opinion


A lean, green marketing machine

Google’s “predatory distribution of Android” at below-cost makes it difficult for other OS providers to compete, said Fairsearch

Is it just me or does MWC seem busier this year? The numbers at these sort of events are always up, according to the official figures, but this time they really look like they are. Maybe it’s the increased press presence. Someone told me there’s 3,000 press here – not just the usual trade press, but a whole host of bloggers and gadget trackers too. That much is evident given there’s standing room only in the media centre and people are camping out to make sure they get a desk. It’s like an Apple product launch in here.

But down in the thick of it, mixing in the congress soup, you don’t get a particularly good overview of what’s happening. Nobody here does. It’s often been said that the best place to cover Barcelona would be from home. You could sit back and watch it all unfold over the feeds. Only from that kind of vantage point could you spot the trends. Anyone you speak to down here has a distinctly blinkered view.

One thing that’s all pervasive however is Android. I have to take my hat off to whoever came up with the little android guy. He (she? it?) is everywhere. It’s a marketing and branding dream. It kind of sucks you in. Go take a look at the Android/Google showcase in hall 8. It’s quite something. The green guy is everywhere  – Android sweets, Android smoothies, stickers, pin badges, picture  frames, maps, cups, t-shirts. Even the stands, where all the respective parts of the Android ecosystem are showing their wares, are android shaped.

You get the sense, looking out across the comfy couches, smoothie bars and the big spiral slide in the middle, that this must be what it’s like to work at Google. It’s the quintessential .com experience. All bean bags and table football, encouraging creativity to flow like so much cupcake flavoured fruit drink.

But there’s also something a bit Charlie and the Chocolate Factory about it all. Like underneath this green, playful and friendly exterior, there’s a slightly sinister undercurrent. Maybe the oompa loompas are pulling the strings behind the scenes to manoeuvre the droid into position. Maybe if you stray off the track during the factory tour, some uncertain fate awaits you. Google is quite good at politely declining to give you any more info that it feels necessary at the time. Even if that is none at all.

And perhaps the operators are getting the same vibe. It was this time last year that Eric Schmidt made thinly veiled threats that in the not too distant future, Google would know more about the operators customers than the operators themselves. He’s departing his post as chief of the firm quite soon, but he’s speaking in the afternoon keynote on Tuesday as one of his last gigs in the role. I’m sure it will be a well attended presentation and definitely one of the highlights of the show.

I’ve always been keen to make a distinction between Android as a platform and Google as an entirely separate company. Yet the synonymous relationship between the two is persistent and all the marketing in the Android zone is handled by Google employees, they are your first point of contact for Android. You don’t hear much from the Open Handset Alliance (OHA) these days, do you?


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