Google doesn’t have the economic problem that Apple does because it only cares that a customer is using a Google product. It gives its operating system away and incurs support costs for more devices so its motivations are more in line with what the customer wants. For Google, the move to one device from three devices per customer should actually make economic sense because their revenues are tied to access and their costs are tied to the number of devices.
Google has two platforms, the Chrome OS, which it has tight control over and is associated with large products, and Android which is highly mobile, small and not as tightly owned or controlled. The group that controls the operating system is run by the guy that created the Chrome OS and this is clearly his baby. So even though Android users measure in the billions and Chrome OS customers measure in the thousands, the focus for Google on these large form factor devices has been on Chrome not Android.
On the cusp of a platform market shift
If we look at this and you agree, which you may not, that the market is eventually going to move to one product that scales from a smartphone to a PC then both Apple and Google are limited, but for very different reasons. Apple because it doesn’t want to sacrifice the extra revenue and Google because it religiously believes that Android shouldn’t go where the Chrome OS is.
This suggests there is an opportunity for a platform from a company that is software-based like Google so it doesn’t care about the revenue. In addition, it wouldn’t have the operating system religion that Google has to move into this space and capture what appears to be the opportunity that Apple and Google seem to be dancing around. Granted it’d have to creatively deal with what would initially be a massive app shortfall but this has been the case with every technology swing so far so that isn’t an impossible task, just very difficult.
Whoever addresses this opportunity will likely dominate the next decade. What is interesting right now is that doesn’t appear to be either Apple or Google. There is a precedence for this, the computing market dominance shifted when PCs came to market, shifted again when the market shifted from consumers to business, and most recently shifted again when it went mobile and shifted back to consumers. It will be interesting to see who emerges as the new power and whether they are a U.S. company when the next anticipated shift takes place.
I think we are on the cusp of another big market shift, which seem to occur every 10 to 15 years. Anticipating and preparing for it could have huge benefits for the firms that guess right. Something to think about this weekend.
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