Android is wildly popular. Over the past three years, it has spread like a wildfire, dominating the shelves of national, regional and pre-paid carriers around the world. Android devices come in all shapes and sizes, in various price points and from a handful of different manufacturers. And it's a chameleon. As Amazon showed the world with the popular Kindle Fire, an Android device doesn't have to be just like the rest or use Google services to succeed.

Android, however, is not directly profitable for Google. Unlike Microsoft, who mandates how their software is used and charges manufacturers a licensing fee per use (which is believed to range from $23 to $31), Android is an open-source operating system that Google offers totally free of charge. And, as long as they abide by a few loose guidelines, can alter the software as much as they like while still offering Google services, like Gmail, Play Store, etc.

That said, while Google doesn't make money off of Android sales directly, the platform is a mobile portal to the various services Google offers. In turn, that translates to cash. And lots of it (sort of).

Once other tech companies saw the explosion created by Android and realized just how large of a cash cow it would be, the target of Google's back began to grow. Sifting through piles of patents, lawsuits from Apple and Microsoft started coming down on Google's hardware partners. And one, Oracle, sued Google directly over Android and its use of "Java-related intellectual property" in August 2010.

Since then, there has been little said of the lawsuit – that is, until this week. Monday morning, the two Silicon Valley giants took to the court room to (attempt to) settle their score. Earlier today, Oracle completed its cross-examination of Google CEO Larry Page reports The Verge. "Page was quite candid about Android's importance to Google as a whole," says The Verge's Matt Macari. When Page was asked whether he thought Android was a "critical asset" to Google in 2010, his response was rather surprising:

"I believe Android was very important for Google. I wouldn't say it was critical."

Page was later asked "whether Google's board of directors was told that Android was critical to Google." He explained that he wouldn't be surprised if that was the case. But he played it down, saying Android was (and still is) simply a "delivery vehicle" for pre-existing Google services to mobile users.

Since the original report, Page has been under a bit of scrutiny from journos and Android fans around the Web. Playing Android down, saying it isn't critical to Google could negatively affect relations with their hardware partners, which has been on the fritz more than once in the past. Three of Android's largest hardware manufacturers – HTC, Samsung and Motorola – have all shown interest in leaving Android for alternative operating systems that would get them out of the line of fire (Apple's and Microsoft's endless barrage of lawsuits).

Not only that, but Page's comment puts off an air of complacency, as if Google doesn't need Android, or that there are no alternatives. Maybe they need Android, but it certainly plays an important role. Our own David Beren of DroidDog says:

"Page will likely take some heat for his comments, but he may be right, Android on its own, as an OS isn’t nearly as important as the means with which Android allows Google services into the hands of users."

There is no question that Android can and will earn Google a lot of money over the next decade. As the important of mobile Web grows over the next few years, Android could be Google's most important asset. Microsoft and Apple both have their own alternatives to Google services (iCloud, SkyDrive, Bing, Siri, etc.). Without Android, Google is hinging its entire mobile presence on support from competing platforms – ones that are already trying to cut the search giant out.

It's a bit of a cloudy situation, mainly because we don't have cold, hard numbers. Well, we do. But I'm not quick to take them for fact. Leading up to the trial, Google provided data that suggests they have only made $550 million in revenue from Android since 2008. Further analysis from Asymco suggests that Google makes more revenue per iOS device sold each year than they do Android.

An interesting perspective from LtRaziel, a commenter on The Verge, brings up a very interesting and convincing point, though. He suggests Google and Larry Page are playing down Android's importance to them to deflect the brunt of the suit. LtRaziel says:

"Take whatever Google is saying about Android’s value in the trial with a huge grain of salt. They are trying to downplay it so even if Oracle wins, they don’t have to give them a lot of money.

This is why from the beginning they said Android itself doesn’t make any money. So they don’t have to give Oracle anything for Android, because it’s free. and [sic] advertising is an entirely separated business. It’s also why they only “calculated” they can only settle with Oracle for $3 million per year.

So yeah. Don’t expect Google to brag about how valuable Android is to them in the trial."

This seems far more likely than Google throwing the startup they acquired in 2005 under the bus and sincerely meaning it isn't critical to their business. Google's primary business is search and ad revenue, but Android is their most secure means of distributing these services to mobile, a rapidly growing force in the online world.

What say you, readers? Should Google give Android more credit? Or is Page & Co. feigning the true importance of Android to elude the possible damages of the Oracle suit? How could a loss of Android affect Google in the long run, especially in the mobile world?

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52 Reactions to this post

"Does Google take Android too lightly? "

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Eduardo Ordaz
Eduardo Ordaz @David Ur sooo stupid. What people say what u r saying they are just trying to lie to themselves. U dont own every android phone or have used all of them. Ur stupid. My experience with android has been really good had my phone for 2 years and it's still smooth and it's still smooth with a single core processor. U are an idiot that's not going to make people hate their phones or the OS they like because they each have own a different phone. So u r crazy.
Lewis Hachmeister
Lewis Hachmeister Obvi.
Tony Nicastro
Tony Nicastro I don't think spending $12.5 Billion dollars to protect your investment as being lightly. Android is a delivery vehicle for Google services, that is all.
Chris Taylor
Chris Taylor My Epic 4G Touch has never lagged
Adrian Salazar
Adrian Salazar If you think about it ios will eventually be another Android clone. They all ready copied the pull down notification and if it gets widgets. Now that Steve jobs passes ios is doomed. Reason why they sue everyone and there mothers because they can't innovate so they sue....
Avi Rava
Avi Rava SGS phones are good.
David DiPilla
David DiPilla That phone would restart 2 3 times a day lol and the touch screen was terrible
David DiPilla
David DiPilla I had a htc thunderboit for a 2 weeks before I got my droid 3 and that phone was even worst lol
Jose Angel Santiago
Jose Angel Santiago My gs2 epic 4g touch is lag free :)
Adrian Salazar
Adrian Salazar Looks like its the phone that sucks and it has nothing to do with Android. This is why I stick with HTC and/or Samsung. I had lg, motorola and even a huawei and they all sucked. There are just some brands that work better. Pure Android also seems to be better and faster and say sense, touchwiz and motoblur UI.
David DiPilla
David DiPilla When I use the gps the whole phone restarts on me and it restarts on me random times a crappy system
David DiPilla
David DiPilla And the phones camera forget about it it takes 100 years to snap a picture by time it snapes the picture it comes out blurry you have to wait 10 seconds for the camera to open up or any other apps what a crappy system
Steve Smyth
Steve Smyth It is. Since they don't consider it critical to the operation of their business, it could go away or be spun off at any time. Also, while I think the openness is promising, Google tends to let their platform and carrier partners walk all over them. The LTE Galaxy Nexus (disclaimer; I'm using one to type this comment) is a great example of this. While the Android code on the phone is open, the CDMA code to allow Android to talk to the phone's wireless modem is proprietary. This is why Google will not be doing anymore CDMA phones in the future and why the Verizon version is currently jacked at ICS 4.0.3.
David DiPilla
David DiPilla Andorid is the only one hoeing around lol
David DiPilla
David DiPilla I said hoeing lol
David DiPilla
David DiPilla Im hoeing iphone 5 and the new os will have more customized stuff like wigets and stuff that would be great
David DiPilla
David DiPilla My phone has 2 processors and its slow lol
Ayoub Hage
Ayoub Hage Phone dog you guys are the biggest Apple fanboys I've ever seen no wonder Noah quit
David DiPilla
David DiPilla I am guessing its very hard to pick a andorid phone that's the best when they all have problems lol
Adrian Salazar
Adrian Salazar I think it all depends on the phone one has. If you have a low end to mid range handset as oppose to high end handset your experience will overall suck. I have a HTC EVO 3d running on mean rom on anthrax kernal clocked at 1.7 ghz and I have no lag whatsoever. I had low end to high end phones and Android sucks in lower end phones. This is probably what most people that end up going to Apple experience.
David DiPilla
David DiPilla Just saw the web site that's crazy im not talking about the service im talking about the actual phone the iphones is no where near laggy as andorid phones. My droid 3 is terrible and its slow and I heard other people say their andorid phone is slow to meaning like clicking on apps and going thrue their app pages swipeing thrue things typing and being laggy
Mason Hartley
Mason Hartley @David Dipilla Motorola blows in my opinion and let's be honest the iPhone 4s is no where near faster than android for the simple fact that its a 3g phone and almost all android phones now are 4g most maybe lag but most are shitty phones that's why its important to pick the right android phone
Zach Cline
Zach Cline Custom roms blow chunks.
Aaron Bergman
Aaron Bergman What I like best is when people who run custom roms complain about android os... that's another good one...
John Nowak
John Nowak 4techblo.com
Bruce W. Thomas Jr.
Bruce W. Thomas Jr. And this is why I switched to apple... I like to have a fixed and ready to use system... Haven't had a problem since... Once google gets back on top of their software game then I will go google... Until then hi iPhone....
Jacob Grumbles
Jacob Grumbles Moto did things to it . http://m.engadget.com/default/article.do?artUrl=http://www.engadget.com/2011/07/21/motorola-droid-3-review/&category=classic&postPage=1. Read it .
Aaron Bergman
Aaron Bergman Fragmentation, omg its the end of the world! Omg you see that screen lag for a second... its no good! Iphone sucks because its closed system... all stupid arguments
Paul Alexandru
Paul Alexandru YES!
Aaron Bergman
Aaron Bergman Lol, all these over hyped arguments make me laugh...
David DiPilla
David DiPilla Don't no but these phones drive me crazy
David DiPilla
David DiPilla Just did how is it not stock I did nothing to it lol
Chris Corliss
Chris Corliss Google did enough when they releases it as open source, anything we get after the initial release is just icing on the cake
Jacob Grumbles
Jacob Grumbles David the Droid 3 is a Motorola phone and its not stock it may look like it but its not look it up.
Eric Quach
Eric Quach nothing is lag free, fool. there is bound to be a bit of lag.
Jacob Grumbles
Jacob Grumbles Yeah Zach it is . You've stated before that you got tired of waiting for the Verizon galaxy nexus to drop so you bought the 4s . I've had the GSM galaxy nexus for 3 months and haven't experienced any lag .
David DiPilla
David DiPilla I have a droid 3 it has 2 processors and its stock and slow as balls I hate it and I know others that have android phones and they are slow and laggy to. I know the iphone does not have as much as android phones do but the iphone works awsome no problems andorid is a piece of crap system this may be the year for apple with their new iphone and new os if they can get the customized stuff like andorid andorid does not have a chance the iphone is on soild ground andorid is on rocky ground can't build on a system that's crap lol
Jose Be Julme
Jose Be Julme Yes.
Zach Cline
Zach Cline It's not lag free.
Jacob Grumbles
Jacob Grumbles I think they use to but ics is smooth beautiful and lag free.
Anonymous android needs more unification by google ... the open source-code aspect is amazing (for me), but for many smartphone users (my friends), the fragmented OS seems laggy, slow, and loses its attractive qualities with time. it should be modulated by google, and maybe even split into two forms, a seamless UI like iOS for consumers, and an open-source OS for developers.
Zach Cline
Zach Cline Ehh it's most of them. Not all. Stock android runs a hell of a lot smoother than something bogged down by Motoblur for example. I didn't think it Made a difference until I bought a galaxy nexus and that thing was the smoothest operating android device I ever had. But it did lag from time to time.
Robby Olko
Robby Olko lol and uh lol your a fucking retard probably using an out dated phone and wonder why the iphone is better than it..
Jed Shuster
Jed Shuster The real question is...does Google have great lawyers.
Liam Spurr
Liam Spurr No.
David DiPilla
David DiPilla Also andorid phones are very laggy and slow and crap lol and its all of them lol
Benjamin Padilla
Benjamin Padilla @Dennis. What? This was said two years ago. And what he said was Android is important, not critical. Which is very true.
Scot Milo
Scot Milo they should just stick with the search engine business..android is becoming even more fragmented by the day. smh
Dennis J Camberos
Dennis J Camberos Android Os Is just wash-Up money for Google .. Google Has A lot of Money,They Just Have this Android Os Money For taxes purposes
Keith Windiddy
Keith Windiddy Yes they do!
Bra Kwaku Zee
Bra Kwaku Zee yhhh they do.... n its not helping
Callum Conway
Callum Conway This seems like a pointless blog

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