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2 October 2015

Google steps up the pace of disruption of the entrenched mobile models

Google has had a very busy week. It has unveiled new Nexus devices and accompanying services, boosting its MVNO Google Fi in the process. It has acquired Jibe Mobile, creator of a platform for RCS (Rich Communication Services) which could be the successor to SMS. It has agreed a patents truce with Microsoft after five years at war and agreed to work with its arch-enemy on a new approach to IPR and standards.

All these apparently diverse activities have one overriding objective in common – to place the mobile user experience firmly in Google’s own hands, relegating the operators to willing or unwilling bitpipe partners. That has been an ongoing process, of course, ever since usage of key Google revenue generators like search and Maps started to shift to mobile devices. Android was a powerful, if flawed, attempt to place those services at the heart of everyone’s mobile platform, making Google the user’s primary relationship, not the operator.

Ever since, it has built on that, developing different ways to own and monetize the mobile user and stay ahead of over-the-top rivals, operators and even its own device partners in so doing. Its three moves this week are all part of the process. The Nexus and Chromecast devices will be heavily sold through Google’s direct-to-consumer channels and its MVNO, with no US operator signed up to offer the new smartphones. Jibe will give Google the potential to seize the initiative from the cellular players in harmonizing RCS – despite that being a very cellular platform. And in turning its back on patents litigation, it aims to lead a powerful coalition of vendors to turn the traditional licensing and IPR systems – which have defined the mobile world for so long – on their heads, and pushing royalty-free, Google-style technologies up against traditionally licensed standards like H.264/5.