Will The Android Platform Be Google's First Major Failure?

September 2008 has been quite eventful for Google: Android, their tenth anniversary, the asserted knowledge that their competitors are powerless and the incoming launch of their latest and possibly most important product ever since Google search was launched.

Android, the name given to Google's mobile phone venture, will not only incorporate Google's Browser, Chrome (ed: After all, the two development teams worked quite closely) but also finally provide Google with a platform that it can completely control (and monitor).

But could Android be Google's first major failure, like Microsoft's Bob? FT and SiliconAlleyInsider tend to think so based on feedback they've got from developers who have worked closely on the project or who followed it since its inception.

Many have criticised Google for not being opened enough towards the developer community, which is quite ironic, given that Android is supposed to be an Open Source project, just like the just-announced Chrome.

Obviously, Android, as a platform, will be compared with the iPhone and other devices on the market like the Blackberry or Windows-Mobile based Smartphones and this is where, the Financial Times understands, the likes of Apple and RIM have the edge as Google "lacks a clear consumer focus".

Which might not be as true as it seems. Google, in fact, wants to bring mobile internet to the masses - nothing less. While the iPhone tried to cram as many features as possible and be a jack of all trade, Google is betting on a smartphone that essentially tries to mimic the browsing experience on a desktop PC and that's where, Google could have the edge.

Furthermore, unlike Apple, Google is shouldering the risks with some of the biggest players in the mobile market who will be keen to work with Google (a) to get a competitive advantage over non-Android phones (b) to increase revenue by selling data packages (c) get a new revenue stream by becoming a Google publisher.

So, will Android be a failure then? Well, this will depend essentially on how the devices will be marketed. Comparing it with the graphics card market for example (where AMD or Nvidia releases one product which is then adopted by dozens of manufacturers), it will all boil down to how well the message about Android's capabilities will be ditched out and what differentiating points the manufacturers will bring up. After all, Android, unlike the iPhone, doesn't have a market all to itself.