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Google must defend its ecosystem as Baidu and Amazon build on Android OS

by Kristen Nicole

Google’s Android OS has seen its ups and downs, but becoming a global leader has left a very fragmented market in its wake. The cracks in Android’s foundation lend a few opportunities for manufacturers to diversify on their end. Samsung, for example, is looking to promote its own mobile OS, Bada, for millions of devices. And HTC, which has also shown interest in creating its own mobile OS, is now looking to leading the charge in Windows Phone 7, similar to its early positioning with Android’s OS. But as mobile operating systems broaden the industry at large, Android is still oriented at the center of it all.

Baidu, Amazon brand their own versions of Android

Two major mobile initiatives will have Android OS at their core: Baidu Yi, and the Amazon Kindle tablet. Based in China, Baidu wants in on the mobile industry's explosion, leveraging China’s massive population as a promising market. Baidu will come out with its own mobile OS built on Android. Amazon’s highly anticipated and rumor-laden tablet, which could see more branded success by downplaying its Android core, is expected to run on its own version of Android as well.

From a product standpoint, each manufacturer is pulling inspiration from Apple, streamlining the end user experience with more seamless device-OS interaction. Of course, this has the potential to further fragment Android’s presence, and may even increase the competition Google faces in defending its own mobile OS. China’s market in particular gives Baidu Yi a good chance to succeed, starting with Android’s contributions, but finishing with little recognition. Perhaps that’s the price Android must pay in order to be a truly permeated platform, giving Google a few challenges in maintaining its influence in the ecosystem it has created.

A device for every mobile OS

Google’s competition is already getting heated, as Dell has teamed up with Baidu Yi to develop tablets and smartphones running Baidu services. Dell’s heavily vested in the Chinese market, often launching mobile devices there before releasing them in the States. A partnership between Dell and Baidu is quite similar to what Google’s done with several handset manufacturers around the world, including Dell and Motorola Mobility, which it later acquired. China’s also a new opportunity for Dell to push its hardware, which hasn’t fared so well compared to other handset makers. The discontinued Dell Streak 5 even gets a new lease on life, being the base model for upcoming Baidu Yi devices.