While the carriers want to get rid of Google entirely, Apple moves to get around the carriers

cell tower by cyrusbulsara

European carriers consider iOS, Android as ‘Trojan horses,’ to meet Oct. 8 to discuss new OS
[Via MacDailyNews]

“Stephane Richard, CEO of France Telecom (Orange) has invited the heads of Deutsche Telekom (T-Mobile), Telefonica (O2) and Vodafone to discuss potentially making their own mobile operating system,” IntoMobile reports. “The view, from the operators, is that operating systems like Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS are a ‘Trojan horse’ that steals the relationship with the customer from them and gives it to outside software vendors and service providers.”

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It seems like there is an avalanche of stuff today revealing large cracks in the ecosystem of smartphone OS and the companies that sell access. The carriers are afraid that their relationship with their customer will be stolen. Too bad. I think they are right but it will be because the customers ran away screaming rather than being somehow kidnapped.

I think most customers shudder when thinking about a relationship with a carrier. But it explains why the carriers want their own OS to muck around with as much as possible.

So we will see a highly fragmented world, where each carrier sells Android-like phones but with their own OS bell and whistles, their own App store, and their own interface. You will not be able to move easily from one carrier to another, nor will you be able to use your old phone, because the OS will be different.

Meanwhile, Apple has shown us what it will do to get around the need for carriers. What do the carriers provide? Access to cell networks based on certain protocols used by each carrier, mostly permitting voice but having some data capacity.

But the FCC is about to open up the so-called ‘white space’ to WiFi technology, permitting signals to penetrate walls and carry over much wider distances. It provides a way to get free, high speed broadband Internet access to large parts of the US. It may become very easy to access the Internet without needing any cell access – no need to access the cell networks of any carrier for data.

Think about watching streaming movies or TV from anywhere? That is the sort of data that can be pushed through.

As for voice, what has Apple just come out with, that it is putting on every mobile device and possible every hardware device it has – FaceTalk, the ability to carry on voice conversations with video over WiFi! It is based on an open standard that may appear on almost every mobile device.

So then why would you need the cell phone carriers at all? I could do everything a cell phone does for less money and with greater speed using an iPod Touch. Why would Apple need to work with ATT ever again? Heck, it could even deploy some ‘White-Fi’ networks itself and circumvent Verizon totally. Would I pay a small monthly fee – say $10 – to access the Apple WhiteFi network, one that would me to do voice, data, movies, music, etc. from almost anywhere? Yep.

I would expect cell phone carriers to try and be part of the deployment of these technologies, but their relationship with their customers will be quite different than now, where they pretty much control all access.

Apple may have just demonstrated how customers can route around the phone carriers, getting around their slow data systems and their fragmented marketplaces where the companies really care more about their own profit than their customer.

I can get everything I might possible need for a mobile device simply through WiFi access. With WiFi access pretty much ubiquitous, why would I want cell, which would be slower and more costly.

In a few years, it may be very likely that the use of WiFi ‘White-Fi’ systems will negate the need for ANY cell phone carrier, at least the need for the specific handsets to use on specific networks. These open standards would negate much of the mostly unfair competitive advantage of the wireless companies. Selling hardware for specific access to specific networks will be a thing of the past. We will buy the hardware we like and it will be able to access the networks that we need to provide us with the data and content we want.

The iPod Touch would be able to do more with less cost than any smartphone now sold by a carrier.

And then we will be able to use the devices without ANY relationship with a wireless carrier. I’d like that.

Expect some huge lobbying efforts by these companies as they try and hold onto the last vestiges of their business models.

Google – unfairly crushing competitors one company at a time?

android by Andrew Mason

★ Then Welcome to Android
[Via Daring Fireball]

Google vice-president for engineering Vic Gundotra, on-stage at the I/O developer conference in May, regarding why Google created Android:

If Google didn’t act, it faced a draconian future where one man, one phone, one carrier were our choice. That’s a future we don’t want.

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I wrote earlier about what HTC is doing with its phones – putting it own apps on them and creating its own app store. Now we see from this that Google may very well have total and possibly capricious control of who accesses its App store – Android Marketplace.

Skyhook Wireless filed suit against Google because it claims that Google threatened handset makers with loss of access to the Android Marketplace if they continued to include Skyhooks apps on their Android phones. Since access to the Marketplace is a big deal, the handset makers caved.

Playing hardball like this in order to get its own software on the phones may explain why companies will try an work around Google. A carrier might make more profit if it included Skyhooks app but it is not allowed to by Google’s policies. It is not going to be happy.

And tying two aspects of a business by these sorts of tactics is what got Microsoft into trouble.

Here are the relevant parts of the lawsuit. The whole thing is at Daring Fireball.

22. Google’s established practice in determining Android compliance consists of two steps. The first step requires each Android-enabled device, and its embedded software, to be run against the Compatibility Test Suite (CTS), a software-based test platform that objectively evaluates whether the device and software are compatible with the published Android specifications. The second step involves a review of the device and software based on an amorphous outline of additional, non-standardized requirements known as the Compliance Definition Document (CDD). This entirely subjective review, conducted solely by Google employees with ultimate authority to interpret the scope and meaning of the CDD as they see fit, effectively gives Google the ability to arbitrarily deem any software, feature or function “non-compatible” with the CDD.

23. On information and belief, Google has notified OEMs that they will need to use Google Location Service, either as a condition of the Android OS-OEM contract or as a condition of the Google Apps contract between Google and each OEM. Though Google claims the Android OS is open source, by requiring OEMs to use Google Location Service, an application that is inextricably bundled with the OS level framework, Google is effectively creating a closed system with respect to location positioning. Google’s manipulation suggests that the true purpose of Android is, or has become, to ensure that “no industry player can restrict or control the innovations of any other”, unless it is Google.

So much for being an open environment. And a company that does not evil certainly plays the same sort of crushing hardball game to destroy competitors unfairly as most other corporations.

Using Android without giving Google much at all

HTC moves beyond the phone, marginalizes Google in the process
[Via Ars Technica]

At HTC’s London event on Wednesday, they company showed off two things. As expected, there were a couple of handsets: the Desire HD and Desire Z. But what HTC opened with was not handsets, but a new website—htcsense.com—and its accompanying phone front-end.

The phones were nice enough. The Desire HD is a GSM/UMTS/HSPA equivalent to the EVO 4G available in the US exclusively on Sprint; the Desire Z is slightly lower-specced than the HD, but will likely gain wide appeal as it has a hardware keyboard. The Desire Z will form the basis of the forthcoming T-Mobile G2 in the US, the spiritual successor to the G1 (which was, back in 2008, the first Android handset to ship). T-Mobile’s version will include a different radio (to support T-Mobile’s awkward 1700 MHz frequency allocation), and more excitingly, will support HSPA+, the next generation HSPA technology that ultimately provides data rates up to 56Mbps downstream, 22 Mbps upstream.

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This article identifies a key problem for Google, I think. Companies will use the free parts of the Android OS but will recreate the parts that they wireless companies have to pay Google for – such as the apps.

As the article states:

The result of this could well be a marginalization of Google. Not overnight—companies like HTC still work closely with the advertising giant—but as the custom software matures, and vendors want to better distinguish their products, it seems likely. If the smartphone vendors are all writing their own software atop the free Android middleware, and eschewing Google’s paid applications, the result could be that there’s not much Google left. The Android strategy—give away the base operating system, but charge for the important user software that makes the OS useful—makes less sense if everyone writes their own user software anyway.

HTC takes pains to make sure its products are seen as HTC phones, not Google phones. If the apps come from HTC, where does Google make money? The vast majority of apps in the android Marketplace are free and, as seen with Apple, these sorts of stores seem to be break even rather than money makers.

Apple makes its money from the hardware. Google from ads driven by free software. But if the software developed by the wireless companies drives no revenue to Google, I think they may have a busted model. Will it only be by web access with Google ads that it makes any money? But with web apps becoming more and more common on these mobile handsets, the opportunities for ads may be lessened.

In contrast, MIcrosoft has made sure that in their mobile software, there is really little customization that the wireless companies can utilize. This makes sure that whatever handset maker uses the MS mobile OS, it will look like the MS mobile OS. The ability of the makers to really customize the experience may be much more limited.

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