The Macalope Daily: Who cares about Android revenue?

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Tom Krazit want to know why you Apple dorks are so worried about how much Google’s making off of Android.

“Why Google isn’t worried about Android revenue” (tip o’ the antlers to Brian S. Hall and Daring Fireball)

First of all, a disclaimer. Tom and the Macalope have never met, but he helped recruit the horny one to CNet years ago, before it was bought by the Lidless Eye of CBS and the Macalope was politely asked to take a powder. So the Macalope owes him what the kids used to call a “solid,” before they grew up and got jobs and had kids of their own who probably call it something else now.

Not all investments are made with the expectation that a big payoff is around the corner. Google’s decision to bankroll the development of Android was just such an investment, which makes the past week’s back and forth over just how much money Google has garnered from that investment quite silly.

Well, yes and no. It certainly seems possible that Google believes it’s in this for some other reason than direct Android revenue. Unless it’s just doing things really badly, there has to be something else. Possibly the love of a fine woman? Just throwing out ideas.

But the reason we Apple fans are interested in Android revenue is because we’re constantly being told how Google and Android are “winning.” When we respond that market share isn’t necessarily a good metric of how well a company is doing, we get called “fanboys.” It’s very annoying. Like having to share a cab with Henry Blodget.

For what it’s worth, the Macalope was skeptical of the Android revenue numbers that Charles Arthur estimated in his piece for The Guardian. Horace Dediu has taken another look at them and estimated that Google makes not four times as much from iOS as from Android, but five times. This is in line with what Arthur told the Macalope on Twitter, but it still uses the same numbers as a basis—numbers we’re not really sure paint a complete picture.

For some reason, the Guardian (a partial investor in GigaOM, mind you) ran a story last Thursday purporting to have discovered how much revenue Google has earned from Android since its launch in 2008: $550 million.

“For some reason”? Like that it would be interesting if it were true, even if Google makes Android for other reasons?

The mistake is assuming that Google views this as a big problem, as if Android has been a waste of money because Google makes more money from its competitor. Would Google like to make more revenue from Android? Sure. Money is nice. But Android was a defensive move on Google’s part, and one that wasn’t primarily motivated by desire for revenue or profit.

Correction: wasn’t primarily motivated by desire for direct revenue or profit.

All Google ever hoped to do was provide a shell-shocked smartphone industry with the tools to build a credible alternative to the iPhone that didn’t come with Apple’s tight-fisted control. The potential upside was that those partners would expand the overall pool of people with access to the mobile Web, therefore ensuring that Google could compete for mobile searches without having to kowtow to Apple.

The Macalope thinks Krazit is giving Google too much credit here. Their goal was the “upside.” That’s it. “Open”—and hindsight clearly proves this—was just a means to an end. That end being keeping Apple from holding all the cards.

There was another way for Google to make sure it had a place at the table: by continuing to make the best search product. Instead, the company decided to create an alternative platform that it’s largely lost control of (see: fragmentation, carriers, Kindle Fire).

If the goal was keeping Apple from holding all the cards, then Android’s been working. But that’s not “winning.” That’s just staying at the table without losing your shirt. And that’s why we’re interested in Android revenue.

[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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