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Steve, Android is a Feature, Not a Product

by Brian Prentice  |  November 10, 2008  |  1 Comment

Steve Ballmer was in my part of the world last week and while speaking at Telstra’s annual investment day made a statement about Google’s Android that will doubtlessly get a lot of mileage in the blogosphere. Specifically he said:

"I don’t really understand their strategy. Maybe somebody else does. If I went to my shareholder meeting, my analyst meeting, and said, ‘hey, we’ve just launched a new product that has no revenue model!’…I’m not sure that my investors would take that very well. But that’s kind of what Google’s telling their investors about Android."

I think Steve might be exercising some poetic license here. I’m pretty sure he clearly understands the strategy because it should look pretty familiar.

Remember the time Microsoft embedded Internet Explorer into Windows? Remember the time they packaged Microsoft Outlook into Microsoft Office? How about the time Microsoft added file and print management capabilities to Windows and created a competitive workgroup server?

Google’s doing the same thing. They’ve taken someone else’s discrete product, or core competency, and turned it into an embedded capability of a product that they’re in the best position to commercialize. They’ve taken a page from Microsoft’s own playbook.

So, Android is not a product. It is a free, open source, mobile operating system feature. It’s objective is to facilitate open access to information on the mobile web. Google doesn’t need to justify Android to their investors because their investors already understand the overall strategy. Android is simply an extension of the core business model.

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Category: trawling-for-trends  

Brian Prentice
Research VP
9 years at Gartner
26 years IT industry

Brian Prentice is a research vice president and focuses on emerging technologies and trends with an emphasis on those that impact an organization's software and application strategy... Read Full Bio


Thoughts on Steve, Android is a Feature, Not a Product


  1. Nick Jones says:

    What Google understands, and Microsoft doesn’t (yet) understand is that the future is as much about delivering capabilities as products. If you deliver a capability like Maps or Earth a few million other people on the internet go looking for ways to embed it in applications that can exploit it. And along the way Google makes money from advertising and access to APIs. If you deliver a product you can’t leverage those millions of innovators and you have to get it right all on your own.



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