No company involved in the smartphone arena is more familiar with having its operating system relegated to the background than Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG). The practice of shoving Android into a corner has been turned into an art form by South Korean manufacturer Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (KRX:005930), which has used the Google OS as nothing more than a basic foundation for its devices at every part of the price continuum. More recently, Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) introduced Home, a meta-app that resides between the OS and other applications to take over the entire device. Now, as Google releases expanded versions of its apps for Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)‘s iOS, the search king is taking a page from Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (KRX:005930) and moving to take over from within.
The Samsung playbook
Android is available free to hardware developers and, as such, has become the OS of choice for many overseas manufacturers, especially Samsung. In emerging markets where price is a much larger concern to consumers, Android devices virtually own the market; Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) enjoys a roughly 70% global market share as a result. The issue for Android, however, is that Google apps aren’t the preferred choice of many of the users. As a result, Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (KRX:005930) and others have pushed Android into a supporting role and built user interfaces that essentially lock out most Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) functionality.
Following on the concept, Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) Home takes over both the home screen and lock screen in Android to transform devices on which the meta-app is loaded into veritable “Facebook Phones.” At the release of Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) Home, CEO Mark Zuckerberg extolled the openness of Android as a critical factor in allowing his company to create the Home functionality. The migration of this phenomenon to the U.S. sets the stage for Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)’s latest response.
Google’s third OS
While the app-created environment that’s developing with iOS doesn’t fully qualify as an OS to be added to the Android and Chrome family, this may be a matter of “doesn’t qualify yet.” A recent upgrade of Gmail allows more Google apps to communicate with each other and interact beyond the watchful eye of the locked-down iOS. For example, a link that you receive in your Gmail account will now be able to be automatically opened in Chrome — all on your iPhone. Despite this enhanced functionality, it isn’t absolute by a long shot, and it’s doubtful that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) will ever allow it to grow to full fruition.