We've detected that you're using an ad content blocking browser plug-in or feature. Ads provide a critical source of revenue to the continued operation of Silicon Investor.  We ask that you disable ad blocking while on Silicon Investor in the best interests of our community.  If you are not using an ad blocker but are still receiving this message, make sure your browser's tracking protection is set to the 'standard' level.

   Technology StocksSmartphones: Symbian, Microsoft, RIM, Apple, and Others

Previous 10 Next 10 
To: Eric L who wrote (1621)11/5/2013 11:58:41 AM
From: Eric L
   of 1647
Kantar Worldpanel Comtech US Smartphone Sales Table and PR Report for 3 m/e September 2013 ...

>> LG rockets to third in U.S. Smartphone sales

Kantar Worldpanel Comtech
November 4, 2013

LG grew to 7% of smartphone sales in the U.S. market in the 3 month period ending September 2013, marking its highest share of sales over the past year. With a growth of 2.6% points, LG was able to capture third place in U.S. sales, according to data released today by Kantar Worldpanel ComTech.

The sales growth comes as a result of strong sales amongst first time Smartphone buyers on T-Mobile, Sprint and the MNVO’s. The Optimus L9 helped drive much of the sales growth on T-Mobile “no-contract” plans and the wider availability on Metro PCS. The Optimus L4 on Verizon also helped fuel the increase vs. Q213.

In smartphone sales, Android has retained its lead for the 3 month period ending September 2013, with a 57.3% sales share of the smartphone market. iOS follows with 35.9% sale share, an increase of 1.3% versus the same period a year ago.

Windows saw an uplift in sales share in the latest period with share up to 4.6%, with the budget Lumia 521 selling well on T-Mobile amongst consumers who do not want to be tied into a contract.

Verizon is the top carrier, with a 34.9% share of smartphone sales in the 3 months ending September 2013 (seeing growth of 6.8% points). AT&T maintained second at 22.0%, with T-Mobile and Sprint virtually tied for third with 14.4% & 14.2% of smartphone sales respectively.

The data is derived from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech USA’s consumer panel, which is the largest continuous consumer research mobile phone panel of its kind in the world, conducting more than 240,000 interviews per year in the U.S. alone. ComTech tracks mobile phone behavior and the customer journey, including purchasing of phones, mobile phone bills/airtime, and source of purchase and phone usage. This data is exclusively focused on the sales within this 3 month period rather than market share figures. Sales shares exemplify more forward focused trends and should represent the market share for these brands in future.

Kantar Worldpanel ComTech Global Strategic Insight Director, Dominic Sunnebo states, “Q3 is traditionally a quiet quarter for Apple as consumers wait its new flagship iPhone and this has been no different-strong sales of the iPhone 5S/C at the end of September did not manage to make up for a dip in August as consumers awaited the new product release. The full impact of the iPhone 5S/C launch will be felt in the Christmas quarter, where share is expected to bounce back strongly in the U.S., with AT&T set to benefit the most.” ###

- Eric -

Share RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last Read

From: Eric L11/22/2013 2:00:21 PM
2 Recommendations   of 1647
Google: Regaining Control of Android (Vision Mobile) ...

It had become painfully clear to Android’s executives: they had officially lost control. Something had to be done. There was only one option: to strip Android naked. Senior Analyst Stijn Schuermans explains how Google made it tough for ambitious rascals to fork Android and dump Google.

>> The Naked Android

Stijn Schuermans
Vision Mobile
November 19 2013

It had become painfully clear to Android’s executives: they had officially lost control. The operating system had been forked by Amazon and too many Asian handset makers. Worse, it had become too easy to replace Google Play with a proprietary app store yet leverage existing Android apps; too easy to replace Google’s services (Maps) with 3rd party alternatives (Nokia’s HERE). Even the Android brand wasn’t the king of the hill anymore, being eclipsed by Samsung’s Galaxy.

Something had to be done. There was only one option: to strip Android naked.

And so that’s what Google did. It let go of control over Android-the-OS. Instead it consolidated control on the APIs needed to make apps, consolidating them within the Google Play Services app. If any rascals want to fork the Android operating system, let them: they can no longer take the entire app ecosystem with them.

Google’s control of Android is eroding

Several years ago we wrote a post criticising Google’s openness statements around Android. Our 2011 study on the Open Governance Index found that Android is the most closed of all mobile open source projects. We were also the first to document the Android control points in 2010, three years before the EU finalised its antitrust investigation. Android has been open to developers, but not to handset makers who have had to comply with Google’s draconian certification and bundling of their apps and data mining software.

Despite the open source and zero-priced nature of the Android OS license, Google could not easily be bypassed. OEMs needed Google for the trademark, Google’s killer apps that leverage its online services and identity (GMail, Maps, and many others) and the Play Store, to get access to the hundreds of thousands of apps that end-users demanded. By cleverly closing down those parts of Android that matter, Google had gained a large amount of control over those who wanted to make an Android handset. A reaction was inevitable.

Over time, Google’s control points were systematically attacked and eroded. Amazon and Yandex, to name just a few, successfully replaced the Google Play store with their own app and content stores. The One Platform Foundation (led by Yandex and Opera) attempted to liberate in-app payments and the app store packaging format from Google’s control, so that you can publish an app on multiple stores with a single click. Nokia HERE (formerly known as Navteq) provided a decent licensable alternative to Google Maps. Samsung spent a lot of effort in recreating all of Google’s services. Samsung also spared no expense in creating its own Galaxy brand, which is becoming as well-known as Android.

With Google partially losing control over Android’s app ecosystem, the advertising giant had to do something. It decided to strip Android naked (a term coined by Nicolas Sauvage). It did so by shifting the control points one level up.

Closing down the APIs

Instead of gaining control through operating system certification, Google moved more and more critical APIs out of the open source operating system and into its proprietary Google Play Services software. [Update: VM just learned Google will ship Android 4.4 without the Chrome browser or any other browser, just the WebView. The emulator has it but not real devices. It’s up to each vendor to create a browser app using the WebView (such as Samsung) or to get license to preinstall Chrome.]

This had an immediate advantage: it reduced the fragmentation problem that had been plaguing Android for years.

Google Play Services is a piece of software that Google can update silently (without the user’s action or even knowledge) and over the air. Google no longer depends on handset makers and operators to update the software that app developers depend upon. Many users might (and do) have old Android versions on their devices: 26% of devices still use v2.3 Gingerbread, released almost three years ago, while only 2,3% uses v4.3 Jelly Bean, released in July 2013 (source: Google, Nov 1, 2013). Over 99% of devices, however, can run the latest version of Google Play Services. It is this which matters most to app developers.

But this was just the start.

Controlling app development

Many developers will now be using a mix of OS and Google Play Services APIs; the former being available on any Android fork, the latter not. Before, the API gap between Google’s version of Android and forks of the OS was mostly in-app billing (the problem that OnePF was trying to fix). Now this gap includes many important services that a lot of developers depend upon: authentication, location APIs, messaging, to name just a few. Developers will now be forced to rewrite parts of their app for each Android fork they want the app to be distributed on.

ARS Technica has done a good job of documenting the end-user implications of this move. Yes, you have your photo, email and other apps in Android public codebase (AOSP), but they are poor cousins of their Google-supported versions. Google seems to prioritize APIs that add innovation and end-user value to their services, so that AOSP apps look outdated. But beyond the effect on end users, the implications for device makers are far more widespread and lasting.

Google’s move puts up the pressure on Amazon and other Android spinoffs to provide alternatives APIs on top of Android to replace those incorporated in Google Play Services. Some are trying: Amazon for example recently added analytics and split testing capabilities to a list of APIs including login, backend services, billing, push messaging, ads and of course the Amazon Appstore for distribution. Amazon and other are taking great pains to making migration to new APIs as easy as possible, e.g. by showing how to match the Maps APIs with theirs.

Even so, companies who fork Android will have to convince developers – who have limited resources and attention spans – that their version offers a large enough user base to be worth supporting. Only a few, if any, will succeed.

The endgame for Google: flatten, expand, mine

The “Android ecosystem” has become a misnomer. It really should be called the “Google Play Services ecosystem”. (Sadly, it doesn’t’ have the same ring to it.) Google has re-established firm control over the apps that drive Android’s success as a platform.

Android as an operating system is still important to Google in the light of its defensive strategy to flatten everything standing between the user’s eyeballs and Google’s ad inventory. Android has succeeded, and will continue to succeed, in preventing any mobile platform from becoming a monopoly in the way that Microsoft Windows was on the PC.

But Google’s strategy has two more pillars: to expand its footprint across the user journey with more services, and to increase the value of its ads by data-mining the user’s behavior. Not Android, but Google Play Services is now driving Google’s expand and mine imperatives.

Google has certainly shown mastery in making open source work to its advantage. Of course, we can’t assume that this is the end of this story. If you were Amazon, Yandex or Samsung, how would you react? ###

- Eric L. -

Share RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last Read

From: Eric L11/29/2013 10:22:42 AM
   of 1647
El Reg Company Feature: ARM Holdings and the silicon IP that powers smartphones, tablets, and ...

The chip designers at ARM Holdings have turned the computing world upside down, shaken Intel to its core, pulled AMD into its orbit, and broadened its range beyond mobile into every nook and cranny of the digital world, from toys to servers.

But where did this UK wonder company come from? How does it earn its living? And how did Apple help create the company that helped Steve Jobs save Cupertino from annihilation?

At the recent ARM TechCon developers conference, ARM's training and education manager Chris Shore answered those questions and more – such as what "ARM" stands for.

"ARM doesn't stand for anything," he said. "Officially, it stands for nothing. It used to stand for Advanced RISC Machines, which was the company's first name on its foundation. Prior to that it stood for something else – it stood for the Acorn RISC Machine, because the original architecture was actually designed by another company, called Acorn."

However, when ARM joined the NASDAQ and London's FTSE stock exchanges in 1998, the name was officially changed to ARM – which stands for, well, just ARM.

Shore said that he continues to be asked whether ARM makes chips – which, of course, they don't. They create and license designs for a broad range of chips. "If you phone us up and say, 'I'd love to buy a Cortex-A9, how much are they, please?' we can't quote you for a single device or even 10,000 devices – you'll have to go to someone like TI or Freescale or Samsung, who actually license and produce the chips, in order to buy one," he said.

"But we could quote you several tens of milions of dollars for a license to build one of your own, if you wanted to."

He also said that many people are surprised that ARM is a UK company [Some anti-UK prejudice, y'think? — Ed.], seeing as how they play in an industry that's dominated by the US and the Asia-Pacific region. ARM was founded in Cambridge, where its headquarters remain today.

Another misconception that people have about ARM, he said, is that many believe that the company knows all about how its licensees use its designs. "People put those into all kinds of end uses," Shore said. "They go into fridges, toys, wireless baseband modems, network switches, servers, tablets, phones – goodness knows what they go into."

Not only does ARM not track what its partners – Shore's preferred term for licensees – do with their designs, some of those partners wouldn't tell them even if they asked.

"We produce a lot of products in secure marketplaces for things like banking cards," he said, "and our partners in those fields are quite rightly very secretive about what they do. They certainly don't tell their customers that they use our IP, and very often they don't tell us what they do, either. They prefer to keep that very quiet, and keep it to themselves."
From little Acorns...

The ARM architecture didn't originate from ARM, the company. About five or six years before ARM was founded, a Cambridge company called Acorn Computers, which made desktop PCs primarily for the education market, was casting about for a processor for the next generation of their machines. Nothing on the market at the time quite suited their needs, Shore said, so they decided to design their own.

"That processor was designed by a very small team of only four engineers," he said, referring to the group led by Sophie Wilson and Steve Furber. "One of whom designed the instruction set, one of whom did the microarchitecture, and two others who assisted with the designing of the supporting chipset." That tiny team produced the processor in 14 months, and it first ran code in Acorn's offices in Cambridge on 26 April, 1985. "And ARM still occupies that office."

That architecture was called the ARM1, for Acorn RISC Machine, and went into a system that became wildly popular in the UK education market. "Everybody my age in the UK used one of those machines at school," he said – Chris is a middle-aged chap – but "they're long gone now."

Acorn is long gone, as well. "It split itself up towards the end of the 1990s, and eventually the final pieces of it were bought by Broadcom and it now forms the chunk of Broadcom's research group." Its legacy, however, lives on in ARM Holdings, which was founded in 1990, headquartered in a farmhouse 10 miles (about 16km) outside of Cambridge.

ARM's first CEO was Robin Saxby, who wasn't the founder of the company, but instead had been headhunted by the founders to run the show. Smart move, seeing as how Saxby came up with the licensing business model that has turned ARM into a global powerhouse.

That business model was born partly out of necessity. With only 12 employees, it didn't have the resources to turn its chips designs into products. "Very neat design," Shore said, "but putting it through a fab and actually turning it into a physical product was a huge risk and a very expensive thing to do, and they simply didn't have the resources to do that."

Those resources, by the way, were provided by ARM's first funders: Apple, Acorn, and VLSI. "It was well-funded, but not lavishly funded," Shore said, and so Saxby came up with the licensing model, which he essentially invented. "It's an industry that ARM has gone on to dominate. We effectively invented it, and for the last over 20 years we've been fortunate enough to dominate it."

How Apple helped create ARM, and how ARM saved Apple

Although Acorn was one of ARM's original funders, it was actually their chip design and Apple's ill-fated Newton that gave birth to the company. "Apple, looking for a processor for that particular design, hit on Acorn's processor and loved it," Shore said. "They wouldn't buy it from Acorn because Acorn was a competitor in the education market, so between them they cooked up this plan to found a separate company to give Apple access to the design."

That separate company was ARM. "It's interesting to see that ARM had three founding fathers, if you like, or three parents – Acorn Apple, and VLSI – and we've actually outlived two of those," Shore said. "Acorn and VLSI are no more, and we've arguably saved the third."

Shore is referring to the fact, as outlined in Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs, that when Jobs returned to Apple and shortly took control of the company in the late '90s, Apple was in dire straits financially. As part of the turnaround that he helped engineer, Jobs raised a boatload of cash, Shore said, "by selling Apple's stock holding in ARM, which was worth a considerable amount of money. So arguably we've outlived two of our parents and saved the life of the third."

According to Shore, although Apple's Newton was key to creating ARM, it wasn't the most important early licensee that the company snagged, "because the Newton wasn't a particularly successful product." That key licensee distinction goes to Texas Instruments, which licensed ARM IP for a mobile phone GSM chipset it was developing for Nokia, the first chip that combined both the application processor and baseband processor onto a single piece of silicon.

"Nokia back then was the king of the mobile-phone industry," Shore said. "Sadly that's not the case anymore. Unfortunately, we're watching the slow death of the company, I think."

TI's single-chip, ARM-based solution was so successful that Nokia soon adopted it across its product line. Soon, the chip was adopted by the rest of the mobile-phone manufacturers, and by the end of the '90s, ARM had a share of about 97 per cent in that rapidly growing market. "And that's a position that we still have," Shore said. "There are very few mobile phones that are not based upon our solutions."

We ... have ... liftoff

The year after joining the NASDAQ and FTSE in late 1998, ARM moved into its present Cambridge headquarters. Robin Saxby retired from the company after 10 years as CEO in 2001, and was succeeded by Warren East, who remained CEO for a dozen years. Simon Segars took over as CEO earlier this year when East retired.

Those years have seen explosive – and accelerating – growth. In 2007, ARM announced that its licensees had shipped 10 billion processors, and in the six years since then they have shipped over double that number. In the third quarter of 2008, ARM had its first billion-processor quarter, and 2.4 billion processors were shipped in the second quarter of 2013.

As of late October's ARM TechCon, the company had signed a total of 954 licensing deals, had 29 offices worldwide with major development offices in Cambridge; San José, California; Austin, Texas; and Bangalore, India. It was worth about £13.7bn ($21.9bn), and its partners had shipped 34.8 billion processors.

"We entered the FTSE 100 in 2010," Shore said. "The FTSE 100 is like the Standard and Poor's index, it's the index of the 100 most valuable companies on the London Stock Exchange. And we're currently – the last time I looked – we are about number 35 in the top-valued companies on the London Stock Exchange; we're slightly more valuable than Rolls-Royce and slightly less valuable than Sainsbury's, the supermarket."

ARM's IP – not just application processors, anymore – is everywhere. "If you look inside a typical ARM-powered product, whether it's a toy or a DVD player or a mobile handheld device, inside that you will find typically an ARM processor, possibly more than one – the average processors per mobile phone from ARM is approaching three these days," Shore said.

"You will also find ARM physical IP in terms of cell libraries and memory compilers; and you'll also find ARM development tools and our modeling solutions that will have gone in to help the development of that product. So we produce more and more components that people use to produce ARM-powered products."

All that IP adds up to big bucks. "Here's a really big number," Shore said, "$913m – that is our revenue for 2012," he said, "the last full year that we reported. I'm sure we'll break a billion this year, but $913m..."

So where does all that mazuma come from?

If ARM doesn't sell actual, physical products, how does it rake in a billion bucks a year? "Everything we ship is essentially virtual," Shore said. "If you buy a licence from ARM, you get a massive tarball full of RTL," referring to the chip design's register transfer level description, which describes exactly how each circuit on the chip will behave and how each circuit is interconnected, "and from that it's your job to create a working processor design that can go into a working product."

ARM doesn't need to worry – as does rival Intel – about spending billions of dollars designing and staffing chip-fabrication plants, aka fabs. How and where their processor designs are fabbed is up to their partners, who then sell the chips to middlemen, OEMs and ODMs.

So how does ARM take its cut? "We make a large charge for the initial license – that is measured in millions, sometimes tens of millions of dollars for a licence to use one of our designs in a particular product or number of products," Shore says.

But that's not the only way that ARM makes money – in fact, it's not even where it makes the biggest chunk of its change. "Every time a company ships a device incorporating a bit of ARM IP," Shore said, "we charge a small royalty. That royalty is measured in cents per device" – averaging around 10¢ per device, he estimates.

But do the maths. With ARM's partners' shipments approaching 10 billion per year, all those dimes – excuse us, 10-pence pieces – add up quickly. And not only do those royalties add up quickly, they also allow ARM to project profits into the future, seeing as how it gets money up-front when it charges IP licence fees, then pulls in royalty fees after that IP is turned into chips that make their way into products.

Not a bad business model. Thank you, Mr Saxby.

But from Shore's point of view, ARM is a bit of a boutique outfit when compared with the rest of the semiconductor industry. "We're used to working with companies that don't just have tens of thousands of employees, in many cases they have hundreds of thousands," he said. "And they have fixed-asset registers measured in tens and even occasionally hundreds of billions of dollars. In contrast – although we're the centre of a kind of spider's web within the industry, at the centre of this great partnership – we are actually a surprisingly small company."

Only in the semiconductor industry could a company worth $21.9bn with annual earnings of around $1bn be considered "surprisingly small".


When discussing his company's 64-bit ARMv8 architecture, Shore revealed that ARM-licensee Apple's implementation of it in its A7 processor came as a surprise to many at ARM. "Our fruity friends earlier this year stunned the world, actually, and stunned most of ARM's employees, in fact, by releasing the latest version of the iPhone supporting and including a 64-bit processor," he said. "They'd done that incredibly secretly and ended up stealing a march on the whole of the rest of the industry. It was quite a staggering achievement, to be honest." ###

- Eric --

Share RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last Read

From: Eric L12/6/2013 8:41:35 AM
   of 1647
comScore's US Smartphone Subscriber Base Share for 3/mo average ending October 2013 ...

Reston, VA, December 5, 2013: comScore, Inc. (NASDAQ: SCOR), a leader in measuring the digital world, today released data from comScore MobiLens and Mobile Metrix, reporting key trends in the U.S. smartphone industry for October 2013. Apple ranked as the top smartphone manufacturer with 40.6 percent OEM market share, while Google Android led as the #1 smartphone platform with 52.2 percent platform market share. Google Sites ranked as the top mobile media property, while Facebook was the top individual app.



- Eric L. -

Share RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last Read

From: Eric L12/15/2013 9:01:48 AM
   of 1647
Samsung Integrates Smartphones and Camera Businesses within IM (IT/Mobile) ...

-- Samsung’s Galaxy NX Camera --

Samsung Electronics integrated the Digital Imaging Business Division, in charge of cameras, with the Wireless Business Division. Samsung Electronics began to create synergies between smartphones and cameras in a bid to capture the largest share of the global mirrorless camera market in 2015. Also, earlier this year, the company created the Enterprise Business (EB) Team, and turned the global B2B Center into a quasi-business division. Its intention is to reinforce B2B sales as the consumer goods market is saturated.

Samsung Electronics executed the reorganization on December 11.

Samsung Electronics maintained the 3-company business system: vice-chairman Kwon Oh-hyeon (DS: Device Solution), CEO Yoon Boo-geun (CE: consumer electronics) and Shin Jong-gyun (IM: IT Mobile). Global economic recession continues, but they performed excellently. We need to keep an eye on the IM Company during this organizational realignment. Samsung Electronics removed the Digital Imaging Business Division in charge of cameras. Samsung Electronics reshuffled it into the Imaging Business Team, and plans to make full use of the Wireless Business Division which has the leadership in the global market.

Samsung Electronics explained, “We will transplant the brand, sales networks, software competency and manufacturing competitiveness of the Wireless Business Division into the Camera Business Division, and integrate the technical know-how of the two business divisions into competency for differentiating our smartphones.” To increase its share of the camera market, it will take advantage of the networks and marketing know-how of the Wireless Business Division and enhance the camera competitiveness of smartphones at the same time. Under the Media Solution Center of the IM Company, Samsung Electronics created the Big Data Center. It looks like a measure to actively respond to changes in trends by means of Big Data analysis. Some business divisions, such as the Washing Machine Business Division, have already capitalized on the Big Data analysis technique to produce visible outcomes.

The DS Company will enhance its research competency. Its intention is to find future revenue generators like memory solutions, application processors (AP) and foundries. To this end, the Solution Development Office and the Modem Development Office were created in the Memory Business Division and the System LSI Business Division respectively.

Just a year after the establishment of the EB Team, the global B2B Center was elevated to a quasi-business division. It means that the company is reinforcing its overseas B2B sales and marketing. It looks like a measure to improve the profitability of the CE and IM Company. A Samsung Electronics insider said, “As it became a quasi-business division, manpower will be greatly increased.” Samsung Electronics, which has been concentrating on the consumer goods market, has been reinforcing B2B sales since 2011, and began to produce visible results this year. “The B2B Company is improving evenly in major markets around the world,” said a high-ranking Samsung Electronics official. “It is raising its market share by bringing B2B lineups to the market with a high level of reliability and brand awareness.” A representative example is that the Large Format Display (LFD) company saw its global market share go up from 12.0% in 2011 and 18.3% in 2012 to 25.5% in the first half of this year.

In the personnel shake-up, which was carried out on the same day, 5 out of 10 regional directors were transferred. Lee jong-seok, director in charge of North America (vice-president) will also serve as CEO of Samsung Telecommunications America (STA). Bae Gyeong-tae, director in charge of the Middle East (vice-president) will become director in charge of Korea, and Lee Chung-ro, executive director of the Digital Appliance Business Division, will become the director in charge of the Middle East.

Kim Seok-pil, vice-president in charge of Europe, will serve as head of the global marketing office and head of the global B2B Center, and Lee Seon-woo, head of the video strategy marketing team (vice-president) of the VD Business Division, will take charge of Europe. Lee Seon-woo will be replaced by Park Gwang-gi, vice-president in charge of Southeast Asia, who will, in turn, be substituted by Kim Moon-soo, executive director of Strategy Team 1 of the Future Strategy Office.

The vacant position of the HR Support Team will be filled by Park Yong-gi, executive director in charge of the HR Support Team of the Future Strategy Office, and Nam Gung-beom will become head of the Finance Team. Oh Gyeong-seok, vice-president in charge of the Development Office of the LED Business Division will take the helm as head of the LED Business Division. ###

>> Samsung Merges Camera And Smartphone Business Units For Tighter Synergy

Dave Altavilla

There’s absolutely no denying that mobile phone cameras are more than just a check-box item but have actually moved to the forefront of a product’s feature set for many consumers. Apple's AAPL -1.1% iSight cameras in the iPhone have been sort of an industry watermark for quality and performance for a long time, while Android and Windows Phone devices have tried to play catch-up. More recently Nokia and Microsoft MSFT -1.42% have stepped up their game with the impressive optics and sensor combination of the Lumia 1020 and even the more standard setup of the Lumia 925 can offer imaging better than most Android phones on the market currently. However, it appears that Samsung has been taking notes and made a move just yesterday, to bring the company’s full resources to bear in an effort to make a better smartphone camera and potentially to sell a few more digital cameras as well.

In a news release at Korea’s [above], Samsung announced that the company is merging their camera and mobile phone business units in order to cross-pollinate technology, IP base, manufacturing and marketing capabilities between the two divisions. Specifically, Samsung noted ” We will transplant the brand, sales networks, software competency and manufacturing competitiveness of the Wireless Business Division into the Camera Business Division, and integrate the technical know-how of the two business divisions into competency for differentiating our smartphones.” In turn, Samsung’s Camera BU will tap into the Mobile Phone division’s vast marketing resources to better push Samsung digital cameras in the market as well.

The move makes sense and Samsung has been tap-dancing around with the two product camps for a while, introducing devices like the Galaxy NX prosumer camera that merges an Android engine and large touch display into a single package for on-board image processing and easy social sharing. And of course there is the Galaxy S4 Zoom that basically sticks a 16MP sensor and 10X optical zoom lens on the back of Samsung’s darling top-end smartphone.

It will be interesting to see what Samsung brings forth in next-generation smartphone designs as the new combined entity, which is already up and running reportedly, pools its resources to improve Samsung’s mobile digital imaging experience. Point-and-shoot cameras are becoming more and more an endangered species it seems, as smartphone camera image quality and capability continues to evolve and improve. Regardless, you won’t see me letting go of my DSLR camera anytime soon. Smartphone cameras would have to come a long way before I’d trust special moment shots and real work photography to any device that fits in my pocket. That said, for “good enough” and on-the-go snaps, those compact point and shoot cameras are becoming less interesting every day.

- Eric -

Share RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last Read

From: Eric L12/19/2013 12:14:16 PM
1 Recommendation   of 1647
Dogfight: Apple v Google ...

The article below was excerpted and adapted from the second chapter of Fred Vogelstein’s "Dogfight: How Apple and Google Went to War and Started a Revolution" (272 pages) which was published in hardcover. paperback, and a Kindle edition (which I purchased from Amazon but have not yet read) last month.

>> The Day Google Had to 'Start Over' on Android

Google was building a secret mobile product to fend off chief rival Microsoft. Then Apple announced the iPhone, and everything changed.

Fred Vogelstein
The Atlantic
December 18, 2013

In 2005, on Google’s sprawling, college-like campus, the most secret and ambitious of many, many teams was Google’s own smartphone effort—the Android project. Tucked in a first-floor corner of Google’s Building 44, surrounded by Google ad reps, its four dozen engineers thought that they were on track to deliver a revolutionary device that would change the mobile phone industry forever.

By January 2007, they’d all worked sixty-to-eighty-hour weeks for fifteen months—some for more than two years—writing and testing code, negotiating soft­ware licenses, and flying all over the world to find the right parts, suppliers, and manufacturers. They had been working with proto­types for six months and had planned a launch by the end of the year . . . until Jobs took the stage to unveil the iPhone.

Chris DeSalvo’s reaction to the iPhone was immediate and visceral. “As a consumer I was blown away. I wanted one immediately. But as a Google engineer, I thought ‘We’re going to have to start over.’”

For most of Silicon Valley—including most of Google—the iPhone’s unveiling on January 9, 2007 was something to celebrate. Jobs had once again done the impossible. Four years before he’d talked an intransigent music industry into letting him put their catalog on iTunes for ninety-nine cents a song. Now he had convinced a wireless car­rier to let him build a revolutionary smartphone. But for the Google Android team, the iPhone was a kick in the stomach.

“What we had suddenly looked just so . . . nineties,” DeSalvo said. “It’s just one of those things that are obvious when you see it.”


The cell phone industry in 2005 was the perfect example of a hairy Google-size problem. The software industry for mobile phones was one of the most dysfunctional in all technology. There wasn’t enough wireless bandwidth for users to surf the Internet on a phone without frustration. Phones weren’t powerful enough to run anything but rudimentary software. But the biggest prob­lem, as Jobs had learned, was that the industry was ruled by an oligopoly: Few companies besides the carriers and the phone makers were writing software for phones, and what existed was terrible. Wireless bandwidth would improve and phone chips would get more powerful; but back then it looked as if the carriers and phone makers would control it all

“We had done a deal with Vodafone [the big European carrier] to try to get Google search on their phones,” said one top Google executive who would not give his name. “But the search they offered us was that we could put some results on, but that they would control most of them, and that our results would be at the bottom of every query. They didn’t have a good mobile browser. Ring-tones [that they were selling] sometimes got prioritized in search results. All the carriers were doing this. They thought they could provide all the services inside a walled garden [as AOL had in the 1990s], and that this control was the best way to make money.

The reason few developers built software for mobile phones was because anytime they tried, they lost money. There was no standardization in the industry. Virtually every phone ran its own software and set of applications, meaning software written for a Samsung phone often wouldn’t run on a Motorola phone, which wouldn’t run on a Nokia. Software platforms were incompatible even within companies. For example, there were a handful of different versions of Symbian. Put simply, the mobile industry screamed “money pit” to any enterprising developer. Most stayed away. The most lucrative business was not writing apps for phones. It was owning a testing company that would make sure your apps worked on all the phones in the market. Larry Page has never been shy talking about how frustrating those days were for him and Google.

“We had a closet full of over 100 phones [that we were developing software for], and we were building our software pretty much one device at a time,” he said in his 2012 report to share­holders. In various remarks over the years he has described the experience as both “awful” and “incredibly painful.”

But Page and the rest of Google’s executives knew that some­one would figure out the mobile business eventually, and they were particularly concerned that that company would be Microsoft. Back then, Microsoft was still the richest and most powerful technology company in the world, and it was finally getting trac­tion with its Windows CE mobile phones and software. Windows CE smartphones were still a niche market, but if consumers took to the platform en masse as they did later with the iPhone, Google’s entire business could be in jeopardy.

This wasn’t an exaggeration. Back then, Microsoft and Google were in the midst of a nasty battle of their own for dominance in search, and for top dog in the tech world. After two decades of being the first-choice workplace of top engineering talent, Microsoft was now losing many of those battles to Google. Chairman Bill Gates and CEO Steve Ballmer had made it clear they took Google’s challenge personally. Gates seemed particularly affected by it. Once or twice he made fun of the way Page and his Google cofounder Sergey Brin dressed. He said their search engine’s popularity was “a fad.” Then, in the same breath he would issue the ultimate compliment saying that of all his competitors over the years Google was the most like Microsoft.

Google executives were convinced that if Windows on mobile devices caught on, Microsoft would interfere with users’ access to Google search on those devices in favor of its own search engine. The U.S. government’s successful antitrust trial against Microsoft in the 1990s made it difficult for the company to use its monopoly on desktops and laptops to bully competitors. It could not, for example, make Microsoft’s the default search engine in Windows without giving users a choice between its search engine and those from Google, Yahoo, and others.

However, on smartphones, few rules governed how fiercely Microsoft could compete. It didn’t have a monopoly there. Google worried that if Microsoft made it hard enough to use Google search on its mobile devices and easy enough to use Microsoft search, many users would just switch search engines. This was the way Microsoft killed Netscape with Internet Explorer in the 1990s. If users stopped using Google’s search engine and began using a competitor’s such as Microsoft’s, Google’s business would quickly run aground. Google made all its money back then from the search ads that appeared next to its search results. “It’s hard to relate to that [fear of Microsoft] now, but at the time we were very concerned that Microsoft’s mobile strategy would be successful,” Schmidt said in 2012 during testimony in the Oracle v. Google copyright trial.

On the day Jobs announced the iPhone, the director of the Android team, Andy Rubin, was six hundred miles away in Las Vegas, on his way to a meeting with one of the myriad handset makers and carriers that descend on the city for the Consumer Electronics Show. He reacted exactly as DeSalvo predicted. Rubin was so astonished by what Jobs was unveiling that, on his way to a meeting, he had his driver pull over so that he could finish watching the webcast.

“Holy crap,” he said to one of his colleagues in the car. “I guess we’re not going to ship that phone.”

What the Android team had been working on, a phone code-named Sooner, sported software that was arguably more revolutionary than what had just been revealed in the iPhone. In addition to having a full Internet browser, and running all of Google’s great web applications, such as search, Maps, and YouTube, the software was designed not just to run on Sooner, but on any smartphone, tablet, or other portable device not yet conceived. It would never need to be tethered to a laptop or desktop. It would allow multi­ple applications to run at the same time, and it would easily con­nect to an online store of other applications that Google would seed and encourage. By contrast, the iPhone needed to connect to iTunes regularly, it wouldn’t run more than one application at a time, and in the beginning it had no plans to allow anything re­sembling an application store.

However, the Sooner phone was ugly. It looked like a Black-Berry, with a traditional keyboard and a small screen that wasn’t touch-enabled. Rubin and his team, along with partners HTC and T-Mobile, believed consumers would care more about the great software it contained than its looks. This was conventional wisdom back then. Revolutionary phone designs rarely succeeded. The Nokia N-Gage, which in 2003 tried to combine a gaming system with a phone and email device, often gets mentioned here. RIM had become one of the dominant smartphone makers on the planet by making BlackBerry’s unadorned functionality one of its main selling points: you got a phone, an incredible key­board, secure email, all in one indestructible package.

The iPhone, in contrast, was not only cool looking, but it used those cool looks to create entirely new ways to interact with a phone—ways that Android engineers either hadn’t thought pos­sible or had considered too risky. By using a virtual keyboard and replacing most real buttons with software-generated buttons on a big touchscreen, every application could now have its own unique set of controls. Play, Pause, and Stop buttons only appeared if you were listening to music or watching video. When you went to type a web address into the browser, the keyboard appeared, but it disappeared when you hit Enter. Without the physical keyboard taking up half the phone, the iPhone had a screen twice the size of virtually every other phone on the market. It all worked the same way whether the user held the phone in portrait or landscape mode. Apple had installed an accelerometer to use gravity to tell the phone how to orient the screen.

A lot was wrong with the first iPhone too. Rubin and the An­droid team—along with many others—did not think users would take to typing on a screen without the tactile feedback of a physi­cal keyboard. That is why the first Android phone—the T-Mobile G1 from HTC, nearly two years later—had a slide-out keyboard. But what was also undeniable to the Android team was that they had underestimated Jobs. At the very least, Jobs had come up with a new way of interacting with a device— with a finger instead of a stylus or dedicated buttons—and likely a lot more. “We knew that Apple was going to announce a phone. Everyone knew that. We just didn’t think it would be that good,” said Ethan Beard, one of Android’s early business development executives.

Within weeks the Android team had completely reconfigured its objectives. A phone with a touchscreen, code-named Dream, that had been in the early stages of development, became the focus. Its launch was pushed out a year until fall 2008. Engineers started drilling into it all the things the iPhone didn’t do to differentiate their phone when launch day did occur. Erick Tseng, then Android’s project manager, remembers suddenly feeling the nervous excitement of a pending public performance. Tseng had joined Google the year before out of Stanford business school after Eric Schmidt, himself, sold him on the promise of Android.

“I never got the feeling that we should scrap what we were doing—that the iPhone meant game over. But a bar had been set, and whatever we decided to launch, we wanted to make sure that it cleared the bar.” ###

About the Author: Fred Vogelstein is a contributing editor at Wired magazine, where he writes about the tech and media industries. He has been a staff writer for Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, and U.S. News & World Report. His work has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post.

While reader reviews of 'Dogfight' are generally quite positive The New York Times Sunday book review by Siva Vaidhyanathan is less so ...

"... Some books about technology emphasize the people responsible for firms and innovations. Others analyze the consequences of innovation. Vogelstein, a diligent and prolific journalist for Wired magazine, fails on both counts. As he concedes in an afterword, Apple offered him no access to its executives. As for Google, Vogelstein has interviewed Eric E. Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman, and some project leaders and engineers for his Wired articles — but not Google’s co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. This book breaks no news and recycles much of what Steven Levy wrote in the best book to date about Google, “In the Plex,” and what Walter Isaacson revealed in his huge biography of Steve Jobs. ... The next 10 years in Silicon Valley could be even more interesting and influential than the past 10 years. “Dogfight” might have served as a primer on the issues, personalities and technologies to watch. Instead, it’s a stale account of very familiar events and very famous men."
# # #

- Eric -

Share RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last Read

From: Eric L12/19/2013 12:59:43 PM
1 Recommendation   of 1647
Huawei Moving Upstream While Downsizing Its Smartphone Model base ...

>> Huawei keeps its eye on higher end of phone market

-- Huawei executive Shao Yang (File photo/Chiu Wan-ren) --

Despite the hot sales of Chinese budget phone brand Xiaomi, leading Chinese mobile phone producer Huawei plans to keep its focus on the higher end of the market by bringing out one or two models priced at 2,600 yuan (US$430), competing directly with market leaders Samsung and Apple, said Shao Yang, vice president for terminal marketing of Huawei, on Dec. 12.

Shao made the remark at a year-end press conference in Beijing, in response to the news that Xiaomi had sold 10,000 of its low-priced Hongmi (Red Rice) phones in just 10 minutes in Taiwan last week.

Shao noted that Xiaomi has performed outstandingly well with its unique marketing approach and focus on a few "hot items," taking advantage of the desire of consumers for something different.

While Huawei is not considered as exciting as Xiaomi in the Greater China market, the brand is excelling in extending its global appeal, according to Shao, who added the company achieved remarkable sequential sales growth in many international markets worldwide in the third quarter, including 140% in Latin America, 50% in Southeast Asia, 45% in Western Europe, 45% in Russia and 50% in Africa.

Huawei plans to downsize its product range next year, when it will roll out only 10 or so models across the price spectrum, with one or two bearing a price tag of 2,600 yuan but boasting performance comparable to the high-end models of Samsung and Apple, Shao said.

Shao said Huawei will continue expanding in the US despite the company's well-publicized complications with the US government, saying that one advantage of overseas markets is that they work in line with commercial rules, rather than politics. ###

- Eric -

Share RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last ReadRead Replies (1)

To: Eric L who wrote (1628)1/5/2014 12:26:07 PM
From: Uncle Frank
1 Recommendation   of 1647
There's a new player in the phone business, Eric... Western. They've targeted the younger demographic, and their revolutionary design doesn't require batteries!

Share RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last Read

From: Eric L2/8/2014 8:47:47 AM
2 Recommendations   of 1647
Forking Android: Ars Technica's Peter Bright Opines and Defines the Issues ...

>> Neither Microsoft, Nokia, nor anyone else should fork Android. It’s unforkable.

Canning Windows Phone and using Android would be a huge mistake.

Peter Bright
Ars Technica
February 8, 2014

As happens from time to time, the suggestion has been made that Microsoft cancel Windows Phone, and instead fork Android. It's not the first time this suggestion has been made. It's probably not the last, either.

It's a poor idea. Google has worked to make Android functionally unforkable, with no practical way to simultaneously fork the platform and take advantage of its related strengths: abundant developers, and abundant applications.

The outline of the "Microsoft should fork Windows Phone" argument is as follows: Windows Phone doesn't have huge developer buy-in or sales success, but Android has both. By forking Android, Microsoft could provide unique value—corporate integration with things like Exchange, Active Directory, and System Center or InTune; full Office support; a polished user experience—and make the platform depend on its own cloud services (Bing, Bing Maps, Azure) rather than Google's. But simultaneously, it would still have access to all the Android applications that people depend on.

The result should be a platform that's somehow more attractive to consumers, by virtue of the Android brand and all those Android apps, more attractive to developers thanks to the Android APIs, and cheaper for Microsoft to develop, since core operating system development can be left to Google.

Where this falls down is that there's no good way to use the Android platform this way. It's not designed for it. In fact, with each new Android release, Google is making a forked operating system less and less viable.

Not-very-open source

Broadly speaking, Google produces two big chunks of code. The first is the Android Open Source Platform (AOSP) codebase. This provides the basic bones of a smartphone operating system: it includes Android's version of the Linux kernel, the Dalvik virtual machine, and portions of the basic user interface (settings app, notification panel, lock screen). This part is licensed under a mix of the GPL and Apache license. Google produces periodic code release of these open source parts, though has been criticized for performing the actual development largely behind closed doors.

The second chunk is called the Google Mobile Services (GMS). (Or at least, sometimes it's called GMS. Sometimes it's called just Google Services, and sometimes it's Google Play or Google Play Apps; GMS is what it's called in the code, though, so that seems to be the most common name). This has two big portions. The Google Play Services provides a wealth of APIs and system services: APIs for Google Maps, Location, and in-app purchasing; Google+ integration; Remote Wipe; Malware scanning; and more. Then there's the Play Store collection of apps: Search, Gmail, Chrome, Maps, and many more.

The GMS has a few important features. GMS isn't open source. Anyone can take AOSP and slap it on a phone. That's not true of GMS. To get GMS, the device has to meet certain technical requirements (performance, screen resolution, and so on), and it has to pass validation. Though Google says that the GMS suite is itself free, the validation process isn't, with reports that it costs around $0.75 per device.

GMS also seems not to be divisible: if your phone passes the GMS validation and can include GMS, it includes everything: both Play Services, and the various Google-branded apps that use those services.

The split between AOSP and GMS is not constant, either. Google has slowly been migrating more and more functionality to GMS. For example, in the latest Nexus 5, the core phone user interface—the thing that you use to launch apps and show icons—has been rolled into the GMS Search app.

Similarly, APIs have made the move. AOSP contains a location API, but GMS contains a newer, better one, with additional features. Google encourages developers to use the GMS API, and the AOSP Location API mostly dates back to Android 1.0, and hasn't seen any substantial changes since Android 1.5. The result is that many third-party applications are not merely "Android" applications: they're GMS applications, and won't run without the proprietary, non-open Google software.

Four ways to do Android

There are four ways that hardware builders can use Android on their phones.

The first is the way that Google really wants companies to use Android: by relying both on AOSP and GMS. Pass the certification, include all the Google services and Google apps. That's what companies like Samsung and HTC and LG do. Going this route still provides some facility for the OEM to customize. OEMs can provide their own apps to sit alongside the Google ones, for example. It appears that Google isn't completely happy about this—there are reports that the company recently made an agreement with Samsung whereby Samsung would reduce the amount of customization of the user interface and deprioritize or remove its apps that competed directly with Google-branded equivalents.

Taking this path provides the best compatibility with third-party applications by ensuring that they have both AOSP and GMS APIs available to them. It also provides the most consistent experience: in spite of the various customizations that are done, it means that Google's apps will be available, and those apps will work the same way on any AOSP+GMS device.

It also cedes most control to Google, and that level of control will only grow. Each new release increases the level of integration with Google's own services, and Google is moving more and more new functionality to GMS, leaving AOSP a barebones husk.

At the other end of the spectrum, you can ignore GMS entirely. Ship a phone with AOSP and perhaps some custom software on top of it to make the experience a little less rough for users, and call the job done. At the very cheapest end of the market, there are companies doing precisely this. If they choose, OEMs can provide their own stores and other services to fill the many, many gaps that omitting GMS leaves, but they're always at a disadvantage relative to GMS devices, because they won't be compatible with any third-party applications that use GMS' APIs. That's not a small category, either, since features such as in-app purchasing are in GMS.

The third option is the one that spans the two: ship a device with AOSP, and an equivalent to GMS that provides new implementations of substantially the same APIs. Provide workalike replacements for services such as location and mapping, but plumb into Microsoft services rather than Google ones. No company has really gone down this route. The closest is Amazon, which provides near-drop-in replacements for some Google APIs (in particular mapping), but which hasn't even begun to keep pace with GMS development in general.

Technically, however, a company with sufficient development resources could provide its own GMS replacement. The overhead would be not insignificant, especially as—to ensure optimal compatibility—the replacement would have to replicate not just correct functioning, but any bugs or quirks of the GMS implementation.

There are also lots of little awkward aspects of the GMS API; it includes such capabilities as "share with Google+" which few companies have any real counterpart to. Another example: there is an API for handling turn-based multiplayer gaming. A company could implement this API and have its own server infrastructure for managing the gaming sessions, but obviously these gaming sessions would be completely separate from Google's gaming sessions, fragmenting the player base in a way that game developers are unlikely to be keen on.

As an added bonus, should the ultimate resolution of Google's long-running legal battle with Oracle be that APIs are, in fact, copyrightable, this kind of wholesale reimplementation of GMS would become legally actionable. Google could, if it chose to, shut it down through the courts.

To these three options, one could perhaps add a fourth: use AOSP to provide a few essential services—support for hardware, telephony, and so on—but then build an entirely new platform and APIs to run on it. Aspects of Amazon's API support would fall into this category, with some of its APIs covering the same ground as GMS APIs, but in a completely different, incompatible way. It's not clear, however, that any manufacturer has entirely embraced this path, though one might argue that Ubuntu for Android is similar, at least in spirit.

You can have compatibility or control: Not both

The first of these options—AOSP with GMS—is the only option that provides the full Android experience. It's the only one that ensures developers can transfer their skills perfectly, the only one that ensures that the full breadth and variety of Android software is available. However, it's clearly not a good option for Microsoft, given that it would almost entirely cede control of the platform to Google—and judging by the advertising company's track record, it would cede even more control with each new Android release.

The second option—AOSP with a few extra custom extras—has the upside of providing an opportunity for Microsoft to integrate its own services. It would support some Android software, though exactly how much is unclear. It would certainly mean omitting any high-profile title using in-app purchasing, so, say, Plants vs. Zombies 2 or the latest iteration of Angry Birds would be out. If one were building a feature phone platform, this may be a somewhat reasonable path to take. When the phone is only really built for running the built-in apps (camera, browser, e-mail) the fact that many Android apps would be incompatible doesn't really matter.

The rumors of a Nokia-built Android phone suggest this kind of approach: AOSP under the hood, but with Nokia services, not Google ones, on top.

However, it's important to understand just how deficient this kind of device would be. Google has pushed very significant pieces of functionality into GMS, including messaging and the Chrome browser. The AOSP counterparts are buggy, feature deprived, and by at least some accounts, barely maintained. If a company wants to use AOSP without GMS, it has a lot of work to do if it wants to produce a high quality experience. The open source parts just aren't good enough.

Amazon's Kindle experience also demonstrates how even having an Android-like AOSP-derived platform is challenging. Kindle doesn't have the latest and greatest Android games, because their various developers haven't bothered making non-GMS versions of their games, even though the Kindle platform is very similar to Google's. In other words, the application challenge already faced by Windows Phone isn't solved by using AOSP. The only way to solve the application issue is to be not merely an AOSP platform but a GMS platform.

The third option—AOSP with a home-grown GMS equivalent—would solve this, but it would also maximize the development effort required by the forker. Providing equivalents to every GMS capability ensures at least that users get a decent experience. It would also reinstate the software compatibility that AOSP without GMS forfeits.

But this is a huge undertaking. For Microsoft, the effort required to build a GMS workalike on top of AOSP is going to be comparable to the effort required to build the Windows Phone shell and APIs on top of Windows. In fact, it's likely to be somewhat greater: Microsoft already has, for example, a browser engine that runs on Windows. It doesn't have one that runs on AOSP.

Moreover, it still implicitly gives Google control over the platform. Various aspects of how Android is used are determined by the underlying APIs: sharing between applications, for example, is done in a particular Android way. Any platform using Android in this way would have only a limited ability to take the platform in a different direction from the one Google chose.

The fourth option—use AOSP with an entirely new software stack on top—gives freedom and flexibility, but to what end? The kernel isn't the important bit. Microsoft already has a smartphone kernel. Windows Phone 8 already uses it. And strikingly, for Microsoft, ditching Windows Phone doesn't mean that the company can ditch development of this kernel. It's already being developed—for Windows! The kernel isn't the hard part.

Fork off

If Android were an open platform in the way that Firefox OS or Ubuntu for smartphones were an open platform, the forking suggestion would make more sense. The AOSP/GMS split wouldn't exist. Everything would be in AOSP, so piecemeal substitution of back-end services without having to reinvent vast tracts of code and without any major compatibility implications would be practical.

But it isn't. Not only is it not this kind of an open platform, but Google is actively working to make it functionally less open with each new release. The result is that a forker has to make a choice: they can give Google control and get the all the upsides of the platform, or they can snatch control from Google and get almost none of them.

Android isn't designed to be forked. With GMS, Google has deliberately designed Android to resist forking. Suggestions that Microsoft scrap its own operating system in favor of such a fork simply betray a lack of understanding of the way Google has built the Android platform. ###

- Eric -

Share RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last ReadRead Replies (1)

To: Eric L who wrote (1630)2/13/2014 4:53:51 PM
From: Eric L
2 Recommendations   of 1647
The Openness of Android (Paul Thurrott) ...

>> Android Is Not Really Open, Secret Documents Reveal

Don't be evil, indeed

Paul Thurrott
Windows IT Pro
February 13, 2014

A recent leak of internal Google documents reveals that Google's dominant Android mobile OS isn't "open" or "open source," as the company claims. Indeed, licensing Android comes with a complex web of requirements that binds the hardware maker's devices to Google's extensive collection of online services and forces them to use Google apps as the default.

Put simply, Google is engaging in exactly the same product-bundling practices that got Microsoft in antitrust trouble around the world. But it is doing so with a far more invasive suite of services.

"In order to obtain key mobile apps, including Google's own Search, Maps, and YouTube, manufacturers must agree to install all the apps Google specifies, with the prominence Google requires, including setting these apps as default where Google instructs," Harvard University professor Ben Edelman writes in a blog post explaining Google's practices. "It's a classic tie and an instance of full line forcing: If a phone manufacturer wants any of the apps Google offers, it must take the others also."

The timing of this revelation is interesting, as European Union (EU) antitrust officials, having accepted a settlement of Google's sweeping antitrust charges related to search, are now investigating Android. I've alleged that Google has effectively "dumped" Android in the market—selling or licensing the mobile OS below cost, or at no cost, in order to quickly gain market share and illegally harm competition—but these documents reveal a new layer of wrongdoing: Google's agreements with hardware makers also come with important and potentially illegal strings attached.

With an ever-rising 80 percent market share in smartphones and 62 percent in tablets, Google is the dominant mobile computing platform and the obvious heir apparent to Windows, which still dominates the PC world. But there are many questions swirling around Android, including multiple accusations of intellectual property and design theft. Many believe that Android's dominance has come both unfairly and illegally.

The leaked documents hint at how Google monetizes something that is ostensibly free (not to mention "open," which it is not): Google requires hardware makers to agree to a Mobile Application Distribution Agreement, previously undisclosed publicly, that numerous Google mobile apps must be preinstalled on devices, that Google Search must be set as the default search provider, and that Search and Play Store icons must appear "immediately adjacent" to the home screen, with the other Google apps appearing no more than one screen swipe away. Because search is the main conduit for Google's only actual source of revenues—advertising—much of an Android user's daily activities feeds the Google financial engine.

In case it's not obvious, an intentional side effect of these requirements is that it places Google competitors, including Microsoft's Bing, at a disadvantage. And the only way to avoid the Mobile Application Distribution Agreement is to replace key Google services and create your own mobile app store—prospects that are obviously difficult and expensive, and beyond the capabilities of most companies. (Only Amazon has done so, and its store is a tiny fraction of the size of Google's.) Thus, Android licensees are locked into Google's web, as are Android users.

Professor Edelman ably explains how this practice harms everyone but Google: its partners, its competitors, and consumers. Even if a phone maker believes a competing mapping or search provider is better for consumers, they can't use it without losing access to all of the other Google services that make Android usable. This agreement "surpresses competition," he writes, because "alternative vendors of search, maps, location, email, and other apps cannot outcompete Google on merit even if a competitor offers an app that's better than Google's offering." And "consumers do not benefit when Google prevents phone manufacturers from installing apps in whatever combination consumers prefer."

Most chillingly, this product tying gives Google's weaker and otherwise uncompetitive services—Google Checkout, Google+, Google Shopping, Google Products, and so on—artificial prominence that could over time drive out the products and services that legally established themselves in their respective markets.

He cites Google Checkout as an example.

"Reaching users a decade after Paypal and competing with Paypal's huge user base, by ordinary measures Checkout should have been entirely stillborn," Edelman notes. "Indeed, Checkout's growth has been slow. But what would have happened if, rather than featuring a special logo only for AdWords advertisers who joined Checkout, Google had shown such logos for all popular payment intermediaries? Surely equal treatment of Checkout versus competitors would have reduced Checkout's adoption and harmed Checkout's relative prospects. Yet equal treatment would have provided consumers with timely and actionable information, and would have facilitated genuine competition on the merits."

That's Android, folks: everything that antitrust regulators complained about with Windows, but worse. And as a reminder, Microsoft was originally threatened with a breakup order in the United States for its own anticompetitive behavior. I'm curious to see what antitrust regulators think of this hairball. ###

- Eric -

Share RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last Read
Previous 10 Next 10