Google’s Android Partners Will Keep Using Android — They Don’t Have A Choice

andy rubin

Now that Google is buying Motorola, there’s an idea out there that many of Google’s Android partners, like Samsung, HTC, and LG, will start moving away from Android and building more of their phones on rival operating systems.

But that’s not likely to happen — not anytime soon, at least. Because there aren’t really any viable alternatives.

Making smartphones and tablets these days isn’t just about finding an operating system to run them on; it’s about whole platform ecosystems, including apps, developers, components, multimedia, and a lot of other factors. And considering all of those, that’s where Android is still their best-available option right now, even if it’s going to be more closely aligned with one of their competitors.

Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7, for example, isn’t much of an alternative. It’s a decent operating system, but it isn’t much of a platform ecosystem at all. Samsung and HTC already make Windows phones, and they know how few of them they sell. Plus, Microsoft is also aligned closely with a competitor — Nokia, which is arguably more threatening than Motorola. And switching to Windows Phone 7 would also require switching all of their phones over to Qualcomm chips, something many handset companies may be reluctant to do.

HP’s attractive-looking WebOS, similarly, is a lousy platform ecosystem these days. Even if HP were to licence it, it’s unlikely that any big handset maker would make it their primary platform. Same for RIM’s QNX or Intel-supported MeeGo.

And it’s not like the handset guys could really make their own platforms right now — they’re just not equipped for it. Maybe someday, if they start now, but it could take many years, and they all have spotty track records as software creators.

For now, their best bet is to grit their teeth and continue making their biggest bets on Android. That’s the platform that many consumers have recognised as a good-enough rival to Apple’s iPhone, and that’s their best path forward to maximise sales. And now that Google is acquiring patents to protect it, Android might not be such an intellectual property headache.

And anyway, there’s a long time before the deal will close, and an even longer time before Google would have much of an opportunity to make big improvements at Motorola. (It’s not like anyone is scared of Motorola today. And even after the deal closes, who knows if Google will even do a good job running Motorola.) You could make a strong argument that Samsung and HTC are even stronger in the Android field right now, during Motorola’s regulatory scrutiny and eventual integration.

So expect to see continued, strong support of Android. The handset players may make some noise about wanting alternatives — it’s always in their interest to have as many options as possible — but right now, Android is their only serious option.

Related: Google-Motorola: Winners and losers