How Google Can Keep the Android Momentum Going

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Ben Bajarin is the Director of Consumer Technology Analysis and Research at Creative Strategies, Inc, a technology industry analysis and market intelligence firm located in Silicon Valley.

What Google has been able to accomplish with Android has been impressive to watch. Good timing played a key role in their success, as the handset makers were desperate for a way to compete with Apple’s iPhone. It took Google a couple of product generations but eventually they brought the market an operating system that was a worthy alternative.

As Google was building the Android strategy, they made a smart tactical decision by offering a more open operating system infrastructure that hardware manufactures could build upon, customize, and differentiate. This was a point of frustration for those who were using Microsoft’s mobile platform, which at the time was called Windows Mobile.

(MORE: Top 20 Must-Have Android Apps)

Google’s early Android success was built upon these two strategies: good timing and being a Microsoft alternative in mobile. The question now is whether they keep the momentum going, especially as the iPhone comes to new carriers where it was once absent and Microsoft prepares a bold new operating system strategy with Windows 8.

It’s imperative that Google do three things if they want to keep momentum up.

First, they have to keep their foot on the gas pedal of innovation.

Google recently showed the world their newest version of Android 4.0, also known as Ice Cream Sandwich. Some of the things they showed were feature upgrades, but one feature where your phone can identify you and unlock the phone—fittingly called Face Unlock—was definitely forward thinking. Google needs to embrace and integrate Android features they believe will be commonplace in the future.

(MORE: Android Ice Cream Sandwich Explained)

Hopefully Android chief Andy Rubin’s dismissive comments about Apple’s attempt with Siri to create a more intelligent personal assistant is not evidence of Google’s vision for mobile devices. Rubin is quite wrong if he thinks natural-language user interface technology like Siri is just a fad that will fade over time.

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The second thing Google needs to do is get the new 4.0 software update to all Android devices as soon as possible.

The key for Google with new operating system releases is to accelerate the time it takes for all Android consumers to get the new software, preferably at the same time. Google has historically had a fragmentation problem where Android phones currently on the market lag in getting the latest software.

Time will tell how long it’ll take Android consumers to get 4.0 on devices other than the Galaxy Nexus, but it would behoove Google to make this happen as quickly as possible.

(MORE: Samsung Announces Android Flagship ‘Galaxy Nexus’ Smartphone)

The longer these updates take to get to all supported Android devices, the harder it is to keep consumers excited amidst all the noise from the competition. Android is still the clear mobile operating system platform market share winner at 43% but the question I think about frequently is, whether their market share has peaked.

I do not believe that the mobile operating system market share battle will be one-sided like it was for much of the early PC years. There was a time Microsoft Windows owned upwards of 97% of the PC market.

The mobile landscape will not be primarily dominated by one platform. If I was to guess right now, I would bet that Android and Apple will compete for the largest market share and Microsoft will come in at a distant third.

The third and final thing Google needs to do if they want to keep momentum up is to stop playing favorites with hardware companies.

I fully understand why they launch “hero” devices under the Nexus brand to create a reference design to help provide vision. However, if they truly want to have an open platform, they need to treat all hardware manufacturers equally. The absolute best thing Google can do to drive demand for Android is to work with every one of their hardware partners to release devices with the newest operating system at the same time.

This way they can create excitement around the software by having multiple devices on multiple carriers available to consumers at the same time. This would be a radical shift from how Google usually launches a new operating system but it’s one that they would be smart to employ immediately as it would do wonders for demand and excitement around Android.

MORE: Will Android’s Ice Cream Sandwich Take a Bite Out of iOS 5?

Ben Bajarin is the Director of Consumer Technology Analysis and Research at Creative Strategies, Inc, a technology industry analysis and market intelligence firm located in Silicon Valley.

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