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Google's Strategy: Look Like Apple

Stocks in this article: GOOG MMI AAPL RIMM HPQ MSFT NOK DELL

Why are people unhappy with Android? The complaints range from battery life to lack of customer support. Every single Android I have tested has abysmal battery life, and the support from the wireless carriers is viewed by most people as deeply inferior to the friendly approach and replacement policies of the Apple store.

Techies and geeks mostly like Android, but most people are not techies and geeks. As a result, the percentage of people who bought Android over the last 18 or so months are looking to switch to Apple and others over the next six months appears large.

Something had to give. Google could have continued on its current path, probably with much more success still. But in the eyes of the consumer, it would not approach Apple in terms of being a consistent experience with superior service and cradle-to-grave comfort.

People say: "But what about Google's relationship with its Android licensees, such as Samsung, LG, HTC, SonyEricsson and many others?"

Here is the cold answer: Too bad. Of course Google wants to maintain as many active Android licensees as possible, to help it dominate the ecosystem. It would never kick anyone out, like Apple did with its Mac licensees in the mid-1990s.

This was a hard choice for Google. It now almost inevitably risks alienating its Android licensees. Nobody will admit this, near term, of course. Google has no incentive to do it, ever, for all sorts of reasons, least of all anti-trust. Licensees such as Samsung, HTC, LG and others are now caught with their pants down, and have to keep up a smiling face while they figure out what to do over the long run.

Remember, there is no near-term panic here. We don't even know if the Motorola deal will close. But assuming that it does, the clock is ticking for the Android licensees.

I wrote an article on May 20, 2011, that Samsung is building its own high-end operating system to compete with Google's Android, and that it will be launched in 2012.

Clearly, Samsung saw this otherwise surprising move by Google coming already.

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