You have probably already heard the news of Dell exiting the smartphone business. What is interesting to me is a particular statement credited to Jeff Clarke, Dell’s head of consumer business. Here it is:
It’s a content play with Android. Amazon is selling books and Google is making it up with search. So far we couldn’t find a way to build a business on Android.
I think that it is perceptive of Dell to have seen that Android is about content play. A free OS means that you are the product. There is no free lunch anywhere. Manufacturers using Android are tools in Google’s hands. Simple and short. Even Samsung, the most prolific Android manufacturer knows this, or else with their runaway success in Android, they wouldn’t be investing in Tizen OS. What Google is after is mostly search revenue. “Here’s a free OS; you do the hard work and build us the traffic, so we can make our money”. Google also earns from sales in the Play Store. It is content all the way. Amazon saw this clearly and forked Android, so that they can have more control over content – and make more money. Without a way to monetize content, Android manufacturers are merely pipes.
Of course, it is fair game. There is no free lunch anywhere. However, Dell seems to have counted the cost of investing in Android and figured that they would rather not get used if they couldn’t find a way to use back. It is a vital lesson in life that every individual and every business must learn: Observe how the game is played, and if you can’t find a way to use someone back, don’t let them use you. That is simple common sense, after all. Android is about using and being used.
Beyond that vital business lesson, it is a bit odd though that Dell is exiting the smartphone business entirely. This is a period in which everyone (well, almost) is groping for a share of the smartphone market. Dell seems to believe that the future is in tablets, as they will be focusing on producing Windows tablets. Fair enough. They are not abandoning mobile entirely.