This may sound like a huge gamble and it is, but Google is also following a trend. Intel has spent the last 18 months pushing the Ultrabook platform – a design and price concept – upon its hardware partners. Microsoft has spent the last two years enforcing a strict and constantly evolving minimum hardware spec upon Windows Phone handset makers and it has now gone a step further building its own Surface Tablet in secret.
Meanwhile Apple cut out partners many years ago, believing only it is capable of delivering optimum hardware and software combinations. The trust in hardware builders to correctly package these companies’ products has evaporated completely.
What now drives Microsoft, Apple, Intel and now Google is polish. In Google’s case it is perfectly illustrated by ‘Project Butter’, the new 60fps core animations at the forefront of Jelly Bean which guarantee a high quality user experience which can only be executed through attaining tighter control of the tablets themselves. Such is its right, but compared to Intel and Microsoft (minimum specs) and Apple (exclusion), Google’s triple whammy of secrecy, pricing and a lead time on its next generation software is arguably the hardest for partners of a supposedly ‘open’ platform to bear.
Of course this isn’t quite true. Google has made an exception to Jelly Bean’s Nexus 7 four month lock down. In its own keynote at Google I/O last month it said Motorola’s relatively old line of Xoom tablets would be updated sometime in July. We await further details.
“Our acquisition of Motorola will increase competition by strengthening Google’s patent portfolio, which will enable us to better protect Android from anti-competitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies,” said Google CEO Larry Page in an official statement at the time of the Motorola purchase. It seems increasingly important that the word ‘partners’ was omitted. Google appears to have a taste for hardware now so perhaps the long term threat to Android phone and tablet makers really does come from Google’s $12.5bn ‘patents purchase’ after all…