As nice as the Nexus One is — and in my opinion it’s the nicest Android device on the market — it makes me wonder what Google’s up to with Android and why it’s even in the mobile OS business, let alone selling phones directly to consumers. I’d ask the same about Chrome and Chrome OS as well. Android is particularly puzzling, however: Google licenses it for free and it’s turned up on some rather interesting devices, but none of those devices have helped build out an ecosystem. Many of them are proprietary and Android is rapidly becoming fragmented — the Archos5 Internet Tablet, for example, can’t make official use of the Android marketplace. But nothing is as strange as Google getting into the hardware business directly and selling devices, albeit unlocked and unsubsidized ones, directly to consumers.
Certainly that idea can’t be going over too well with partners and licensees. Just imagine being Motorola and having the best Android device on the market for just a few months until the Droid was upstaged by the Nexus One. What about LG and Samsung, who were barely acknowledged at the Nexus One event?
In fact, why does Google need to be in the mobile OS space at all? Google products have been key standards for almost all mobile platforms as a defacto choice. Apple currently has Google as the default for search and location- based services in the iPhone, and there’s built-in support for Gmail. Is getting into the OS business really a better move than partnering?
Chrome, the browser and the OS, beg the same question. Google search is the default choice for Firefox, and the Mozilla / Google relationship made a lot of sense — and a lot of money. Chrome OS muddies the waters and will likely create confusion among vendors as they try to decide between Chrome and Android. What’s more, the planned Google Chrome OS hardware will likely make more than one OEM re-think what platforms it will support.
For more than a decade, we’ve heard the Google mantra, “don’t be evil.” I’m not suggesting that Google’s done anything wrong, but the company’s actions of late just don’t seem like the best way to make friends and influence others. Lately, when the topic of Google comes up, one word keeps getting repeated over and over. Hubris. It’s time for Google to think less about “don’t be evil” and time to think about how to be a good partner and friend — just because it can enter a business doesn’t mean it’s good idea for Google or Google’s partners. We need look no further than ancient Greek mythology to know where hubris leads.