Google’s Sameer Samat on ecosystems, regulation and competition

Android was, predictably, in all places at Cell World Congress. At a present the place Apple has no public-facing presence, Google’s cell working system is nearly solely ubiquitous. As in previous years, the corporate additionally arrange a sprawling outside sales space between halls. This time, the main focus was on interoperability and ecosystem.

You’d be hard-pressed to discover a higher particular person to talk on the topic than Sameer Samat; the previous president of Jawbone now heads Android’s product and design crew, in addition to design and engineering for Google Play and Put on OS. We sat down with the manager on the third day of MWC to debate Google’s client software program performs.

Google’s Android sales space at MWC 2023 in Barcelona. Picture Credit: Brian Heater

Samat: Folks don’t simply purchase a cellphone anymore, they purchase into an ecosystem.


ClassyBuzz: That’s been the case for a while.

Samat: It has, however on the Android aspect, having that full portfolio of units is necessary.

You’re speaking particularly about Google units?

No. It’s not been the case that each main producer has provided a full portfolio. I feel that’s tremendous necessary. It’s actually necessary that these units work properly collectively. We’ve had this effort that we name “Higher Collectively” for some time, and we’re working on a lot of issues that assist these units interoperate.

iOS is your most important competition. That’s one thing Apple has finished properly for a very long time. It’s an enormous a part of why individuals purchase their merchandise. Do you have a look at what they’re doing when constructing out options?

From a client standpoint, it’s very clear that individuals have extra units of their life. The common U.S. family has 20-plus related units of their house. We hear suggestions from shoppers, and particular person producers have applied this stuff. Normally on this stuff, some Android producer has gone and finished it first. The reverse occurs a whole lot of occasions. Apple sees one thing they assume is cool and copies it that approach — always-on shows. The distinction is: Are you able to do it extensively throughout the ecosystem? Are you able to do it the place you may cross pair between totally different units from totally different producers, and are you able to do it at scale.

Folks ask me for earbud suggestions. 9 occasions out of 10, I ask them who makes their cellphone. Producers’ units are likely to work higher with their very own product.

There’s at all times alternative for producers to distinguish. I feel that’s good and ought to stay. However I additionally assume there are fundamentals that have to be standardized, as a result of it offers a stage of option to shoppers that they respect and they anticipate in our ecosystem.

Put on OS/Android Put on appeared stagnant for a very long time. There does appear to be a renewed effort across the Pixel Watch, nonetheless.

We had been very early to the watch area. We helped pioneer a whole lot of issues that went into smartwatches. At the start, the use instances weren’t very clear. There have been so much issues that individuals needed their watches to do. There was a view that possibly it was like a cellphone on your wrist. Over time what’s develop is a set of key pillars — use instances that the gadget is superior at, and that may develop over time.

Well being got here in and fully dominated the dialog.

Well being is necessary. The watch is among the solely electronics that you just put on on your physique, 24/7. Along with your permission, it has entry to your vitals and nowadays, well being is an enormous concern for all of us. Expertise helping us with that could be very in step with our general mission, and a whole lot of what our companions wish to do for shoppers. As we’ve honed that, there’s been a possibility to refocus the platform. It began with our partnership with Samsung round this. For some time, they’d finished one thing totally different with their watches [Tizen OS]. We received again collectively and made an effort to restart that.


With Samsung, Put on OS all of a sudden has much more market share in a single day.

Yeah. I feel once you discover the appropriate market match with these core use instances and you do it with the appropriate {hardware} and an incredible associate like Samsung, it provides you a chance to get on the market and present shoppers what’s potential.

That is one class the place Apple was extraordinarily dominate in market share. After the latest updates, when you push Samsung to the aspect for a second, are you seeing much more adoptions?

Yeah. There are much more individuals shopping for Put on OS units, and there can be much more units coming from different companions this 12 months.

Smartphone gross sales had been declining earlier than the pandemic, and that pattern has accelerated in the previous few years. Will the decline proceed to develop?

The market is unquestionably altering and reaching a brand new section. I don’t know that 12 months over 12 months gross sales is sort of the appropriate approach to have a look at this […] There’ll at all times be gross sales of latest telephones. However I feel you’re now reaching the purpose the place that is, for many individuals, it’s their main computing gadget. So, there are totally different and extra fascinating methods of trying on the market. I feel when it comes to what can you do with these units? What does engagement seem like? What are the providers that you just’re using? And the way is it built-in with different elements of your life? We talked about tablets and we talked about watches, however why are you getting a pill or watch? It may be all about productiveness for you or leisure. That may very well be changing the time you spent watching an enormous display tv or it may very well be that you just’re utilizing the look ahead to health. In some methods, the watch turns into like the brand new pair of trainers. It’s like that promise to your self that you just’re gonna get in form.

It’s aspirational.

So the true query just isn’t as a lot for me what number of telephones are offered? However what is that this expertise that means for individuals throughout the totally different points of their life? Positive. We have to have a look at the attachment of various units. The second half is that units are lasting longer.

Producers painted themselves right into a nook. In case you spend $1,000 on a tool, it’s most likely going to final 5 years, and not the 2 or three that had been arrange by the service system.

I feel it’s actually necessary that these units final a very long time. We’ve finished a couple of issues on our aspect to help that type of that. Numerous the highest Android cellphone producers are actually providing their 4 years or 5 years of safety and OS updates. And on high of that, we’ve retooled a whole lot of the platform and innovated round offering extra frequent updates in between these OS updates.

Apple’s not promoting many units. I feel they noticed that coming and shifted their focus towards monetizing providers. The Android income mannequin could be very totally different for each firm that isn’t Google. They rely on your apps and providers. What does the shift in monetization seem like for them, now that they’re not promoting as many units?

It’s one thing a whole lot of them noticed coming. I don’t assume it was simply Apple. We’ve been within the providers enterprise —

For for much longer than you’ve been within the cellphone enterprise…

{Hardware} is newer for us than providers. We now have a enterprise mannequin round individuals utilizing our providers. We associate with producers. It’s not a secret that we share in that success. I feel there’s going to be extra of a motion towards fashions the place units themselves are offered extra as a service. I feel there’s a whole lot of modern work going on within the service aspect to determine how you purchase a tool for much less up entrance, you utilize it and return it after a time period and you get one other gadget as a part of your general subscription.

Is Google nonetheless dedicated to Android Go?

Completely. The aim of Android Go is to guarantee that entry-level units have a very high-quality expertise. We constructed Android Go as a result of we noticed a possibility to guarantee that once you purchase the gadget, despite the fact that it may be inexpensive than different units, that doesn’t imply the expertise ought to be poor.

How bullish is Google on AR and VR?

I feel we’re excited in regards to the prospects of AR and VR. We’re not strangers to the area. We’ve been pioneers there for a very long time, and we’re seeing the following era of the expertise now. We’ll be proper there with the trade taking part in that.

Is there a task for Google to play within the metaverse?

The crew that I run at Google is a platform supplier. The beauty of the ecosystem is that there are a variety of firms which have a imaginative and prescient of what they’d wish to see occur. We now have builders who wish to take part. The place the platform could be related is in ensuring that there’s a approach that builders can leverage their curiosity throughout totally different suppliers and be certain that the expertise scales for them. I feel a very powerful factor about AR and VR proper now is rather like watch. It’s ensuring, as an trade, we come to the use instances that really resonate as a client.

There are at all times regulator issues round anti-competitive actions. Have a look at what’s going on in India proper now. How a lot of a problem are these types of legal guidelines and rules in your crew.

As a platform supplier making expertise that’s necessary in individuals’s stay, I feel that governments world wide representing their residents ought to be concerned in that expertise fastidiously. We now have a duty to guarantee that we’re integrating that expertise properly into society. Totally different international locations have totally different opinions on how that ought to work. I feel it’s a constructive dialogue for probably the most half world wide the place governments wish to interact in that type of dialogue — what function ought to society play? We welcome that, and we ought to be engaged in that dialog responsibly. It takes time and is a brand new part of what we do at the moment. Fifteen years or so in the past, it wasn’t an enormous a part of what we do. However it comes with the territory of taking part in an necessary function in what individuals do.

Will Google proceed to aggressively push again in opposition to a few of these selections?

The necessary factor Google will do is proceed to make merchandise that we hope shoppers will love. In fact, the place we predict that there are parts of coverage the place we will help educate, we are going to interact to try this in the appropriate approach.

The EU has been on the forefront of a lot of this digital legislations, whether or not it’s GDPR, USB-C or the appropriate to restore. What has the local weather been like with regards to coping with the European Union?

For tech typically internationally, whether or not or not it’s the EU or another nation the place tech is taking part in an enormous function in society, there are acceptable questions being requested about how that ought to occur. On the floor, one may attempt to say that’s a difficult surroundings. I choose to consider it as what occurs when expertise in a selected space goes mainstream and turns into such an necessary a part of life.

Democracies then have a look at it as how do we would like this expertise to work together with our citizenry, and what ought to that relationship be like. That’s a duty that we’ve got to interact in that approach. We now have a really productive dialogue set of conversations with the European Fee and the EU on a lot of issues. We now have a really productive dialogue with the equal organizations in Japan and Korea and a lot of locations. There are specific cases the place we’re serving to to teach on coverage. There are specific cases the place we might disagree, and we have to clarify our place. There are specific locations the place there are legal guidelines, and we’ve got to be compliant with these legal guidelines.

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Google’s Android sales space at MWC 2023 in Barcelona. Picture Credit: Brian Heater

U.S. commerce embargoes have kneecapped Huawei. How do these types of issues influence you and your crew?

We work with a whole lot of companions world wide, so it’s not a brand new factor to us that there are particular geopolitical occasions that happen that trigger a number of of our companions to have a problem. You talked about U.S. authorities motion, however take the pandemic, the provision chain challenges and how demand and provide change into imbalanced. It’s a worldwide world, and all of this stuff are interconnected. […] We wish to help a wholesome ecosystem. The excellent news is there are companions in plenty of totally different geographies, and we work with all of them to attempt to guarantee that they’ll construct and achieve success within the ecosystem. Clearly, we’ve got some limits in how we are able to take part in China, and that’s high-quality. We now have discovered methods to work with companions in order that they are often profitable.

Have you ever performed with [Huawei’s] HarmonyOS?

I haven’t performed with HarmonyOS and am not in the perfect place to offer it a evaluation.

It looks as if they’ve made a whole lot of progress.

I feel they most likely have very sensible of us working on that. We now have a whole lot of respect for firms that may try this. That’s modern. There’s a whole lot of competition. It’s at all times felt like a reasonably vibrant ecosystem, whether or not it’s producers constructing their very own working system or taking open supply Android and constructing their very own variant, which many firms have finished. There’s a ton of competition.

You say there’s a ton of competition. There are some smaller gamers like Sailfish, however when it comes to market share, nobody can contact [Android and iOS].

I feel there are a lot different aggressive options, whether or not or not it’s Fireplace OS from Amazon or the unique Geophone that launched in India and has a whole lot of tens of millions of subscribers and didn’t run Android. You talked about Concord. In China, there are a variety of variants of open supply Android. There’s so much going on, and I feel for our half, it’s one thing we at all times have to verify we’re delivering from a platform standpoint is helpful and good. Android is open supply. If somebody desires to construct their very own model of it, they’re free to try this. So if somebody desires to go and construct their very own variations of it, they’re free to try this. So we’ve got to have compelling causes technically, and when it comes to client expertise, why it is best to use the Android platform.

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