Google I/O 2015 – Elephant dodging

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Without distribution Google’s innovations have negative value.

  • Google launched a whole raft of new innovations at its 2015 I/O developer conference but omitted to address the elephant in the room.
  • I am referring to Google’s inability to control the distribution of its Android software.
  • This problem is so severe that in my opinion Google’s innovations are helping its competitors more than it helps itself.
  • Top 3 innovations up for grabs this year are:
    • Now on Tap is the ability to do a Google Now search from anywhere on the device including third party apps.
    • This is a stroke of genius as it greatly enhances Google’s ability to see what users are doing in Digital Life services it does not own.
    • More data more relevance and therefore better ad prices.
    • Storage. Google has moved to unlimited free storage for photos and videos which will put pressure on Apple’s charging structure for iCloud.
    • Doze is a smart power management feature that detects when the device is not being used and powers everything down to save battery.
    • This will also include innovations aimed at faster battery charging and more efficient power management.
  • The extent of the software distribution is tracked by Google itself (see here) which shows that 1 year after Lollipop (Android 5.0) was launched, less than 10% of all Google devices are running it.
  • When one includes the non-Google devices, RFM research estimates that only 4.1% of all Android handsets are running the latest version.
  • The vast majority are still running on Jelly Bean or KitKat which contain none of the innovations that Google launched with much fanfare a year ago.
  • Consequently, unless something changes, I do not expect to see the innovations launched yesterday to make into the hands of most users before 2017E or 2018E.
  • This is disastrous because Google badly needs to improve the user experience to compete against iOS and to keep competition at bay.
  • Effectively Google is allowing competitors to access to its best innovations 2-3 years before it can hope to have them meaningfully in the market.
  • This gives them ample opportunity to copy these innovations and get them into the market long before Google can.
  • Google is enabling its competitors and it seems unable to do anything about it.
  • This is because Google at heart is a server software company and in servers when one updates the software every user is instantly migrated to the new version.
  • Devices are completely different and old versions tend to hang around for far longer than anyone could possibly imagine.
  • The result has been endemic software fragmentation and an inability to bring its innovations to market in a timely fashion.
  • Until Google moves to take greater control of software distribution, the user experience will continue to suffer leaving the door open for Microsoft and other competing ecosystems.
  • Microsoft remains my top choice and I would like Google even more if it would do something about fixing this problem.


3 thoughts on “Google I/O 2015 – Elephant dodging

  1. But Google Photos is available now! It’s on the Play Store and is not updated through moving to M.

    I also think the same will go with Now on Tap. It will most likely be updated with the Google launcher app.

    You are right with Doze though.

    Google has made sure that through moving more apps away from the OS update, it can get innovations to users without OS updates.

  2. Umm. How is Microsoft with less than 5% of the market your top choice? They have less penetration than google itself. Clearly apple and maybe top android OEMs like Samsung are more likely to do better in this situation. Since you started supporting MS without justification your site has less impact and your predictions closer to the hack columnists which I know you are not.

  3. Pingback: Google – is Android moving to closed source - Nylitik Blog

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