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?

J. Angelo Racoma

J. Angelo Racoma has written extensively about mobile, social media, enterprise apps and startups. Angelo develops business case studies for Microsoft enterprise platforms, and is also co-founder at WorkSmartr, a small outsourcing team that offers digital content and marketing services.