We’re Lucky Google Acquired Android, And Here’s Why [Opinion]


After publishing my heated commentary on Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer’s (now unsurprising) remarks against Android earlier this morning, one of our readers (thanks Tallbruva!) reminded me of a few remarks Ballmer made earlier in Android’s life that are too good to not revisit. For those of you new to Droidland, listen up. Waaaaay back in November 2008 – just one month past the T-Mobile G1’s launch – Ballmer commented on Android and Google’s mobile operating system model.

Speaking on their plans for revenue, Ballmer stated that he didn’t “really understand their strategy. Maybe somebody else does. If I went to my shareholder meeting, my analyst meeting, and said, ‘hey, we’ve just launched a new product that has no revenue model!’…I’m not sure that my investors would take that very well. But that’s kind of what Google’s telling their investors about Android.”

Irony Note: Google’s gone to their shareholders before (too many times that I care to count, in fact) and suggested free services. GMail launched and people thought Google was crazy for giving away 2GB of email storage (at a time where the norm was anywhere between 50-500MB, with you needing to shell out some dough if you wanted more). Another 5.4GB of storage and perhaps the best, most full-featured web-based email client later and Google’s still running strong with GMail. (Sorry, Hotmail, your so-called “unlimited storage” doesn’t count when you’re going to stop delivering emails after 1-2GB of data. We see through several cell phone carriers’ “unlimited-but-throttled” strategy and we see right through yours.)


What’s more is that Ballmer believed the lack of an “apparent” revenue model (Everything boils back down to advertising and search when it comes to Google, but he probably didn’t realize that. Probably still doesn’t.) would mean Google would neglect to update Android over time. He essentially said that Android was a dead end operating system out of the starting gate. Had he known the true power of open source, he’d know that Android’s model would stand to connect Google’s team of engineers with all sorts of developers to drive forward the ideas we see implemented into the operating system today. Did we not see Google show interest in JIT following the aftermarket development scene’s adoption? Do you think many of the other innovative features of today’s Android came from just a small team of engineers?

Irony Note: While Windows Mobile may still be receiving upgrades to this day, the updates are sorely lacking and barely add anything worth smiling about. Most of these “upgrades” boil down to fixing the many bugs that Windows Mobile is still riddled with. Wait, something’s not right: people have to pay to license Windows Mobile. Why aren’t we seeing development even more rapid than what we’ve seen come out of Mountain View?

Let’s dismiss Google Docs, Google Code, Google Apps, Google Books, and all of the countless other Google products that they offer for free at some level. Let’s forget that they still find ways to rake in billions of dollars every year. Oh drats, did I forget to add Android to that list of free products? Silly me. The fun didn’t end there, though. Ballmer didn’t see Android as a top competitor back then. And why should he have? The OS was new, the model was risky, and for months there’d only been one phone to carry the green flag.


The mistake that Ballmer made was not capitalizing on that (not that I’m mad at him for it). Google’s model shines where an open sourced system practically defines innovation and rapid iteration. While many have their reservations on the topic of fragmentation and why Google’s quick development cycles may be more harmful than good, you can’t dispute the effectiveness of the open source model that Google’s decided to employ with Android. Without it, we’d be like many Windows Mobile smartphone users stuck behind the curve on innovation and having to put up with a clunky smartphone experience because Microsoft fails to see the need to take a walk on the wild side every now and then.

If I’m not mistaken, Windows Mobile was introduced at the turn of the new century. Being a former Windows Mobile user myself, I looked back into my memories and realized something: it’s been nearly the same for the past 7 years. While Microsoft sits back and waits to test the waters, Google’s already jumped in and has gotten comfortable with the temperatures. The “wait-and-see” strategy of yesteryear has been over for a long time now and Google’s realized that. That’s the difference between Android doing more in a year and a half compared to Microsoft after 7-10 years. The only innovation we’ve seen in recent years for Microsoft’s mobile front has only been thanks to HTC and the make-up they so desperately needed to apply to that pig. Windows Phone 7 is a step in the right direction, but now Microsoft are the ones trying to play catch-up and if they don’t change their outlook soon, they won’t find themselves ever doing just that.

I wanted to revisit this story not because I’m hellbent on damning Steve Ballmer, Microsoft, and their mobile operating system, but because I want new Android users to see why we’re so lucky to have Google backing the operating system and why Android will continue to be as successful as it has been. While the tablet market may not be there now (just as the hardware market for Android wasn’t back during its baby months), don’t think it gives you guys (Microsoft) any reason to keep from getting a move on yourself: you already shot yourself in the foot with that bullet too many times before.

Quentyn Kennemer
The "Google Phone" sounded too awesome to pass up, so I bought a G1. The rest is history. And yes, I know my name isn't Wilson.

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  1. Good article.
    The one thing you might’ve wanted to add was the Tech Crunch story recently that used data collected from three million sites to estimate that Google have over 98% of the mobile search market. A lot of that comes from Android, validating that strategy and then some.

  2. Amen, bra!

  3. This is true, I think a large part of the Android 3.0 update will be addressing a lot of these issues, which revolve around the UX of android rather than any system based problems.

    Also Ballmer in his wisdom forgot that ChromeOS is going to be probably heading to more tablets on release and will further dent MS competitive edge

  4. pffft … microsoft can’t even successfully release a PHONE, let alone a killer os! i can’t get worked up over MS attacking Android, they are just too pathetic and too far outta the game. Apple, on the other hand, I cannot stand. Apple is the one that I’m hoping starts panicking and feeling the heat (like they apparently already have with their frantic attacking of other phones). Apple can have a nice warm cup. (yeah, i guess MS can have the same cup as well..:)

  5. Wow, what a boring read. I mean, seriously, boring. Windows Mobile had been king of the pond for so long that MS just got bored.

    Sure, jump on the “there aren’t any updates” band wagon at the same time that people are blasting Android for fragmentation… Good call!

    Go ahead and bash WM for being old, but its still one of the best options for all-in-one productivity. Google would make big steps in dethroning them with an Android version of Google Docs, but until then, WM is the only one that has native doc editing/creation, MyPhone backup services, and a promising overhaul coming very soon.

  6. @Waazzupppp Android doesn’t have native options for this stuff? Just because they’re in the market doesn’t mean they aren’t good options (those options are even greater than they are on WinMo’s baked-in options, in fact).

  7. Great article, I would rather see Ballmer hang by than Jobs continue his reign. But either way all closed eco systems are choking themselves out; and there shouldn’t be a wonder anymore as to why Android is growing wings and flying away! Give the users what they want, or they will go where they can get it. Android is growing to meet the needs of the user, and this equals success. Grow to meet the needs of the company (Apple & Microsoft) and you will find unhappy customers. Not only that android provides choice in what phone I want to buy, some are cheap and some are really expensive. But I’m glad I have a choice of a Nexus One or a Eris, a DroidX or Cliq

  8. Can’t you just smell the fanboyism coming out of these comments. Love it. Then we have one solitary WM fanboy who seems to have stumbled to the wrong place on the interwebz.

  9. Ummm, Google is in Mountain View, California, not Mountain Valley.

  10. @Chris whoops. Thanks for the spot.

  11. Great article. And I don’t see any fanboyism in the comments except for the WM guy. The numbers have shown consistently that Android is growing faster than probably anything the mobile market has ever seen. The article hits it dead on. MS missed the boat and even criticized the ship as it set sail while they were left stranded on the island.

    MS set themselves into a strategy of isolation that starts with Ballmer and goes right down to the devs that use their tools. Its funny because I peer into the community every once in a while and just happened to do so last night. They are a community of MS-centric devs that have discovered that theres life beyond MS technology. But the hardcore devs and the company itself feel anything that didn’t come from MS is just wrong. To them the open source model is just wrong while almost everyone else embraces it and works with it to varying extents. Yet MS keeps taking jabs and making snide remarks while not producing anything to back up those remarks. As I said in another comment. One of these days the MS shareholders are going to realize that all the ideas Ballmer blasts take off while most of MS’s ideas flop. A flop of WP 7 may just be the last straw. Its their only ticket into the mobile and tablet world which will start to dictate the desktop world and break up the Windows stronghold. They simply cannot fail here.

  12. Great article.
    I’m pretty sure that Google has their sites on Microsoft in the long run, and although they can’t beat them in owning computer operating systems, they are looking to win the battle (and will) in TV and mobile operating systems
    Google will dominate the television OS space, being the first company out of the gates.
    Google is well on its way to owning the mobile OS space.
    And when they do own those two spaces… hello Ad revenues. Ballmer and Microsoft are Dinosaurs. Way to ruin the Gates empire.

  13. Great piece…. I agree that MS are always far too slow to react in a very fast moving segment of the market. How long have we all been hearing about Windows 7 phones now? I always used to use WM phones in the mistaken blief that they would “just work” with my pc’s, but no, that was never really the case. Android however is seemless, and now with 2.2 on my HTC Desire since yesterday, I can even use my phone as a WiFi hotspot etc too now. I could never justify buying an Apply, it would drive me nuts trying to get their software woking with PC’s etc. They also need to grow up and get with the real world too.

  14. Sweet article Quentyn Kennemer FTW

  15. Kin.

    I mean really.

    What were they thinking?

  16. @ Cpt Mike: While I’m looking forward to Google TV, they certainly aren’t the ‘first out of the gates’. MS has been at it for 7 or 8 years w/ WMC. And then there’s AppleTV.

    So Google is hardly first, but they will be the 1st company to do it right.

  17. Open source is the equivalent to Capitalism. Keep big brother out of the way, and individuals will thrive, and the rest of the model with it!

  18. Yeah! Take that Ballmer!

  19. article is spot on.

    only thing WM has that i desire on my ANDROID is bluetooth HID, that’s coming.

    only thing i desire on my ANDROID that it doesn’t have now is WIFI calling, that’s coming.

    i got 2 full t-mo upgrades burning holes in my pockets and i expect use them in the very near future and it aint buying anything but, ANDROID.

    as a guy who has lived through the downfall of a bunch of corporate dynasties and gloated at quite a few, google is the innovater du jour and in the driver’s seat and i’m really glad to be along for the ride.

    BTW; google just dropped a neato extension for chrome called ‘chrome to phone’.

  20. My company just loves open source. We have made boo-coo bucks with it.


  21. JIT isn’t exactly innovative, it was just painfully lacking from the Dalvik VM up until 2.2. It has been in Java for ages (if not from the beginning), so specifically JIT should more be used as a criticism of Android than a praise…

  22. One difference between Apple and Android is the competition. If one Android phone has bad voice quality, than the user can migrate to a phone with better voice quality without changing OSes. Each vendor has the competition of another Android vendor. Apple was only competing against itself so the hardware did not need to improve.

  23. First off, this “billions of dollars” Google makes has nothing to do with anything it does other than Ads. That’s it. Second off, for all this “Great Products” Google makes, none of them are native in the operation system. The only good productivity software on android that I have seen is Quick Office and you have to pay some good money for the. WM and WP7 Both have their productivity software built in, Native, with the price of the phone. Also, I still don’t see how a COMPLETELY open system adds any apparent value. I do think tho that Apple’s walled garden as a lot of people call it is stupid and needs to come down. Personally in either 1.x or 2.0 i think WP7 will hit the perfect medium.

  24. @Mark Gjol I was mainly speaking on the innovation by the Android development community to bring JIT to light. They couldn’t bake it into Dalvik as Google did, but they sure did open Google’s eyes to it (or – at the least – pushed Google to adapt it for Android).

  25. Excellent story proves my point to the
    friends of mine who steadfastly stick
    to windows mobile or Iphone.

  26. Couldn’t agree more with the article, I use winmo devices for work, and the o/s hasn’t changed for nearly ten years.
    What amazes me is how bad the 6.5 tartup was when you compare it to the thirdparty shells that are available spb for example made a fantastic winmo shell.

    I jumped ship from my winmo xperia x1 to moto milestone, and it’s a jump I’ve recommended time and time again, android is soooo easy to use and unlike iPhonies allows me to customise my phone to how I want it!
    won’t be boing back to winmo, iphone just doesn’t interest me, I’m android for life baby!

    What I don’t understand is microsoft and windows phone 7 being a ‘premium’ o/s aimed at business users, yet one of their features being xbox integration?

  27. @waazzupppp Microsoft king of the smartphone pond? Since when???? I believe that title goes to RIM. I used to own a piece of sh*t inferior Samsung WM6.1 phone, that even my 4 year old refuses to play with as a toy. Who cares about native doc? How many people actually use their smartphone to replace their notebook or desktop any way? Ballmer can fart through his mouth all he wants, fact of the matter is since he took over from Darth Vader (Gates), the stock has not budge at all. Meanwhile, Apple and Google has surpassed them leaps and bounds in terms of shareholder returns in the past 10 years.

  28. I can’t wait to get rid of my WinMo phone when the Epic comes out. Even with SPB shell, I just can’t stands it no more!

  29. @Quentyn Glad I could lend an assist.

    Another thing MS dropped the ball with is Blogspot. It’s so brilliant an idea, I’m mad I didn’t come up with it. Give everyone and their grandmother (literally) a free blog. Let them put ads on it (supplied by Google). Now Google has access to industries/markets/hobbies they would NEVER have reached if they didn’t give away free blogs.

    You’re right: MS tests the waters then waits to jump in. But they’ve been doing that for decades. MS Word, Excel, IE even Windows Mobile were the brain-child of other companies (WordPerfect, Lotus 1-2-3, Netscape, Palm).

    But as usual, they show up late to the party and shout to get the party started because they’ve *finally* arrived.

  30. I have to put my 2 cents in.

    Any company is in business to make money. Be it Google, Microsoft, Apple or mine, IBM. How that is done can be many different ways. Microsoft grew up in a brick and mortar world and looks at it from the point of view of, create applications, sell for profit. Google does it a different way. Growing up with an add based model they extended it in what they believe is a win-win for the end user. We give you free stuff, you let us advertise products to you. That model works too.

    Now this whole idea of “built in apps” is silly to me. The way Microsoft does it, they better include things people need since the ability to get something from a 3rd party is not as easy as say an iPhone or an Android based phone. And nothing is free. you pay for that built in application through the phones coast, which the phones manufacture pays a portion of to Microsoft. Android and Apple have app stores where you have a choice of what application you want. Now I know Apple is not as nice as Android when it comes to replacing the built in functionality of certain apps in the iPhone, but you have choices. Microsoft is not happy with Android because not only does it threaten its income from phone operating systems, but its moving up their food chain. Next pad’s, then desktop OS??? So just as Thomas Alva Edison did to Nicholas Tesla, or the RRIA tries to do to the changing music industry, they are going to fight tooth and nail to keep the status quo. Rather then embrace the new ways that are making money for others. And who knows, they may be right. But for me the phone I buy, where I paid for it up front or through my monthly bill, is mine. And I want as much control of it as possible so I can decide what I install on it or don’t. And the closest I can get to that ideal at this point is Android.

  31. 1st…. I agree and thank God for Android indeed!

  32. Good article…

  33. You’re making a little too much of the open source license on Android.

    The very base operating system itself is open source, but Google doesn’t follow an open source development model. There are no nightly builds, no progress tracking systems, no mailing lists where internal development memos take place. On the contrary, Google keeps everything under very tight wraps, then releases it at the last minute.

    In ESR’s famous “Cathedral and Bazaar” essay, Google is most decidedly the Cathedral, not the Bazaar.

    Second, the “Google Experience” on Android (calendar, gmail, market, etc) are closed source. And you can’t very easily run a third party open source distribution and keep those apps up to date; you’re stick pretty much with the proprietary version, or piracy.

    Android’s core parts are open source, but the whole experience is not, nor is the development model. And it has nothing to do with Google’s revenue model.

  34. I want to thank Google for the Nexus One too.
    If they come out with a Nexus Two for developers only,
    I’m going have to find a way to get one.

  35. Ummm… can’t say really. Google is not an innovative company. They copied Yahoo Maps, Yahoo Search, Yahoo local, Yahoo mail, Firefox browser, and even lately the background image and categorization of Bing.
    Google comes across as a jack of all trades and master of none. Remember Linux – it was open source and way better than existing OSs – people used it but what is the market share as of now? Google, in my opinion should realize that customers are here to enjoy the products and not act as a free feedback/R&D resource for them… ;)

    Ultimately people will get fed-up of acting as free programmers for “improving” google android OS, and it will be limited only to geeks. The normal (majority) folk will go for a company that devotes its OWN resources to keep up with trends in the industry – Apple is a good example.

  36. I remember my first Windows Mobile phone, it ran on Windows CE. It was just as buggy as my Windows NT and 3.0 variants. One thing you can be sure of with Windows of any iteration, you’ll have the buggiest of Operating Systems and you will be stymied with the lack of innovation, locked inside the walls of Microsoft’s hell. Trust me, it sucks. I’ve spent too many countless nights into the wee hours and in tears wondering why my system stopped working and where did my data go to (is it safe?). All because of the worst OS that has ever been developed for computers. Microsoft’s legacy of crapware will always be in my mind the tarnished image of a company that doesn’t get it. No way would I ever buy a Windows Smartphone. Ever!

  37. Ballmer doesn’t understand android’s approach. He sees it is based on linux so he thinks of all the other problems with linux and the GPL. But Google decided to remove all the other GNU/GPL elements and replaced it with a user space in the BSD-like Apache license. That means companies could do whatever they want with the code and that’s what will make it a standard.
    As for WinMo, WP7 won’t be compatible with any WinMo app and WinMo phones won’t be upgraded to WP7. A WinMo phone really is a dead man walking. It’s too bad because it would’ve been the only other OS with the pocket PC idea. WP7 won’t have a file system, multitasking, etc and will be more like an iPhone.

  38. Siege but if you want a *good* office and browser for WinMo, you have to get Softmaker and Opera

  39. Oh I have just read that Softmaker is working on an Android version:
    “we plan an Android version of SoftMaker Office in the future (we have no time frame for this project yet). The advantage will be that Android is Open source and Apple cannot force us to sell our software only via the Apple app store.
    Sven Leßmann
    SoftMaker Software GmbH “

  40. Many of us watched as MSoft took the Zune (A far superior unit to the iPOD) and did a FAIL through lack of marketing and inovation. Pushed Vist on us costing them market share, and has chosed to ignnore inovation losing out to Goodle and Yahoo again with a better product in Bing. All I can wee from this article is that (as far as MS is considered) nothing has changed. Thier engineeres will produce a nice product, and thier corporate staff will fail us the consumer.

  41. One last comment, well maybe a few. I spent a lot of time as a Pocket PC /Smartphone expert. WMobile was kicking the pants off of Palm, and it was a WM phone Vs a Palm. WM grew through having open development. When the iPHONEs 1st came out MSoft won through inovation and better conectivity. They sat silent as Apple began to change and beat them at their own game. Now they are in 4th place. Here I believe is why.

    MSoft has always see the smartphone as an EXTETION of a desktop or notebook, not as a moble replacement for one. Apple sees the iPHONE as a way to sell music and apps,and as a standalone device. The WM phones were teathered to the PC via Synch, the iPHONE could and does stand alone.


  42. Excellent article QK-KEEP IT UP!

  43. Great article. Admittedly biased, but not incorrect or misleading in any way. An opinionated piece, with plenty of fact. And I very much enjoyed reading it on the huge 4.3 inch display of my Evo 4G, and then responding with my full QWERTY that seems to make all my friends with a hardware keyboard….just plain jelous. Go Android, go!

  44. Also….I’m actually quite pleased with his page…and heres why: I’ve visited many forums and blogs in my life and they’ve always been the same. Specifically designed for a target audience, but riddled with competitor’s followers Rantings and general immaturity. I visit a Palm forum, nothing but blackberry users bashing the site. I visit, nothing but Dallas fanboys telling me how were gonna lose to them on Sunday. But seriously guys……40+ comments here about this article…..on an Android fan site, and one bashing entry against us? Google has literally left the competition speechless…way 2 go.

  45. Aww … what’s with the fanboy type hate on Microsoft?!?! LOL!

    I love Google and Microsoft and am hoping that Microsoft builds Windows Live Messenger and the Bing apps for Android, like the ones on iOS!

  46. Nice article…. and there’s just one thing I can say to Steve Ballmer and Steve Jobs.

    Prepare to get a napkin Homie. Cause you’re about to get served. WOot!!

  47. You know search isn’t the only thing Google makes money from when it comes to Android. They take 25% of the profits from every app sold as well as a $50 (yearly I think) fee to post up apps. So even the free apps they will make some money from. But they will still be motivated to push Android since the more devices running it, the more people will buy apps.

  48. no matter what, GOOG, MSFT, AAPL are all public traded, face the same pressures. Only time will tell which one will come out on top – maybe it won’t be one of these. As an investor, though, I would watch GOOG closely, because other than search advertising, nothing is making them money. Beore search’s 15 minutes are up, I’m going to pull out. Android isn’t going anywhere. Once the andro-honeymoon ends, it will be like living through WinMo5, 6, etc., all over again.

  49. Balmer will fail at Win 7 Mo just like he has failed at just about everything else. If it wasn’t for that huge stockpile of cash he has to pi$$ away or dead end start ups or failed products they would be even worse off. As it stands now Balmer has been able to spend is way out of a lot of holes.

    Really the only success I know of under the Balmer reign is the XBox and that took years and hundreds of millions in losses before they got anywhere with that.

  50. Gmail launched with “only” 1GB, while the norm at that time was definitely less than 10MB

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