If there’s one thing we know about Google, it’s that they hold all the aces. Our domestic lives are almost always in their hands, whether it be looking for the best Italian restaurant in the area, putting it in your calendar, or finding directions on how to get there from your current location, the likelihood is Google will be central to all of that.
And one of the men behind that, Larry Page, has been driving the brand since day one. Alongside Sergey Brin, he created a monster in Google – albeit an incredibly useful one which has gone on to dominate every market from search engines, to mobile software, to even sat navs. At one point in 2013, almost 54% of global smartphone owners used the Google Maps app.
They’ve seen off plenty of competition over the years, always being the chip leaders with an aggressive style that left the likes of Ask and Dogpile way behind the high rollers. But when it comes to the mobile world, things are a little bit different, and in fact they’re more one to join forces – and have formed an interesting partnership where east meets west.
For the last few years, Larry Page’s brand has been right at the top of the tree with over one billion active Android users. However, with plenty of noise coming from down the road at Apple HQ, they teamed up with Beijing based Xiaomi to conquer all four corners of the globe.
Xiaomi has fast become the world’s third largest smartphone distributor without even leaving Asia, and is causing some concern to the Californian giant.
Although, the relationship between the two hasn’t been without controversy, particularly surrounding Hugo Barra’s move from Google Android to a Vice President role at the Chinese brand. Rumours were eventually quashed that Barra left Google due to Brin being in a relationship with Barra’s ex-girlfriend, although both brands perhaps clearly see they rely on each other.
Of course, from Google’s perspective, it’s their way into China where it’s currently only the third most popular search engine, whilst Xiaomi of course relies on Google to produce their MIUI software.
However, things could be getting a little more complex, almost like they’ve reached the final hand at the poker table, but neither have yet to call the bluff of the next. Recent rumours are suggesting that Xiaomi could be showing their hand to Mark Zuckerberg with a potential investment from Facebook, a brand that are huge rivals with Google.
One issue is the fact that Facebook is banned in China, which in itself could cause a huge political fallout by selling a stake to a brand which isn’t permitted in the country, whilst over the years we have seen both U.S. brands go up against each other countless times.
In 2013 that was with search, with plans for Zuckerberg and co. to offer its own search engine, however it’s yet to cause any real concern so far. However, that’s not forgetting the big rivalry between Google+ and Facebook.
The brand has distanced themselves from the move, with Lei Jun, CEO of Xiaomi citing their relationship with Google as also part of the reason, but could that just be him giving Google the eyes in a bid to snatch the prize pot?
Xiaomi are on the crest of a wave right now, even getting ahead of Apple and Google with the release of home products, which even includes an air purifier. The brand’s move to launch a series of smart devices for the home could be incredibly big for the $12 billion company.
Lei Jun said at the launch, “We are going to connect all of the smart devices with the phone as the centre.
“We want to be the biggest phone company in the world.”
And with innovative moves like this, it could happen. Apple does have their eyes on a similar feature called HomeKit, which is expected to launch fairly soon, but it’s expected to be a much more complex system than the Xiaomi products, and Google doesn’t have any physical products at all.
Could this mean that Google could rely on Xiaomi more at some point?
It’d of course be one almighty turn in fortunes if it did. To continue the poker analogy, it would be like a player sitting at the final table with one chip, and the player opposite with $87.3 billion, but the single-chip player would eventually be the winner. That’s as unlikely as it gets, but they will sure become a more integral part of the Google mobile bow.
At the moment, there’s no doubt Samsung are Google’s allies at the table. They hold all the aces between them as the top software in Android and the top manufacturer in Samsung, who shipped 78.3 million devices in the final quarter of last year alone.
That relationship has just been extended for another ten years, perhaps keeping Samsung as the premier manufacturer for the next decade. But with Xiaomi rising and expected to land in Europe at some point this year, Google’s bankroll could be the biggest on the metaphorical poker table by a considerable amount.
It seems that their relationship is as strong as it has been, so it would be a huge surprise if a deal with Facebook came to light – in fact it would be the joker of the deck if it happened. If Xiaomi continues to skyrocket at the level they are going, they’ll be challenging the top two for the number one spot in manufacturer sales, and Google could edge to that number one spot when it comes to search engine usage in China.
2015 is going to be a big year for Larry Page and Lei Jun; they’ve known when to hold and when to fold so far, but this year? Well, this year could be the year of the raise.