Google shifts gears to accelerate smartphone battle against iOS

16 May 2012

Google is reportedly changing its policies around releasing early versions of Android to manufacturers in order to tighten up its ecosystem and ensure a better class of smartphones can emerge to take on Apple’s iOS platform and see off devices emerging from the nascent Windows Phone platform.

It is expected that this new emphasis on lead devices will also answer the question as to why no Android tablet has yet to make a serious impact on Apple’s marketshare with the iPad.

There are good reasons for this change of tack – in November the first Windows 8 tablet devices and hybrid tablet/PC models will enter the market and this could seal Android’s fate in the tablet space for the worst.

Let’s also not forget Amazon in this picture, whose Kindle Fire, albeit based on Android, is the lynchpin of a competing model for the sale of digital media content like books, movies, music and apps.

According to The Wall Street Journal, a closer relationship with manufacturers is also necessary in light of Google’s US$12.5bn acquisition of Motorola Mobile, in order to assuage concerns of smartphone and tablet makers who have cast their lot with Android.

Google is working on signature devices

Instead of working with one manufacturer at a time – for example, Google has worked closely with Samsung on the Nexus and is understood to be collaborating with ASUS for a forthcoming Google-branded tablet – Google will work more closely with five manufacturers on signature devices.

It is also reported that Google plans to sell the devices directly to consumers in the US, Europe and Asia via its website and through retailers.

There’s no doubt Android has been a roaring success for Google. But only in the smartphone market and with the Apple iPhone 5 expected in September, a 7-inch iPad expected around the same time and Windows 8 arriving soon after, Google needs to tighten its focus to remain a force.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years