Check Mate for Google’s Android?

Hard on the heels of yesterday’s announcement from Google that the launch of Android would be delayed from the second quarter to the fourth, is a potentially huge one from Symbian that could make Android completely irrelevant when devices eventually do start to ship.

It’s too early to see exactly how the Symbian news will play out. But the bottom line is that Nokia are buying all their partners out (including Sony Ericsson, Panasonic and Siemens), while simultaneously establishing the Symbian Foundation, an open source, royalty-free platform in conjunction with industry giants, Sony Ericsson, Motorola, NTT DOCOMO, AT&T, LG Electronics, Samsung Electronics, STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments and Vodafone.

According to AdMob Metrics, Symbian already has a 55% share in the market globally [added to clarify: of the Smartphone sector] and considerably higher in some markets. These stats are skewed towards mobile web users obviously, but I don’t think that’s misrepresenting anything in this case. But trying to play catchup in a market where Google is still very much a novice, is going to be very hard.

Of course, even if Android doesn’t work at all for Google, they don’t really care in the wider scheme of things, provided that more and more people come to the mobile web via an Android-like experience, Google will still benefit by being able to serve up ads. At least that’s the theory posited in a new Wired article today, for which Chetan Sharma (buy his book) was interviewed.

And if they don’t? Not much downside. If the only thing Android achieves ‚Äî as Page knew before Rubin walked into Google three years ago ‚Äî is getting more people to spend more time online, then Google still profits. More users mean more people viewing pages with Google ads. If they’re doing that from an Android phone, great. If not, but they’re on a phone made more Web-friendly thanks to competitive pressure from Google, that’s also fine. “I hope it’s Android,” Page says. But either way, Google wins.

Of course, it’s not quite as black and white as that. Android doesn’t really need to apply this type of pressure anymore – now we have the iPhone. Android doesn’t need to provide an open source alternative – we have Symbian and Linux. And there’s also an implicit assumption that all these ads in the new mobile world will be Google’s.

We’ll see, I guess.

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