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What Happens When Android Fails?

What Happens When Android Fails?

If Google doesn't do something soon, it's ticking time bomb of a mobile operating system could end up being at least partly responsible for a major disaster -- and that could quickly spell the end for Android. Waiting in the wings are three companies ready to fill the void: BlackBerry, Nokia and Mozilla. Which one has the best chance of replacing Android if it collapses?

By Rob Enderle
04/29/13 5:00 AM PT

I've just finished doing yet another news program on the increasing risks of using an Android phone, and the discussions have started to drift to the potential for class-action lawsuits, commercial plane crashes, and cyberdisasters that would make 9/11 seem trivial -- all connected to this platform.

McAfee -- clearly no fan of Android -- has demonstrated it can hack an Android phone cause it to fail by overheating, and recently a researcher demonstrated that an Android phone could be used to hijack an airliner.

I live in California, where it seems every other person is an attorney, and our first response to most any event is to litigate. It is easy to jump to an end game where there is a major disaster and Google, a carrier or an Android phone manufacturer would be held partially liable because it was their device that was used to trigger the disaster.

It isn't a big jump, because even the American Civil Liberties Union is taking action against this platform.

Even if it didn't wipe Google out, the stigma connected to the platform and phones would likely make what Ralph Nader did to the Corvair look trivial in comparison.

If Android fails -- and Google really has a lousy record with regard to its non-search efforts -- which mobile operating system and company stand most to benefit?

I'll close with my product of the week: a new car coming from Jaguar this month -- the F-Type -- and oh my, is it wonderful.

BlackBerry's Shot

Last week, BlackBerry released its Q10 phone. It is likely the most anti-Android device currently shipping.

Android was largely copied from the iPhone, and it appeared to be a betrayal of Steve Jobs' trust by then Google CEO Eric Schmidt and the Google founders. It is no surprise that almost since its launch, Apple has been trying with limited success to stop the most prevalent -- read Samsung -- products.

Apple's iconic design, which Google emulated, was a screen phone eliminating the keyboard. Google also eliminated the tightly coupled services and fully curated app store. So Android phones are like Apple in appearance -- but very different in terms of user freedom, which is why the phones appear to be such virus magnets.

The BlackBerry Q10 is a keyboard phone contrasting sharply with the keyboardless form factor the iPhone drove to popularity and Google copied. However, it uses a highly curated app store and is built around a far more secure model than even Apple's. If we were to draw a line with low security to high security and put BlackBerry, iPhone, and Android phone on it, the Q10 and average Android phone would be at opposite ends. The Q10 is about as far from an Android phone as you are likely to get.

Screen phones, by nature, are also relatively unsafe when compared to keyboard phones, and I think it no coincidence that accidents related to texting have increased sharply since the iPhone was launched. This all suggests that if an Android phone, or the platform, became massively unattractive due to a disaster, then the Q10, being the least like it, might be the biggest beneficiary.

Nokia's Opportunity

Nokia uses the Microsoft Windows Phone platform and has been leading on technologies like inductive charging, high-quality cameras, and advanced navigation apps built into the phone. In terms of total resources, it not only is spending the most on R&D, but also has the deepest pockets, at least potentially, thanks to Microsoft.

Nokia's phones are also screen phones, but that is what the market is buying. Since we don't like change much, Nokia's ability to slipstream into a purchase decision after Android has been booted out would seem better than Blackberry's. This is particularly true because they have already moved to larger screens, which is the current trend with Samsung, the lead Android licensee.

On top of a marketing campaign -- and it can afford this -- emphasizing the concerns resulting from the expected Android disaster, Nokia would be far better able, with Microsoft's help, to financially drive a preference to its phone.

While this would clearly require heavy marketing, Microsoft is already executing an anti-Google campaign showcasing its willingness to attack, and this would easily fit within the same decision matrix that funded that effort.

Following an event that made people afraid to use their Android phones, this could be even more successful than the similar effort Samsung currently is executing against Apple.

Mozilla's Firefox OS

Mozilla can move the most easily into existing Android licensees, most of which are really upset with Google for a variety of reasons: inadequate support; being sued by Microsoft and Google (Microsoft has licensed virtually all of the big Android sellers); and leaving them out of the loop when it comes to new platforms -- ChromeOS -- and Android changes. As the Android OEMs run screaming from Android and Google, Mozilla could pick them up and would likely both be far easier to work with and far less likely to buy a phone company, like Google did with Motorola, to compete with them.

Apps should be relatively easy to port between the two platforms, given that both Android and Mozilla's Firefox OS are based on Linux, providing a relatively easy migration path. As a result, Mozilla is more likely capable of pulling Google's partners across, and a number of them have expressed interest in moving to -- or at least trialing -- the platform.

However this is both the youngest and least financially well-supported initiative, and it will be heavily dependent on a company of significant stature to make it successful. That could easily end up either in failure, if no one funds it well, or as what we have with Samsung and Android, where one company pretty much owns the vast majority of the related market.

Wrapping Up

If people run from the entire platform -- hardware and software -- then either BlackBerry or Nokia will benefit the most, based on marketing resources and how pissed folks are at Android. If OEMs run from Android first, then Mozilla is in the best position to pick up the pieces and benefit -- but it will still have to find the funding, and the fact that most of its existing funding comes through Google does give it an exposure that neither BlackBerry nor Nokia has. Google could get pissed and figure a creative way to pull the revenue plug.

In any case, we have at least three firms ready to step in and fill the gap Android might leave if it were to fail. This is something Google should take to heart and perhaps address before the entire ecosystem is buried in malware and litigation.

Product of the Week: Jaguar F-Type

Product of the Week

How many cars get their own movie? Well this one did. It's called Desire, and it is actually a great deal of fun. Were it to turn into a series, I'd likely watch it.

I'm an old Jaguar fan; I've owned two XK-Es over the years and drive an XK-R currently.

Jaguar
F-type
Jaguar F-type

The F-Type is the closest thing Jaguar has made to the iconic XK-E since it discontinued that car in the 1970s and replaced it with the XJ-S, a horrid automobile. I've been drooling over the stats for the car and have had a chance now to talk with a number of folks who have driven it. By all accounts, this car is amazing.

It has an aggressive if traditional (from a Jaguar standpoint) long snout, along with a power range that goes from impressive with a supercharged 6-cylinder engine to scary with a supercharged V8. It is wider, shorter, and much lighter than the XK-R, Jaguar's current high-performance offering. That's 340 HP at the low end with a 5.1 second 0-60, to 495 HP at the high end with a supercar-like 4.1 second 0-60 time. Gas mileage, even for the beast, is more than 22 miles per gallon.

Starting at US$61K and going to $92K for the beast, this is a car that has captured my lust this year -- and given that it arrives in June, I'm already lining up to go for a test drive. I don't lust after much, but because I'm clearly lusting after the F-Type, it is my product of the week.


Rob Enderle is a TechNewsWorld columnist and the principal analyst for the Enderle Group, a consultancy that focuses on personal technology products and trends.


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