The Tao Of Free

The tao of free is pretty simply.  Free is good.  We like free.  Free airline tickets on Ryanair (we pay tax, of course, the government / airport aren’t as enlightened as Michael O’Leary).  Free printers with exorbitantly priced cartridges.  Free razors, expensive blades.  And so on.  Chris Anderson at Wired wrote an article about it, and then he wrote a book about it.  Now the best things in life are free (cringe warning), but free in this context doesn’t mean free-free, so to speak.  There’s a catch – the expensive razor, taxes & charges, terms and conditions apply.  Not free like a mother’s love and all that.

Google‘s been exploring the limits of free for some time, and telco 2.0 have been examining the two sided business model for some time also.  So no news there then.  The Android platform is an interesting part of Google’s strategy, however.  It, of course, is also free.  But Google has been surrendering control of the customer relationship not merely to the service provider, but also to the consumer electronics manufacturers like HTC and Motorola who use Android in their devices.  Those guys in turn don’t trust Google.  It’s less annoying than Symbian, cheaper than Microsoft, and the brand attachment (these are all Google phones, after all) is positive.  But they don’t trust Google, an extraordinary behemoth that seems to be not doing all that much in return for massive market mindshare that is undeniably monetizable through their platform.  What’s more, is that the consumer electronics guys know that they are increasingly becoming overdependent on Google.

Which makes Motorola’s foray into building its own O/S seem very interesting.  Now, we thought at first in reading this headline – my god, #foreheadslap, how much more daft can these guys get?  But then, something crept from behind the clamour of critics and suggested that this might be a good idea.  Motorola, after all, is a handset manufacturer, like Apple and Nokia and RIM.  Apple and RIM and Nokia all have their own O/S which allows them a certain amount of control (although in the case of Nokia, perhaps its more a case of  “give ‘em enough rope,” and now they have the Microsoft thing as well…I just don’t know) but most of those guys are anxious to play in the high value space.  Even Nokia’s share in non-Smart phones is plummeting.  Motorola is holding its own.  So Moto could give its phones away free, and build a new business based on that.  Possible?  Certainly.  Growth Markets vs Mature Markets would need to be worked out; carrier relationships would need to be figured out.  But it’s a model that they could sustain.

Food for thought…

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