The end of Android as we know it

Given three major threats brewing, it's hard to see how Google's Android sustains its momentum any longer

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What could keep Android going despite these threats

Together, these trends suggest a platform built on and supported by expediency. That's not a long-term strategy, and it can't compete with a highly capable, highly focused Apple or even a highly invested Microsoft.

On the other hand, owning half the smartphone market is nothing to sneeze at, and that heft gives Android a lot of momentum. It took RIM five years to destroy its own BlackBerry market through a combination or inaction and inept action; Nokia took as long. Microsoft's Windows Mobile died faster, but only because Microsoft replaced it with Windows Phone after three years of intense neglect.

Android will continue to coast for a year or so even if Google and its hardware partners do nothing more. The variable is Windows Phone, which Microsoft has also mistreated by limiting its slick interface to underpowered devices with limited application capabilities and no ability to be used in business settings. If Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 "Apollo" succeed this fall, the majority of mobile users not committed to the iPhone and iPad will have a compelling and immediate option to leave Android for. If Microsoft's efforts fail -- and there's certainly controversy around Windows 8 -- then Android users will have no real alternative but iOS, an option they've known of all along and will be less likely to jump to immediately.

Of course, Google could change the rules by becoming seriously focused on Android in an Apple-like way. That means finding business value beyond mobile search ads. Apple owns the media revenues, thanks to iTunes, and the cloud revenues are iffy, given the domination of cloud storage by Dropbox and Box and the poor mobile performance of Google Docs on the office suite front. Google is trying to address the storage deficit via Google Drive, but cloud storage is clearly a feature (as Apple recognizes with iCloud), not a big business opportunity. Google Docs would also need a major overhaul that Google was unwilling to do for its Chrome OS, iOS, or Android heretofore, which makes me wonder if Google Docs can ever be more than it is, at least with the HTML and AJAX technology that exists today. Microsoft's Office 365 is similarly hamstrung.

The tech industry is not a linear one, so the market could change at any moment with a technology breakthrough or unexpected shift in strategy by any of the major forces. But pending such an abnormal event, it's hard to see how Android sustains its momentum any longer.

This article, "The end of Android as we know it," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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