or even just its own “fork” of Android, similar to what Amazon is doing with Kindle tablets.
Because of the Galaxy brand awareness, it’s plausible that customers with a brand affinity would come along.
Samsung would do this because Apple has proven the profitability of owning both the hardware and software in smartphones.
The reason this possibility is so scary to Rubin is that if Samsung were to significantly alter Android or come up with its own mobile OS for Galaxy phones, that would interrupt Google’s direct line of connection to hundreds of millions of mobile Internet users.
That’s scary for Google because ever since it paid to become AOL’s search engine back in the 1990s, it has noticed that consumers don’t really care who provides their search, just that there is search at their access point to the Internet.
Since then, Google’s entire strategy is based around the idea of putting its search engine as close to consumers’ access point to the Internet as possible.
That’s why it made Android. That’s why it made the Chrome browser and now the Chrome laptop: to move closer to the start point.
Google worries: If Samsung were to open up a little space between Google and consumers, who knows what other kinds of Web-discovery engines might worm themselves in?
Bing? Facebook? Amazon? Samsung’s own search engine?
It’s the kind of thought that is scary enough for Rubin to call a meeting over.