This may seem a strange thing to say with Google announcing the Nexus 7 tablet, Google Q and showing a flashy demo of Google Glass last week at Google I/O but stay with me.
By point of contrast, look at Apple. Apple is a hardware company. Everything Apple does it about the hardware. Even Apple’s software is primarily to make their hardware more attractive. Most of the software Apple sells is either included with a new computer purchase or is very inexpensive. Clearly Apple is not interested in making money off software. Save for iTunes, you also won’t find any Apple software on any other hardware platform. The only reason iTunes went Windows was to sell more hardware, the iPod and iPhone.
Google is all about Internet services, primarily search. There is all kinds of data that feeds the search database and Google has created additional software and services with the goal of using them to feed in more data. Did you forget Gmail analyzes your emails and feeds up relevant ads? It’s all grist for the mill as they say.
Google doesn’t even really do hardware at all. They created a spec and an os for a mobile phone and let other people create the hardware. They don’t even license the software, it’s free. The only reason Google started doing the Nexus phones was because the Android phones that were currently out at the time were not good enough to compete with the iPhone. Google needed the developers to step up their game so they showed them how it should be done and, in fact, Android phones got a lot better after that. Google continues to create Nexus phones to keep developers on their toes.
The other thing the Nexus line of hardware allows Google to do is have more control over the hardware. With more control, they can potentially do more things with their services. Google on iOS is fine, but it makes Google reliant on Apple and what they choose to do with their hardware and what kind of access they give developers in an API. With Android, Google has full rein of the field.
But all of this is a means to an end, namely Google services. Search services, location services, ect. All these services, in one way or another, hook into the real source of Google power, the advertising network. Here is one more piece of evidence Google is not a hardware company. They keep releasing software on iOS. Their own Chrome browser now runs on iPhone as well as just about every other piece of mobile software they have. Gmail, Google+, Maps, Google Local, Google Drive, ect. Why do they have so much software on iOS? Simple, it’s a big market to expose to Google services.