Brown’s Bytes – Just What Android Doesn’t Need… More Fragmentation!

Welcome to Brown’s Bytes! Your weekly insight from Mobliciti’s CTO Andy Brown. Follow #brownsbytes

19th October 2018

I’ve spoken in the past about the challenges Google has faced driving up Android adoption in the Enterprise market and how they’ve made significant strides with the Android Enterprise Recommended programme to try to unify things.

In the Enterprise, market standardisation is great. IT Support teams can only really scale up their operations when there is consistency in the items they are asked to support. This is one of the reasons why Apple is very much king in the Enterprise smartphone market here in the UK – the consistency of iOS and the Apps that run on it makes support considerably easier (aligned with rapid adoption of updates also).

Android’s great advantage is that it is open to allow manufacturers to do pretty much what they like – this is something that hasn’t worked at all for the Enterprise, but with Android Enterprise Recommended there was finally the ability to standardise again. Pity Samsung aren’t on board, but that’s a rant for another day!

Now, if you want to be an Android device manufacturer you have to play by Google’s rules, but you can also add all kinds of bells and whistles as you see fit. And as a result, we’ve seen all manner of flavours of Skins and Apps over the years. However, underneath it all Google insisted that a few key items from them needed to be in place in order to be an Android device.

Most crucially (for Enterprise at least) they insisted that the Google Play store was on the device. If it isn’t then it isn’t Android. Amazon’s FireOS is a case in point, it’s still the same basic Android operating system at the core, but if you want to buy anything you go to Amazon’s store, not Google’s. As a result, it’s not an Android!

Now, compare FireOS to any Samsung Android device… this is instead conflicted with its two App Stores (Google Play and Galaxy Apps) and I’m sure Samsung would much prefer to only ship with their own App store, but they can’t if they want to sell Android!

Clearly there are significant monetary reasons why Google want their Apps and the Play store on every device, but for Enterprise, this at least meant there was a single App store they needed to deal with as a source of (reasonably) trusted Apps.

Enter the EU Commission!

The EU Commission has decided that Google’s restrictions on Android are breaking antitrust laws. There are strong echoes here of when they took on Microsoft over the bundling of Internet Explorer with Windows. This time it is Google Search and Chrome on Android in their sights. There is a hefty fine ($5 billion) and the first fallout landed this week…

Google announced on Tuesday that it will start charging device makers a fee for using its apps in Europe. This is a significant shift in their position and covers a lot of stuff usually bundled on Android – Play Store, Gmail, Google Maps, YouTube… you get the idea.

This obviously gives manufacturers a choice now (as per the EU’s wishes), but what happens if the choice is to leave Google out??

My hunch would be that Samsung are most likely to give it a try… Samsung have arguably been trying to differentiate away from the Google Android ecosystem for some time. Could this lead to a first Galaxy Apps only phone?? They have the resources to do it if they wanted.

Now in the Enterprise this all matters for a number of reasons:

– Fragmentation = complexity = support overhead = Cost
– Handset manufacturers now have to pay fees to Google… it has to push up prices at some point if nothing actually changes
– The Play Store is the most secure source of Apps on Android

That last one is really important – Google have worked hard in this area to clean up the state of Android Apps. I have my doubts that competing stores are going do as much to keep Android secure (at least in the short term anyway).

No wonder everyone is buying Apple really is it??