We are living in a smartphone world of mobile fun and wherever you look the worlds of mobile and traditional computing are converging – from the technology itself to the sites that cover it. Facebook and Twitter are appearing across all platforms from the new Playstation 4 to smart televisions, further unifying what many use the computer for.
Another thing that goes well with this is the fact that certain brands have crept into use as fully fledged verbs. People in the UK do the hoovering, in the US people Xerox something and now the most recent analogy is to Google it.
Lets be honest, the majority of us use Google one way or another, it is quite simply the default search engine for the majority of the technologically savvy world and whilst there are others the common thing to do when completing an internet search is to Google it.
The one thing that we can tell from this is that the brand is king. Companies spend fortunes every year on branding. Watch the advert breaks on prime time television and I guarantee that up to a third of the adverts aren’t for actual products but intended to raise brand awareness.
As an example, Intel have it off to a tee. That annoying little noise that accompanies every single advert for a computer that uses an Intel processor means that anyone who watches telly knows the sound and associates it with them as a company.
Sony are trying to do the same with Playstation. There are several products under the Playstation brand such as the Vita, the PSP and now they are trying to reignite the brand with the non-launch of the PS4. They may not have actually launched it but by jingo people are certainly talking about it.
It now seems that Google are undertaking the process too. The Chromebooks are a prime example. The Chrome OS is freely distributed as a set of files and anyone who can compile the code is free to do so and there are a couple of developers that are easily found if you “Google it” (there’s that verb again). However, Chromebooks as a brand have been launched as a single entity despite the fact that there are many different versions made by different manufacturers. As a comparison, one would buy a Dell laptop, a Samsung laptop or an Acer laptop and not necessarily a Windows laptop. The devices are being sold by their OS brand and not by their manufacturer and thus the Google brand is being grown.
The same is happening to Android. Android as it is currently known could be set to disappear. In an effort to make the new HTC One feel more “premium”, the product page on HTC’s website completely ignores the base OS apart from a small listing on the specifications page. It’s been done in an attempt to stop consumers making comparisons between the HTC One and other, cheaper, Android devices, and time will tell if it actually proves to be a successful strategy.
Google, too, are stepping down their branding efforts for Android. They have confirmed that Android will not have a stand at MWC this year – so no more Android pins for Leigh, Mark and Dan. Now, it could be argued that Android no longer needs a stand at MWC, given that it is ubiquitous in the mobile world. However, what I think is happening is something markedly different – I think that Google are using the Chrome OS model for Android where Android becomes the underlying OS, and Nexus becomes their brand.
The Google Nexus flagship series is far more marketable for Google. It has evolved from a reference design for how Android was originally intended to be into reasonably priced gadgets that people want to buy. They can market the Nexus devices far easier as Android’s ‘pinnacle’ and still have OEM’s do the hard work of promoting Android as an OS like in recent times.
To be honest, I think it’s the OEMs that mean that the Nexus brand isn’t appearing at MWC either. If there was an instant switch in focus from Android to Nexus OEMs would start to get nervous, but a gradual transition would lull those same OEMs into a sense of security. Don’t get me wrong, Android is still very important for Google – but marketing it may not be.
Again, it’s similar to how other manufacturers market their operating systems and devices. Apple, for example, don’t market iOS – they market the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad with iOS 6 listed as a feature (similar to Nexus 4, 7 and 10 with Android 4.2 listed as a feature). We’ve seen in recent times Google stepping up product design and trying to be, dare I say it, more like Apple with the Chromebook Pixel and Google Glass – although expensive, the industrial design on those two products truly is excellent. An article on The Verge talked about a gradual shift from the “Apple-level” design benchmark to the “Google-level” design benchmark, and I’m tempted to agree with them.
Of course, Google are well rooted in the OS itself. From Google Now to Google Maps and even the Google Play Store (which underwent a name change from Android Market to Play Store, incidentally), wherever you look in Android you will find Google’s branding. So, really, for Google, there is no need to push Android in the interests of pushing Google at the same time as it’s already embedded in the OS which is being pushed by their partners. It’s bold, it’s clever, it’s even a bit risky – but it just could work.
Jamie Hoyle contributed to this post