What did Andy Rubin mean by saying WP7 was created for political reasons?

In an interview with PCMag, Rubin said,

“Look, the world doesn’t need another platform. Android is free and open; I think the only reason you create another platform is for political reasons. Why doesn’t the whole world run with [Android]? They don’t like the people who developed, or “not invented here [NIH]”

I note some irony in the suggestion that Windows Phone is superfluous when the acquisition of Android was an attempt to limit the growth of Windows Mobile. But that historical footnote is not entirely relevant here. The point Rubin raises is that WP is politically motivated. And by political he suggests two things: that there is mistrust of Google or NIH among potential licensees.

The NIH argument falls flat because anyone considering WP7 would also have NIH issues with Microsoft. So that really leaves only the question of trust.

Why would anyone mistrust Google when they offer operating systems software? How about these reasons:

It’s clear that Microsoft is buying its way back into Mobile (it went so far as to pay incentives and guarantees to established developers to convince them to port existing apps or write new ones for WP7), but that is not a political ploy. It’s just good old fashioned brute force.

The mistrust that Google earned for itself with operators, device vendors and potential content partners is rooted in its business model with Android. Hiding the costs of “openness” behind a veneer of freedom. In addition, putting forward competing products like Nexus One threaten the entire value chain.

I’d say the politics of Microsoft licensing are a lot more transparent. Redmond is the devil they know.

  • Vikram

    Rubin made a baldly ridiculous statement for a lot of reasons when he clearly doesn't want any one else to compete with Google for non-Apple manufacturers.

    I wasn't sure what he meant…does he mean that other software makers shouldn't try to make money in the phone space? Is he trying to suggest that there is nothing better than Android or nothing will be better so don't bother trying?

    It is sort an amazingly arrogant statement when you think about it…

    • asymco

      I read it very narrowly as saying that Android is great, and it is good enough for every vendor so the only reason not to use it is if you're fearful of Google. And he implies there's nothing to be fearful of.

      • Vikram

        What is arrogant to me is that he is directly referring to phone OS makers so he is essentially telling other software vendors to not bother even trying to build another OS and try to make a success off of their efforts now that Android is on the scene – that is all that the non iPhone/RIM/NOKIA hardware makers will ever need is Android and that any attempt to do something different is "political" in a pejorative sense.

        What a dork.

  • I’m a little confused. Rubin was talking about reasons for Microsoft *creating* an OS, whereas you seem to be talking about reasons for manufacturers *licensing* that OS. Have I got the wrong end of the stick?

    • asymco

      It's the same thing. You would not create it if you did not have a reason to make it compelling to licensees. Microsoft created WP because they sensed a demand for non-Android.

      • If there is a real demand than you don't need to throw so much money on licensees.

        No, the real reason is that Redmond believe that,
        "He who control the OS, control the universe."

        In that regard GOOG and MSFT are the same.

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  • MattF

    Rubin's model has variability coming in from every possible angle: 'customization' by the carrier (and by the OEM), 'personalization' by the user, continually evolving 'scenarios' by Google, software APIs from the HTML5 and 'native' platforms, apps from anyone and everyone who all have unrestricted access to the OS code– and all inefficiencies or conflicts resolved by competition in the marketplace. We shall see, I guess.

    • min

      'customization' by the carrier (and by the OEM), 'personalization' by the user'

      well, that's an oxymoron in need of proof. Can you uninstall Vcast? Can you use skype over 3g on other US carriers besides VZN? Can you upgrade your firmware to 2.2?

  • poru

    El Reg just leaked a premature LG release concerning their new WP7 phone (Optimus 7)

    I really may be out of the loop (or old-fashioned or whatever) but I just do not understand that WP7 interface with the huge icons (or just buttons) hogging precious screen real estate. Does anyone know how user-modifiable they are? I don't want anything to do with IE, FaceBook/social networks, or XBox Live.

    We'll see. Maybe Steve Ballmer & Co. will surprise me with millions of sales the first day. 🙂

    • asymco

      WP strategy is three pronged: (1) pay vendors to license, (2) pay developers to write apps (3) pay operators to distribute. Regardless of the product, this strategy *will* generate volume sales.

      It's like the old saying: if you put a big enough engine on it, even a 10 ton brick will fly.

      I might be an OK platform, and UI, but the challenge for Microsoft is to compete in some asymmetric way. I don't see anything here but symmetry. No super low prices, no extraordinary services, no new ways of making money. This is not creating shareholder value.

      • I feel that despite the big marketing push, they will hit their ceiling of potential users (early adopters) pretty quickly. I believe that the usability of the iPhone has fundamentally altered what users are prepared to put up with in a product. With many alternatives to WP7 in terms of price, you would have to opt for what is an almost scientifically provably worse interface.

        They *are* trying to be asymmetric with their UI, it's just that it's not better.

      • In other words:

        (Money earned from WP7) – (Money spent on WP7) < (Money spent on WP7)^(standard intrest rate)

      • Yowsers

        In so many words — and those words are cynical — their goal is to simply establish a presence regardless of the cost. That is to say, they're not playing to win, they're playing not to lose. In establishing a presence they've not "lost", which is a win.

        I've been in organizations like that (which is in tech world more often than not.) No one would admit it, but we all knew that we weren't the market leader, the avant garde or held any special mojo. We were not playing to win, we were playing merely to hit *some* numbers quarter by quarter so that we could say we didn't lose. No one was under the illusion that we were playing to win (except maybe the foul-mouthed penny-stock blowhards who post to Yahoo message boards thru out the day), regardless of what the press releases and earnings discussion said.

  • I think his question is,
    why didn't MS just took android and put their stuff (including app store) on it.

    He sound pretty stress and very incoherent throughout the entire interview,
    maybe because his biggest competitor is within (Chorme OS),
    not outside.

  • They just rewrite the code,
    the same as Facebook will probably do.

    (sure they have reasons not to, I'm just trying to understand what Andy meant)

    • Marcos El Malo

      So, you're suggesting that MS should have released an MS branded Android. And then try to license it to the handset makers? Maybe I'm missing something, but that just sounds absurd. No, make that abzurd. That's even more absurd because of the 'z'.

  • Iphoned

    There is also a question of google’s long term commitment to Android. It is a cost center and Chrome os is the future.

    • r.d

      googles long term commitment is Search with Ads. What ever maintains that
      stranglehold will suffice. The can make autonomous cars tomorrow and
      still will have ads. Sadly Apple will be forced into ads by corporations
      as they lose hold of the TV and newspaper brainwashing why do
      you think iPad is being promoted by corporate media so heavily.

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  • Well, by their own admission Google did Android to prevent competitive mobile OS from locking user out of Google's services. Funny, now Andy Rubin goes a step further. "Don't be a duche."

  • I guess also "Chrome OS" would qualify as another mobile OS the world does not need?

    • r.d

      Chrome OS was designed for Netbooks that didn't want to pay Microsoft Tax.
      Google is not doing anything innovative here with a Web OS.
      If the Netbook market collapses because of iPad then Chrome OS will
      have to be re-architected. boy the googlities are going to be mad
      at Apple for once again moving the puck. Google can't catch a break lately.

  • Tom

    It is interesting, that of all the carriers listed at apple for the 9 WP7 phones, VERIZON IS NOT THERE!

  • yet another steve

    The interesting politics would be inside of Google. Android is quite successful in the market. But as a business? Is it really driving advertising enough to support what has got to be 100s of millions in investment. Zero revenues.

    Even Google doesn't have unlimited resources, not to mention shareholders that believe resources should be kept as profits and flow to the bottom line. There have got to be teams that are not getting the golden child funding that Android is. Some of those teams can point to actual revenues they generate. Others probably see strategy differently.

    For example, Google is clearly funding its war with Apple much better than its war with Facebook. Which is really the threat to its business? I don't think it's close… just look over the shoulder of a person with a laptop or a phone and it is obvious that FB is who is stealing the eyeballs. Whereas Google has lived its entire stellar existence in a world where others controlled the OS layer. Google makes 99% of its profits from those eyeballs. It's OS wars sure look like the wrong wars.

    I don't know anything about the internal politics at Google. But these issues are obvious to anyone that knows how organizations inevitably must work.

  • Mark Newton

    Why doesn’t the whole world run with Android?
    Because then we would face a draconian future controlled by a bunch of really creepy privacy violators who’s stated master-plan is to replace our brains with their proprietary algorithm – a future we don’t want.