Google Inc. Just Took a Page From the Apple Playbook

Android TV, one of Google's latest software moves. Source: Google.

Google (NASDAQ: GOOG  ) (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) made a series of big announcements at its I/O Conference last week, which included new Android software for television, automobiles, and wearable devices. The biggest change to Android, however, may not have been the devices it'll run on or it's new design -- but rather that Google is taking Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) approach and tightening its grip on its operating system.

An open and shut OS
Google's engineering director, David Burke, told Ars Technica last week that device manufacturers won't have control over the interface of Android TV, Android Wear or Android Auto. This is a departure from the mobile version of Android, which has been very open to customization and adaptation by device makers.

Instead, Google plans to control how users experience the next wave of Android and is leaving it up to device makers and automotive companies to differentiate themselves with their own hardware and features.

Android Auto for cars. Source: Google.

Taking a page from Apple's playbook
Google built its massive mobile dominance by giving away its Android operating system for free and basically letting device makers do with it what they wanted. But over the past few years Google has started cracking down on Android's openness in order to control the user experience and software updates.

Apple's iOS typically enjoys fast upgrade cycles because the company controls both the hardware and the software. Google's open approach allowed Android to surpass Apple's OS market share quickly, but that created a fragmented platform which left many users with outdated software.

Tightening the reigns on Android a bit for Wear, TV and Auto, will keep Google from repeating the same mistake. This will bring a better overall experience to Android users and will allow Google to make the software updates it wants without being at the mercy of device makers. While some branding and services can be added to the new software, Google essentially controls the three new platforms.

Android One will bring hardware standards to devices in developing markets. Source: Google.

Last week the company also announced Android One, which lays out specific hardware specifications for creating Android devices for developing markets. This move, along with the closed approach to Wear, TV and Auto, shows just how much the company has changed its approach to its software.

Why Apple should watch its back
As Google learns a few tricks from Apple, the iMaker should be a bit concerned. First off, as the Android One standards hit emerging markets, Google will likely take over new areas that Apple simply can't compete with. While Apple has once used the iPhone 4 to tap emerging markets, Android One specs can surpass Apple's older device and do so at a cheaper price. Add to that the fact that Google will update the devices regularly, and the iPhone will have an even harder time keeping up with the competition.

The real problem for Apple is that while Android is already the dominantly used OS throughout the world, the user experience is about to get even better. So not only do the majority of people already use Android, but they're about to use it now on their smartwatches, their televisions and in their cars, and the updates are going to come faster and better than ever before. Apple may have built its device sales on creating a simple and seamless experience for its users, but Google is about to do the same in new segments -- and that could be a very bad thing for Apple. 

Software isn't the only wearables play
While Google and Apple will compete in the wearables space with their software, there's one company that's making the connectivity technology inside some of the world's most popular wearable tech right now. This small tech stock has lots of room for growth, but there's a few things investors should know. Click here now to read our free report. 

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  • Report this Comment On June 30, 2014, at 1:44 PM, makelvin wrote:

    "...Google Inc. Just Took a Page From the Apple Playbook..."

    Google just took "A Page" from Apple? Really, just a page? Google has been trying to steal their whole playbook for years. Google and Samsung have been trying to get into virtually every single market that Apple is into and anything Apple is rumored to be getting into. Even just a whisper of what Apple might be possibly working on will put these companies into a complete frenzy of activities just so that they can claim "we had it out first" even though the thing they usually have it out first is a complete mess.

    "...Google plans to control how users experience the next wave of Android and is leaving it up to device makers and automotive companies to differentiate themselves with their own hardware and features..."

    That would be interesting to see how that would work out. Unless these Android TV OEM can produce their own CPU, it would be difficult to see how they can provide any unique features and hardware to differentiate themselves if they are not allowed to modify the OS interface. The only real differentiation they can realistically make with such proposal is to compete on lower cost with even lower margin. It seems that any Android TV OEM partners are destined to live on fumes if they are buying into Google's Cool-Aid. The race to the bottom has begun. Good Luck.

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Chris Neiger

Chris has covered Tech and Telecom companies for The Motley Fool since 2012. Follow him on Twitter for the latest tech stock coverage.

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