Eric Schmidt is continuing his Asian tour, speaking today in South Korea. Two sensitive topics came up: first, the question of whether Motorola Mobility would be getting special treatment if and when the deal closes. His response, as reported by Reuters: “we will run it sufficiently and independently, that it will not violate the openness of Android…we’re not going to change in any material way the way we operate.”
I believe him. Because really, they don’t have to.
Who is it that needs to be whipped into line when it comes to Android handsets? Not HTC and Samsung. The handset makers are all happy as clams, selling lots of units and competing on easily-inflatable numbers like screen size, resolution, and CPU clock speed. They’re making lots of money and lots of handsets. Google wouldn’t want to spook their cash cow by making Motorola the Android poster boy.
No, it’s the carriers who are the bane of Google’s existence. Android’s biggest problem is arguably fragmentation. Carriers are the largest holdup in producing the updates that unify the Android ecosystem, and they hold too many cards. Apple foresaw and preemptively solved this problem by tying the phones’ updates exclusively to iTunes, and now it may be time for Google to make its displeasure felt.
I sense a development in the Android world, an acknowledgment of the fragmentation problem and a solution along the lines of asking manufacturers to test a safe vanilla install for all handsets, up to date with the latest version of Android the phone will run. Users should be able to update to this at any time. It shakes things up, sure, but I’m afraid Google and the others can only weather this bad publicity for so long before it starts degrading the platform among people who normally don’t care about version numbers.
The other thing Schmidt was asked about in South Korea was the bit from Steve Jobs’ biography calling Android a “stolen product.” Schmidt demurred on the topic, calling Steve a “fantastic human being” but couldn’t resist addressing the topic: “I would also point out that the Android effort started before the iPhone effort.” Sure it did, Eric, but it looked like this: