The Macalope Weekly: Google bomb

Have you heard that Android is positively trouncing the iPhone in market share?! Yes, someone wrote that this week. Again. For all its weight, however, if you prick Google—by acquiring some patents it wanted to have all on its own—does it not bleed? Finally, the Macalope again wonders, what does Google really get out of Android?

Credulity incarnate

If you’re tired of reading these pieces ripping into people who continue to harp on smartphone market share, just think think how the Macalope feels. He has to write them. Because for some reason, people keep trotting out the same tired arguments.

Why Google is Winning the Smartphone Wars (tip o’ the antlers to Kontra)

Winning…what?

I’ve argued before that Apple is good at producing great user interfaces thanks to its top-down, designer-centric product development process. But that approach becomes a liability for building scalable network services. For those kinds of tasks, Google’s bottom-up, engineer-driven organizational structure works better.

Congratulations, Forbes’s Timothy B. Lee. You’ve found a new way to phrase the same argument presented by about a dozen other people and repeatedly objected to by Apple bloggers. Well, the Macalope’s sure you’ll address those objections hahahaha just kidding, we both know you won’t. And, true to the genre, Lee doesn’t mention profit once.

Lee never really does explain what exactly it is he thinks Google’s winning. They’re just…winning. Like Charlie Sheen.

Read more…

Lee uses a funnel analogy, saying Apple represents the small end by focusing on a narrow user experience while Google represents the big end by being flexible in devices and user experience. The Macalope’s got some nits about his terminology, but it’s not a horrible metaphor—he’s just using it to draw horrible conclusions. Yes, if the goal is to get every last creepy feature fetishist who gets hot over pictures of smartphones on animal furs, then Google’s method is more likely to achieve that. If the goal is to get as much profit as possible, however…

Apple captured two thirds of available mobile phone profits in Q2

But that’s not winning because bladdity blooga derp derp.

See, market share is so much easier to measure! Can’t we just say it’s market share like we’ve done forever?! Well, it’s good enough for Forbes, but not Macworld.

It’s pretty hard to compare how much money Apple’s making on iOS devices to how much Google’s making on Android, because they’re in two different businesses. Gene Munster has estimated that Google makes between $10 and $20 over the lifetime of each Android device sold. That’s sold and retained for the life of the unit, which is a somewhat different number than what’s in most of these market-share reports, considering Android’s return rates could be as much as 40 percent. With a return rate like that, you’d darn well better sell a lot of units.

Surely Lee will address the many patent issues that Android faces, as well as the issues of app quality, Android malware, and hahahaha here we go with the fake laughing again because, no, of course he won’t.

This explains why iOS has been losing ground to Android even though most people agree that the iPhone is the best single smartphone on the market.

Please define “losing ground,” as the iPhone has also consistently increased its market share.

Lee provides a laundry lists of reasons why Android phones sell better, but really there’s one that’s bigger than all the others: price. In a recent survey of UK Android phone owners, about 27 percent said they chose the phone because of either the cost of the plan or the cost of the device, as opposed to the 11 percent who said it was the phone’s design. The feature-fetishist segment of the market isn’t driving sales as much as the price-sensitive segment of the market. And Android phones simply cost less.

Android’s relatively liberal licensing model will make it much easier for overseas partners to customize Google’s software to the needs of local markets, while Apple’s “my way or the highway” licensing model rubs potential partners the wrong way.

You know what doesn’t rub them the wrong way? All the money. In most markets, the iPhone sells better than any other brand. That’s attractive to carriers. You look like a chump if you don’t offer the iPhone.

Ugh, we’ve been over this soooo many times the Macalope wants to rip his own Classic Mac face off. Lee’s got nothing new here. He still ignores all the counter-arguments. Every day is like Groundhog Day with these people.

Over at CNet, Don Reisinger credulously takes Canalys’s estimates of phone shipments as “market share.” There are two obvious problems with this. First is the high Android return rate mentioned above. Second, Apple actually sells the iPhones it ships.

Do these guys not notice these things?

You sunk my battleship!

It’s fitting that this week saw the release of the trailer for the incredibly stupid looking movie based on the popular board game Battleship, because Google’s been playing—and losing—an incredibly stupid virtual game of Battleship with Microsoft over patents.

If they were to make a movie of this game of Battleship, Google Chief Legal Officer David Drummond would play the part of the most petulant teenager since Hayden Christensen in Revenge of the Sith:

But Android’s success has yielded something else: a hostile, organized campaign against Android by Microsoft, Oracle, Apple and other companies, waged through bogus patents.

Shorter Google: “Myeh myeh mee moo nooni nanni myeh myeh.”

What, did Google take lessons in being a tremendous crybaby from Adobe? This is so paper-thin it’s weapons-grade laughable. As John Gruber and pretty much the rest of the world have pointed out, these “bogus patents” are patents Google bid for. Apparently they’re fine at $4 billion but reach critical bogosity at $5 billion.

The top dog in smartphone market share is rather thin-skinned, isn’t it? Hasn’t it heard it’s “winning”?

Yes, the patent system in this country sucks. But, like it or not, this is how the game is played right now. If you don’t have the intestinal fortitude to go the distance, don’t cry about it. This is business. Play the game or get out.

The Macalope’s now slightly concerned that his parody of Google two weeks ago as an over-dramatic soccer player working the refs was too mild.

TRIPPING! REF! DID YOU SEE THAT? HE TOTALLY JUST TRIPPED ME! REF! REF! REF? OH, COME ON!

But to clumsily paraphrase one Han Solo, Google’s whiny post is just where the fun, she is beginning.

Because, the Macalope’s not sure if Google realized this, but Microsoft’s executives can actually read. And, as it turns out, they can remember actual events slightly better than those at the Lidless Eye.

Grab some popcorn. This gets good.

“Google says we bought Novell patents to keep them from Google. Really? We asked them to bid jointly with us. They said no,” Brad Smith, Microsoft General Counsel tweeted out in response.

Oh, and hey! Microsoft’s Frank Shaw was kind enough to provide a screen capture of the email in which Google says “no thanks” to a delicious patent sundae. That’s so nice of him. He didn’t have to go to all that trouble. Although, the Macalope is sure he enjoyed every second of it.

Isn’t it beautiful when, after so many years of animosity, Apple fans can heartily applaud Microsoft as it makes an ass out of Google? Brings a tear to the Macalope’s screen.

After losing his aircraft carrier, battleship, destroyer and submarine, Drummond fired back… wide.

If you think about it, it’s obvious why we turned down Microsoft’s offer. Microsoft’s objective has been to keep from Google and Android device-makers any patents that might be used to defend against their attacks. A joint acquisition of the Novell patents that gave all parties a license would have eliminated any protection these patents could offer to Android against attacks from Microsoft and its bidding partners.

OK, this kind of hard to parse because it’s written in Old High Jerkwad, but essentially what he’s saying is that jointly owning the patents would have meant that Google couldn’t solely have the protection of the patents. In other words “We want the competitive advantage and no one else.” Nice. Real mature.

Shaw then returned fire, sinking Drummond’s patrol boat.

Stay tuned. There should be a board flip coming up here soon.

Saturday Special: What is it you’d say you do here?

The UtestMe blog has a good answer to John Gruber’s question about why, if Android devices are so popular, they don’t show up in online usage surveys more.

That’s the real question: how many of them are used as smartphones?

The answer, I think, is “Not many”.

So, these are technically smartphones, but they’re being underutilized. Well, let’s just call them underachieverphones then.

The Macalope completely buys this answer, but he’s still confused about some of the implications.

For Google, it doesn’t matter whether an Android powered device is used for smartphone-like tasks or simply for cracking nuts or playing music in a car.

But…uhhh…OK. Hmm. Now, the Macalope is just an ungulate with a Classic Mac for a head, so he doesn’t claim to be a brainiac. But Google is an advertising and search company. An Internet advertising and search company. So, how does Android benefit Google if a whole mess of Android users aren’t actually using their phones to access the Internet?

As Glenn Fleishman reminds us, Google does get their pound of flesh from anyone using the Android brand name, but licensing fees aren’t really a core revenue stream for them. They don’t get app sales from these underachieverphones and they don’t get any ad or search revenue, so…what do they get? Peace of mind?

One thing they do get is a lot of articles written by lazy thinkers, proclaiming that Android is “winning.” There is that.

The Macalope wonders if Google is kind of wondering if it’s all worth it as well. Is this why those patents weren’t worth $5 billion to the company? It’s hard to tell, since Google doesn’t publish its revenue from Android. The company did have a great quarter, but when it talks about how great “mobile search” is for it, note it’s not saying “Android search.”

[Editors’ Note: In addition to being a mythical beast, the Macalope is not an employee of Macworld. As a result, the Macalope is always free to criticize any media organization. Even ours.]

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