21
Sep 10

Google’s wayward son

No parent likes to see their perfect kid fall in with the wrong crowd. But hey, stuff happens.

So I wonder how many people at Google are getting that pit in their stomach as they watch young Android dye its hair and pierce various body parts.

In this case, the “wrong crowd” is the only crowd available. The carriers are the culprits, and they’re in it for themselves — not for Google. They’re the ones encouraging Android to show some independence and escape mom and dad’s evil clutches.

Google no doubt envisioned an ideal world where users would fall in love with the look, feel and power of Android, and Google would profit nicely via search and the Android Marketplace. But, thanks to Android’s much-hyped openness, the phone companies have their own utopian vision — and the power to squeeze profit out of every nook and cranny.

For example, Verizon and T-Mobile already cram junkware into their Android phones — things that are often difficult or impossible to remove. Why not? As the PC makers discovered, it’s an easy way to pick up a few extra bucks when margins are small. And the user experience isn’t exactly at the top of the carriers’ priority list.

Another disturbing development for Google is Verizon’s plan to launch its own V Cast app market. According to TechCrunch, Verizon’s world of apps will “likely be more prominently displayed than the Android Market.” Thanks to the freedom of Android, Verizon has the freedom to bite directly into a major Google revenue stream. V Cast is that most evil kind of app market too — a “curated” store requiring apps to go through an approval process, just like iPhone’s App Store.

Then there’s the search function, which is Google’s bread and butter. Will young Android lose its moral compass and experiment with different partners? Last week, a false rumor spread that Verizon was making Bing the default search mode for its Android phones. The reason this rumor could spread so quickly was that it was believable. After all, if carriers can configure Android phones as they wish, or create an app store to compete with Google’s, an alternate default search doesn’t seem very far-fetched.

The exact terms of Google’s agreement with the carriers are not known. But obviously if search went to Bing, Google’s biggest reason to have bought and nurtured Android would be out the window. So for Google’s sake, let’s hope Android isn’t quite as open as it claims to be.

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