Recently, an article ran on MIT Technology Review, in which Skyhook Wireless CEO Ted Morgan said…
“I’m spending a lot of time with companies forking Android. Nobody wants to just be a manufacturer for Google. You see that with what Amazon has done, where they made it their own, and you also see a whole host of manufacturers taking Android down their own path.”
Google’s Android device makers are tired of making commodity devices that are merely platforms for Google’s Android OS, each indistinguishable from the other because of Google’s rules about how Android can be implemented on them in order for them to qualify as “compatible.”
In fact, I wrote over a year ago about how Google’s crackdown on Android partners is needed… and a mistake. I said that the very idea of Android “standardization” could backfire. Badly.
Turns out I was right.
But in asking how they can follow Apple’s or Amazon’s success, telcos and manufacturers are completely missing the big picture.
Because in point of fact, the iPhone is more than the iPhone. The Kindle Fire is more than just a tablet.
Take the iPhone. Yes, the iPhone is a phone, and an iPod, and an internet communications device. And a floor wax and a desert topping too, for that matter.
And yes, the interface is a key component too, with Apple combining next-generation tools and technologies and polishing it all until it gleamed.
But there’s more to the iPhone than just the phone.
There’s all of the iMacs and MacBooks and Airs out there. There’s iTunes, and iCloud, and existing iPod libraries, and Time Machines and Capsules to back them up. There are streaming AirPort Expresses and AirTunes.
There are Apple stores and geniuses and support staff.There are hoards of third-party electronics and accessories and cases and covers.
There’s even iTunes for Windows, so they too can join the party.
An entire ecosystem.
And Amazon? Ditto. Amazon already has a content marketplace, a music marketplace, a video marketplace, an ebook marketplace, an app store.
What do other device makers have? Without certification you don’t get the Android Marketplace, Google apps, and more.
And every time Apple or Amazon or Google introduces a new product like Apple TV, or a new service, or builds a new store, or adds a new section to their web site, the entire ecosystem grows and becomes that much more valuable.
How do you follow?
How do you jump off the Android commodity bandwagon?
Build a cool new phone or tablet, and all you have is a phone or tablet. Add a ton of features all designed by a committee, and all you have is a ton of features all designed by a committee.
The key, to my mind, is simple. You can’t follow Apple. You can’t follow Amazon. And Google’s position is clear. Each has a huge head start, and entire ecosystems already in place.
The best you can do, I think, is to focus on the niches that they aren’t covering, and by providing something that a given set of users may want more than a phone with an iPod.
Gamin is attempting to marry their best-of-class GPS technologies with a phone. Nokia created a phone with strong photo and video elements, hoping to appeal to photographers and others who want or need a camera with them at all times.
Combine a phone with a large touchscreen, and license the Kindle DRM for Amazon. Create a portable phone/book reader designed for book lovers.
And while you’re at it, find a fellow with vision and direction that you trust, and then hand him the keys to the project and get the hell out of the way.
Lock the committee in the closet too. Both the iPhone and the iPad and the Fire have engendered passion and heated discussion, both pro and con. You’re not going to get a device that invokes enthusiasm and devotion from a committee in which everyone has had their say and lobbied for their favorite feature to be included as well.
Don’t try to follow Apple. And don’t try to follow Amazon.
“They [Google] really do restrict anything a device maker can do to stand out, for their own purposes,” says Morgan. “It’s very unappealing to a device maker. They don’t want to be just a commodity hardware maker because they’ll all lose out to cheaper players in China. Everyone’s emboldened by the success of Amazon. Everyone’s saying ‘we need to go our own way.’”
So do it.
Pick a direction, set off, and lead for Pete’s sake.
[Via Technology Review]