Here’s the brutal truth of the smartphone market: the only companies that make any money are Apple and Samsung. Every other company, from HTC to Sony to Google’s own Motorola, is struggling. And that’s a huge problem for Google.
Apple obviously writes its own software for the iPhone, but Samsung’s phones all run a customized version of Google’s open-source Android, and Samsung is so dominant that it could very well split off and start building its own version of Android, just as Amazon did with the Kindle Fire. That would be a huge blow to Google. If the rest of the market can’t make money using Android soon, it’ll provide a big opening for Microsoft.
Google also has to find a way to limit the influence of wireless carriers on Android. Companies such as AT&T and Verizon are all too happy to load up Android devices with unnecessary crapware and bloatware that ruin the user experience while delaying important software updates.
The animosity between Google and the carriers has gotten so deep that Google’s new Nexus 4 flagship device doesn’t have an LTE radio; the carriers simply wouldn’t cooperate.
That’s in stark contrast to the iPhone experience, which is pristine and controlled by Apple from the start. It’s a control that irritates power users but offers a sense of support and security to the rest of Apple’s millions of customers. There’s a happy balance between the two extremes, and Google needs to find it before Android begins to slip away entirely.