Google Inc (GOOG): Should Its Android Be Broken Up?

According to Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) Chairman Eric Schmidt, the search giant has clearly won the mobile platform war. That assertion is based in part on the sheer fact that Android is by far the dominant mobile operating system on the planet. That’s indisputable.

Over the past two years, Android doubled its global market share and now powers 70% of all smartphones sold worldwide. That rise is incredible, any way you slice it.

Source: IDC.

The thing is that while Google likes to tout those legitimately impressive headline figures, saying there are now more than 1.3 million Android devices activated every day, the truth is that there are currently so many different distinct Android camps that lumping them all together is somewhat specious where it counts.

Should Android be broken up?

A subtle admission
Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) has seemingly acknowledged this. The search giant subtly changed its methodology for measuring version distribution, which resulted in meaningful changes in its reported statistics. The aging Gingerbread fell from 44.2% to 39.8%, while the newest Jelly Bean soared from 16.5% to 25%.

Android version distribution. Source: Google.

The new method now measures the devices that visit the Google Play store instead of including all devices that check in to Google’s servers (i.e., activations). Google says “new data more accurately reflects those users who are most engaged in the Android and Google Play ecosystem.”

Google IncTranslation: Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) wants to emphasize its own Android camp to developers, while minimizing the importance of Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN)‘s fork as well as all the Chinese OEM forks out there. Google uses the aggregate figures when they make for good headlines, but it concentrates on its sanctioned Android versions when it matters strategically.

Google doesn’t directly benefit from the different forks out there, and Amazon’s is by far the most successful in tablets. The e-tailer was the No. 3 tablet vendor in the fourth quarter, with 11.5% of the market, and none of those Kindle Fires feed into Google Play. That’s what Amazon’s Appstore for Android is for.