A Foul Plan?

Daring Fireball recently pointed to Gizmodo’s Samsung Lightening Review wherein the author (Matt Buchanan) laments being forced by Verizon to use Microsoft’s Bing search engine. As usual, Gruber is quick to point out the obvious “Android is totally open, just usually not by the time of purchase” doublespeak and this is no exception. What is really interesting about this particular carrier lock-down is that it entirely screws Google and illustrates a major gap in Google’s strategy.

Much like search or mail, Google’s strategy with Android is to generate revenue via targeted advertising. As such, there are no licensing fees when companies like HTC or Samsung use Android, which effectively undercuts one of their largest competitors in the licensed mobile OS space, Microsoft. On top of charging no fees, Google has also bent over backwards to allow carriers and manufacturers full control over Android’s interface, features, and software. Here is the strategic gap. Because manufacturers and carriers have complete control over Android’s software, there is nothing stopping Microsoft from incentivizing (read: bribing) companies to install Microsoft’s Bing software in place of Google’s own applications. By removing Google’s applications, they effectively steal Google’s revenue stream on its own platform.

Microsoft may be testing this strategy with Verizon (Androids largest carrier) and HTC (Androids largest handest manufacturer) is already paying Microsft for every Android they make so shaving off some patent license fees in exchange for Bing support seems very plausible.

What’s worse is Google would have very little recourse since it already charges nothing and enforcing some sort of Google Apps requirement would alienate it’s core customers (manufactures/carriers) as well as be a PR mess after selling Android as an open platform.