“Android does not do much,” says former webOS investor

by: J. Angelo RacomaDecember 15, 2012

Apple vs Android

We’ve heard a lot of criticisms about Android as a platform, including fragmentation, patent infringements, a copycat mentality, and a platform that has been made cheap by the proliferation of inexpensive, low-end devices. But a recent interview with a venture capitalist has brought Android criticism to a whole new level.

Elevation Partners co-founder Roger McNamee says that using Android “is the equivalent of having a motor scooter at the Indianapolis 500.”

Now let’s put things into perspective. McNamee’s company was among the investors of the webOS platform, when it invested into Palm, which then touted the connected operating system as an alternative to the iPhone. McNamee has once been hailed as a hero by webOS fans. As such, he may have some vested interest in his criticism toward Android, having once evangelized a platform that would end up being bought by another company (HP) and eventually dying a slow death.

But Elevation Partners is also an investor in successful social media companies like Facebook, points out BGR, which may put some credence and clout to his analysis.

Profitless prosperity

Among McNamee’s criticisms of Android is that it has grown in numbers and has overtaken iOS worldwide, but Apple is still taking the lion’s share of the profits in the smartphone and tablet market. “Android has been managed essentially to make it a profitless prosperity,” McNamee says.

Additionally, there is a danger — at least from Google’s perspective — that its association with Android will be diluted, in favor of Samsung. “Right now, if Google is not careful, Android will be Samsung or Samsung will be Android,” he adds.

Of course, there’s the praise for Apple, which has “showed that a large company can not only innovate, it can transform and really rebuild markets.”

Adding value?

I know Android fans will be appalled at these statements. But I think that McNamee is taking a wrong appreciation of Android as a platform, and Google as a business. The value of Android for Google is not really in the raw profits it makes from the devices that Android manufacturers sell.

Google, after all, is a software and services company (except perhaps for its hardware subsidiaries like Motorola Mobility), and value is derived from advertising dollars brought about by market knowledge they are able to gather through their free services . As such, every time someone buys and Android phone or tablet, Google does not care for the profit margin. But when that person starts using services like Gmail, Google Search, Google Now and the like, this adds value to Google’s business.

You can check out the full interview at Bloomberg through the source link. I know a lot of us Android fans would have violent reactions against this kind of thinking regarding the platform. But let’s be constructive with our comments. Would you agree that Android is not giving any value to Google? Is Samsung becoming too dominant a player in the Android ecosystem? Is Apple taking too much of the mobile industry’s profit, and is this sustainable in the long run?

  • Zaid

    Hah…show something better than.

    • hohopig

      Or more to the point, stop looking at the thing from a profit gorging blood thirty investor point of view. The fact that he will praise apple is a no brainer, since it is such a gorger of profit.

      • reverend_house


        He’s asking: why doesn’t Android create huge monopolistic lock-in profits for a single manufacturer? I would say that that’s a good thing. The very competitiveness of Android has put smartphones in the hands of millions of people who could never have afforded the Apple and Microsoft premiums.

      • Ivan Budiutama

        Or he is investing his money on Apple inc and in truth simply got pissed off since… well… you can check their stock price lately

    • Noah

      Err, finish your sentence, something better than what?

      • Apple_Nexus

        This is the internet – spelling and grammar are dead. RIP

  • RarestName

    This is a joke, right? As an iOS user since it is my preferred operating system, I acknowledge that Android does a lot of things in terms of features.

  • Apple innovating was the worst thing he could have said ,there went any credit behind his claims lol.- KID ANDROID

    • Aj

      As an android user, i too like to brag about it and make apple look small but facts are facts. Android UI actually looks very much like iOS UI. We must accept that all platforms have picked up something or the other from iOS. While Google improved on the iOS interface,its core functioning is very simmilar to that of iOS. Over the years Android has improved a lot but except the widgets and some small bits, it is a Xerox copy of iOS. The app grid, app switching, google play etc may not be exactly same as that found on iOS but have some similarities to iOS (or perform a similar function). And then iOS has too copied Android. The notification tray and many other features gave been pulled up from Android and then Google has proved that it is better by improving on Android’s core function. For instance, open up youtube and search for notifications on iiOS 5/6 vs that on Android JB (or even ICS would do). At first, apple had a head start but iver the years Android has developed from a tacky, bulky, slow, unpleasant OS to this beautiful, elegant and simple OS.

      • raindog469

        Android’s app drawer looks like iOS, maybe. And iOS looks like PalmOS did, and PalmOS looked like the Newton, and the Newton looked like Program Manager in Windows 3.0, and so on back to Xerox PARC, speaking of Xerox.

        You’d have to really try to make your Android home screen look like an iPhone, or anything else but an Android home screen.

        • JWolf_PDX

          Well said.

      • Yogesh Mandell

        You may be an Android user because you know it is better (let the war continue), but you are no fan of Android. You have turned to the dark side (Apple)

      • Android is very different than iOS. I will list out some core differences.

        UI: Android provides the user with a desktop like experience similar to Windows. Your apps get hidden away in the app drawer and you get to pick and choose which apps you want out on your home screen for easy access. iOS on the other hand keeps everything out on the home screen. Widgets are another core feature of the Android UI. They allow you to quickly access core features of an app right from your home screen. This is a feature that iOS is completely lacking.

        Navigation: Android navigation is built around core functions such as a back button, menu button, and home button. iOS only provides you with a home button that granted does have multiple functions but still provides a vastly different navigation experience.

        Design: Sure they share a grid layout for their app icons but I am baffled that anyone thinks this was first done by iOS. Other than the grid layout you are hard pressed to find similarities in the design. Live wallpapers make my Android UI look lightyears better and different from iOS.

        App Store and Apps: Now this one makes me chuckle. People should be informed that Android was first with the idea of installable apps from an app store. iOS launched without said functionality and it wasn’t until Android was revealed with that functionality that Apple announced that it was working on putting that functionality into iOS. If this concept was copied, it was iOS doing the copying.

        Now how can you say that Android is a copy of iOS. If you still believe that, I will leave you with one other fact. Android development started in 2003. iOS development began in 2004.

        • MattEgansHairLine

          Look at the G1 sidekick, androids reference device and iPhone (1st release), what one has changed to become a copy of the other.

          The clue is where is the ‘sidekick’ keyboard?

  • Noah

    Obviously this guy, McNamee, completely missed the gist of Google’s business, I don’t even see why it’s worth mentioning his comments.

  • tony

    I understand what he is trying to say with how android canmake more money.. But by having Google services it does make sense how Google is already making it work also.. But as for iOS and apple. Personally my opinion. They might not be as big as they were when the iPhone four came out. That’s for sure after that everything went down hill. And now Steve ain’t there, nothing is the same. They made a mini iPad when Steve said it was pointless and reviews are saying its a joke , they’re already making a 5s.. Smh.. Stocks going down. Apple is a good company but I think android is going to be top dawg for a while now

  • mclovin

    who cares.

  • kascollet

    The key word is “sustainable”. How long will Google be able to hold with a nearly-profitless business (speaking about mobile market) ? We sure appreciate all those fairly cheap groundbreaking devices but what happens when mobile platforms outcomes traditional PC-based web usage ?

  • LMFAO and webOS said this?! Compared to their line of products like their mobile operating system, I’d say that webOS has no right to make any claims on Google’s business.

  • Ivan Budiutama

    Very interesting for him to say about “Right now, if Google is not careful, Android will be Samsung or Samsung will be Android,” I had the same thinking earlier. Since people in my country started to give the same impression that is: Android = Samsung. But then, I thought about it, 2 years ago, it was Android = HTC. Things has been moved reallyyy fast around Android (which is actually good) to push away innovation, gadget trick, unique OEM features etc, etc. What won Samsung the throne was simply the value of the handset through unique features. See the unique trick for Note II and you will know what I am talking about, but again, everything move very fast. When I saw Oppo Find 5 few days ago, simply put, I fall in love in the first sight. The build quality, the crispness, some said it might have the best camera around. I mean, things are moving really fast, who knows what we’ll get on KLP? What if HTC make a come back with a powerful phablet (or tablet) with unique application that comes with all Photoshop functions or better? Or emerging Chinese Android Phone like Xiaomi, Meizu or Oppo that actually offered great value (and great price)? Or Sony actually revamped the camera and actually produced the best censor and Camera with powerful unique Camera application? Samsung sit on the throne especially this year but who knows how things will move in 2013?

  • jamesd1981

    However this guy is his opinion is worthless, the notion that android is only associated with samsung borders on idiotic, I have owned countless android phones and tablets ever since froyo and not a single one of them has been samsung.

    As far as his comment of android only being so popular because google give it away for free, ballmer of apple inc made a similar sour grapes comment, just because google has a different marketing strategy does not make theirs wrong, google maybe supplying android for free but they must be making a fortune in android associated revenues, so they are giving with one hand but getting back in other ways.

    For a start everyone who owns an android device has to open a gmail account.

  • Simon says

    I tried to watch the bloomberg video. Too slow. All I found out was he was a famous investor. That explains why he can’t see value in Android since all he’s interested in is hordes of profits. Linux (Android is Linux based you know) has finally beaten Microsoft and Apple both.

    Offering real value to hardware buyers without locking them into a walled garden has won. If I decide I like Samsung better than my LG/HTC/ZTE/Lenovo/Oppo/or whatever, I can go buy a Samsung phone, and all my apps still work. If we don’t like how our phones work, we have the source code. We can fix it.

    If I buy an iPhone, I’m locked into an iPhone. That’s evident in how Apple customers celebrated their stockholm syndrome this week with a new Google Maps app. Don’t like it? Too bad. We can’t modify it. Apple has the source code.

    History is repeating itself. The same happened with Mac vs PC. First the market share starts to dwindle down. New apps start showing up late on iOS. Soon, the apps stop showing up at all.

    I suspect his comments were taken out of context, but it’s hard to tell when the original video is unavailable.

  • Brandenlee

    With all the android devices being sold, the android os must be doing something. The Nexus 4 & 7 are selling like hotcakes.

  • Roger McNamee is stupid.

  • That private equity firm is not even in the top 50 firms, it invested in WebOS, got burned, Facebook anybody checked out their share price over the last few months!!, the guy is butt-hurt.

    On top of that Private Equity is face of the the uber-rich screwing everybody else, creaming profits, cuttings cost, stripping jobs all for short-term profit, without thought of long-term success and benefit to society, at least Apple created something, rather than spunking the cash of the 1% into corporate cows to be milked as further profit.

  • On a Clear Day

    I have read two or three articles today talking about how Apple’s stock’s fall from grace is indicative of both a lack of direction and creativity on the part of the company as well as the fact that they are basically “coasting” on momentum given it by the late Steve Jobs. The articles seemed to feel that Job’s influence was in no small measure the real reason behind the company’s success and that its current leadership and the direction it is going in may not enable it to sustain its previously seemingly unassailable position.

    So, though Apple may for the moment be making the most money charging what many feel are exorbitant prices for its products, as time goes by and they find that they are not able to compete (except by trying to destroy competition rather than being creative and create) with anymore WOW! products, well it is only a matter of time.

    As for Samsung becoming synonymous with Android? Only someone who is ignorant of the history and involvement of Google and Android and the relationship with all the various manufacturers would find it impossible to separate the two.

    If their goal is to create more people that use Google’s services every day and become as it is easy to do since they are of such excellent quality and helpful, then Google is being very smart getting the Android OS out there; even if they don’t make a dime beyond covering costs.

  • HAHA webOS. Fail

  • Someone butthurt at the fact WebOS significantly failed?
    D’aww, poor baby.

  • Dontbevil

    His main n only focus is money money money. .for the investor at the cost of consumer. .that’s why he’s pissed at Android. .

  • carmen clear

    I’m sure this man never use android device before..

  • ejn

    It’s simple really, Google makes huge amounts of profit off advertising alone, so the more hands they can get Android devices into, the more money they can make.