Google becoming like Apple?
We all know that Apple is known for its closed nature, and the fact that its products cannot ‘be programmed by outsiders’ (Zittrain, 2010). We also know that Android is Apple’s counterpart, offering a completely open source platform, so that anybody can take the code and do what they like with it.
One thing we think we know is that Google is synonymous with Android. This is not exactly the reality. In 2007, Google launched its Android Open Source Project (ASOP), only months after the first iPhone was released. It was essentially an act of precaution and defence, as Google felt threatened by the success of Apple’s, very popular, smartphone. ‘Google decided to give Android away for free and use it as a trojan horse for Google services. The thinking went that if Google Search was one day locked out of the iPhone, people would stop using Google Search on the desktop’ (Amadeo, 2013).
Fast-track a few years on, Android now take up 40% of the market share, with the operating system predicted to have one billion users by the end of this year.
Google are now in a little dilemma. ‘If a company other than Google can come up with a way to make Android better than it is now, it would be able to build a serious competitor and possibly threaten Google’s smartphone dominance’ (Amadeo, 2013). While it was easy for Google to give away their Android code when they were sure they’d fail without doing so, the company is now processing ways in which it can protect its valuable project, without completely closing it off.
You’ll have already noticed that many of Google’s applications are not opened, such as Maps, Calendar and Drive. However, Google continues to close off it’s previous ASOP run applications by simply creating a better, closed alternative.
Amadeo brings to light and compares the different elements of ASOP that Google have dropped, and ceased to update with the proprietary Google Play apps. ‘While you can’t kill an open source app, you can turn it into abandonware by moving all continuing development to a closed source model‘ (2013).
For example, Google Play Music has replaced ASOP music:
This is becoming a trend for Google, and is quite cunning of them. While they can protect themselves from monsters who might take up the Android code and make something better of it, they are still ensuring that everything Android remains open source. They do so, simply by creating closed, proprietary applications that work more efficiently, look nicer, get upgraded and are just better in every way, so that people don’t want to use the ASOP applications anymore, in fact, people don’t even know the difference. This let’s Google have a bit more control over what the users do… sound familiar anyone?
It feels like Google are swaying towards the likes of Apple’s previous CEO, Steve Jobs, when he said, ‘you don’t want your phone to be like a PC. The last thing you want is to have loaded three apps on your phone and then you go to make a call and it doesn’t work any more’ (Zittrain, 2010).
Google make it look they are doing the users a favour, when really they’re looking out for number one.
- Amadeo, R 2013, ‘Google’s Iron Grip on Android’, Wired, 21 October, viewed 13 September 2014, http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2013-10/21/googles-iron-grip-on-android
- Gartner 2014, Gartner says annual smartphone sales surpassed sales of feature phones for the first time in 2013, Gartner, viewed 13 September 2014, http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2665715
- Vaughan-Nichols, S 2014, ‘Debunking four myths about Android, Google, and open-source’, ZDNet, 18 February, viewed 13 September 2014, http://www.zdnet.com/debunking-four-myths-about-android-google-and-open-source-7000026473/
- Zittrain, J 2010, ‘A fight over freedom at Apple’s core’, Financial Times, February 3, viewed 13 September, http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/fcabc720-10fb-11df-9a9e-00144feab49a.html#axzz3DLOBQEFZ