My Two Concerns for Android

Mar 21, 2011
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Android's continued momentum continues to be good news for many handset and device manufacturers who need a solid platform in the market. Since Windows Mobile has failed to make a compelling offering to those in the space, Android has seemed to be the savior of many. I do however have two primary concerns that could put a dent in the Android ecosystem if not dealt with.

#1 The Lawsuit from Oracle and Others
Through my work as an industry analyst, I spend a good deal of time working with companies to address their major questions about the market and the technology industry as a whole. My firm Creative Strategies, is fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work with the majority of smartphone, tablet and PC OEM's many who make Android devices. This issue of the lawsuit comes up frequently and is a major point of concern for those who are committed to Android.

There is concern amongst them that if Google loses this lawsuit it opens the door for Oracle and others (like Microsoft) to come after the device makers themselves not just Google. This type of turn of events has the potential to have a significant economic impact on companies who already make razor thin margins selling Android smart phones and tablets.

Proof in point, the news this morning from Microsoft that they are suing Barnes and Noble over patent infringements regarding the Nook and part of its Android implementation. Microsoft is claiming which this specific implementation infringes on their patents. HTC licenses patents from Microsoft that go into some of their Android devices already. If suits like this continue the device makers will be shelling out so many license fees that they can no longer make money using Android.

Google may have a few options should they lose. They could issue major code overhaul and update to existing devices. Another option could be to take the Android code and put it under the GPL (General Public License) which although a solution would make it even harder for developers and manufactures to make money on the platform. Primarily because under this structure anyone would have the ability to access and modify both the OS and ANY third party apps built on Android.

I am not sure how this will play out but several patent lawyers and patent specialists that myself and many of our clients have spoke to seem to indicate a strong case.

For more reading on the lawsuit issues from IP and Patent experts check out:
Google's Android Contains Legal Landmines for Developers and Device Manufacturers
and
Google's Android faces a serious Linux copyright issue (potentially bigger than its Java problem)

#2 The potential of Malicious Apps / Software
I've searched for third party data on how significant the chance of a severe security breach and / or privacy invasion is on Android. There isn't a ton of data out yet, but there is enough to cause concern to those who make Android devices.

The consensus is that all it will take is one major breach or stolen identity story to hit the mainstream media to cause consumers to think twice before buying an Android device as their next smart phone.

These security concerns are one of the main reasons that we have learned from many Fortune 100 CTO's and CIO's that they are not interested in Android in their enterprise. I also have suspicions that Google is also not interested in Android penetrating the enterprise due to their business model for Android skewing highly toward the consumer.

Earlier in the month a story came out about Google pulling 21 malicious apps from the marketplace. The apps in question had also already been downloaded approximately 50,000 times and anyone who had those apps was being recommended to try and replace their handset. It may very well be a little extreme to recommend people replace their handset but something of a much larger magnitude could easily disrupt the consumer mindset as it relates to Android.

Android has the potential to be one of two platforms that I think can make it to a billion users. Google is adapting quickly which is good and learning how to work with new customers as well. Like many large institutions they become a target both domestically and internationally and because of that they will need to stay on their toes.


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