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Rumors of Android Consortium at CES Greatly Exaggerated

by Roger Lanctot | 12月 21, 2013

EE Times reported last week that Google will announce a consortium to foster the development of some sort of “Android in Car” solution to counter Apple’s iOS in Car concept. Apple claims iOS in Car is being adopted by as many as 12 car makers – although the industry as a whole is still waiting to hear about precisely of what iOS in Car consists.

The EE Times story got a lot of attention in the industry, but appears to be a bunch of hokum. The operative paragraph in the piece was as follows:

“In addition to Android in the Car, the announcement will involve the formation of an industry consortium and the adoption of communication standards, EE Times has learned. Google’s goal presumably, is to make it easier for developers to design apps for cars.”

There are few things more unlikely than Google seeking to create a consortium. Google doesn’t create consortiums. Companies create consortiums to cope with Google or to take on Google. But Google does not create consortiums. Google is the antithesis of the consortium ethos.

The reason the words “Google” and “consortium” are something of an oxymoron is the fact that Google turns the idea of a consortium and coalition on its head. Google was founded to leverage the strength of the Linux open source community in its favor as the creator of a “closed” version of Linux – ie. Android.

In Google’s world, there is no sharing or cooperation. Anyone interested in using Android needs to cooperate with Google. So there is no point in creating or participating in any consortium.

The only thing less likely than Google participating in or creating a consortium, however, is the possibility of Google allowing Apple to steal the limelight at CES. And, of course, the only thing less likely than that is that Apple might actually attend CES. Apple has become spectacularly adept at influencing CES without even showing up.

So, to be clear, Apple will not attend CES. And Google, too, will not have a presence at the show.

So the alleged confrontation between these two “tech giants” will take place by proxy throughout the show floor.  Both Google and Apple have a wide range of projects underway in the automotive market including:

 

Solutions

Objectives

Google

SendtoCar, Maps/Navi, Traffic, Google Earth, Google Glasses, Android, POIs, etc.

Search aggregation and advertising revenue

Apple

Siri, iOS in Car, iTunes, Navigation, iTunes Radio, adapters and interfaces

Selling hardware and content

Both companies have shown interest in screen replication solutions – along the lines of MirrorLink – reproducing the content on the mobile device screen into the head unit. MirrorLink is the product of a consortium – initiated by Nokia in cooperation with a coalition of European car makers.

The key difference for Google is that more than a dozen car makers are actually working on embedded Android-based systems – putting the OS directly into the car’s center stack rather than enabling a mobile device connection. Hyundai and Kia have announced their plans for in-dash Android systems and other car companies have shown or demonstrated similar concepts.

Google has been aggressively pursuing enterprise-wide relationships with car makers. As part of these efforts Google has made it clear that it is interested in taking charge of much more than just the in-car infotainment system. The company is out to take on the entire connected car customer experience.

It is for this reason that the concept of a consortium is so laughable. Google doesn’t collaborate. Google takes over. In this, Google is much like Apple.

Expect Google to continue to pursue its industry absorption strategy at CES, even if only indirectly. Google’s strength lies in its focus and in its developer support. For their part the car makers want to glean the best of Google – developer support for Android – while avoiding the downside – Google’s customer conquest.

One thing has been clarified recently, though. Google has put the word out that car makers licensing Android for use in center stacks must deploy Android without modification.

Only by preserving Android in its entirety will OEMs guarantee that their systems can be updated thereby preserving compatibility. Google is making clear that forked versions of Andoid, such as those found in the Renault R-Link and Volvo Sensus systems, are on the wrong track. That is how Google arrives at consensus – no need for a consortium.  Are you on the bus?

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