Being evil?

Jason Hiner tells us The dirty little secret about Google Android: Google’s “…Android is enabling the U.S. wireless carriers to exert too much control over the devices and keep the U.S. mobile market in a balkanized state of affairs…

This is because “The carriers and handset makers can do anything they want with it. Unfortunately, that now includes loading lots of their own crapware onto these Android devices, using marketing schemes that confuse buyers (see the Samsung Galaxy S), and nickle-and-diming customers with added fees to run certain apps such as tethering, GPS navigation, and mobile video.

This is very much unlike Apple that took control of technical follow through from AT&T, and this is very likely the reason it had to have an exclusive with just one carrier at the iPhone launch in 2007. For example, Apple refused to throttle data speeds so the users cannot watch YouTube. All wireless carriers, and not just AT&T, disable hardware features on handsets all the time, so that the data demand remains low and not tax their underdeveloped infrastructure; in fact, Verizon is the worst. This assertiveness by Apple has proved to enhance user experience with the iPhone.

Google, however, has no such concerns. Customer experience is not its business model to make money. Its main revenue source is advertisements and all it wants is as many eyeballs as it can garner, whether it means giving the license to use Android for free to OEMs and letting them tweak it, or giving a free rein to wireless carriers to disable any features they want.

The Google-Verizon deal on net-neutrality should be looked in this light as well. If the “Voogle” understanding prevails, the wireless access to the Internet by mobile devices will have two tiers of service, the classification of which will be controlled by the telecom carriers. If a company pays a certain fee, or shares advertisement dollars, the carrier will let that company’s site be accessed at a faster speed. Smaller companies will less money to spare and common users without money, who do not have any such restriction now, will have their websites and blogs load at a much slower pace.

Google and the carriers know that the next big thing is mobile computing. The search giant has a lot of money to throw around and share, and will get preferential treatment. The faster Google sites, like YouTube, load, the user will have a better experience and is more likely to revisit them over others that load slowly. Google wins with being able to generate more ad revenue, and more dollars to share with the carriers. For Google and the carriers, it’s a virtuous cycle.

The sad part is that it is us users who will be at a loss. The breath of fresh air that Apple brought with having a tight control over the hardware and software of the iPhone will be lost pretty soon. We will once again become worse than a third-world nation regarding telecom services. We already pay more per user for the third-class services than any other nation in the world; we’ll be paying even more without any significant improvement in resources.

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