GCam mod on OnePlus 7 proves why Google should be licensing this technology but it’s not going to happen

Why should Google offer its golden goose to the world?

  • The most obvious reason for this to happen is to make more money. Make no mistake, the GCam app is a premium experience, some would say a pro level camera experience considering it also provides access to computational RAW. A premium camera app like Filmic Pro which is used by filmmakers costs $14.99 plus an additional $9.99. Imagine even if a million people use this app at the same price. That’s almost $15 million in revenue.
  • But we know, Google’s scale works in billions of users not millions. If it starts licensing this tech to its Android licensees, then we could be looking at revenue that’s potentially in-excess of a billion dollars. There are more than 2 billion Android smartphones in the mix and even if this is offered to OEMs as a premium experience, Google could be looking at around 100 million devices using this technology which would certainly amount to more than a billion dollars in revenue even if Google subsidized the cost of GCam in the Android license for even less than $5 per device.
  • This also makes for a great business which could even offset the Pixel line of smartphones as they’ve not caught on the way the camera tech has been lauded. Google will not need to deal with developing hardware something it doesn’t specialize in and focus on software.
  • As Google’s Pixel line of devices hasn’t hit prime time, this could provide for another way to evolve the GCam technology as it gets dogfooded amongst more users than the Pixel line could ever hit in the next two-three years.
  • Google could also start work on evolving and adapting this technology for DSLR cameras which I suspect it already has. This could provide a transformational pathway for big cameras something the big camera players have been slow to evolve.
  • Google could find ways of working in collaboration with the camera sensor and lens makers like the way it had for the Pixel 3 to develop the Super Zoom capability. This, in essence, could turn it into an underlying technology provider for all kinds of cameras. Remember, Google also owns Nest which makes home security cameras, so it could have multiple touch points.
  • Google camera could also stop Instagram’s encroachment in smartphones. Already, on the Galaxy S10, Instagram is embedded in the main camera app. Instagram could be working on computational photography which could be Facebook’s gambit to take over imaging on Android. Google has already ceded ground to Facebook on social and instant messaging, it can’t afford it with photography because that’s going to trickle down and impact Google Photos and Drive to a certain degree.

But this utopian future is very unlikely to happen…

  • Perhaps the biggest reason Google wouldn’t do this is because of all the antitrust scrutiny it’s facing all across the world. Last year, the EU fined Google for its monopoly over the Android operating system which forces OEMs to license Google’s cloud services which are globally ubiquitous. GCam added to that suite or offered separately would likely expose it further.
  • In the US, a new antitrust investigation has been opened while even the Indian regulatory body is looking at opening an anti-competitive case against Google. That’s the very reason for the existence of Pixel smartphones, in case, Google is not allowed to license Android the way it is, it could still use the Pixel brand of smartphones to retain its dominance in search, digital advertising, YouTube and even a feature like the Google camera, as these phones are havens for them.
  • Google camera is the biggest selling feature of the Pixel line of smartphones. The moment it is democratized, it will squash Google’s effort towards building a unique differentiated smartphone unit.
  • Launching the app on the Google Play store will not be a viable business decision in Google’s eyes as it wouldn’t probably make enough money for it. Paid app users are already less on Android and getting the system level access on iOS to make the iPhone camera better would be highly unlikely.
  • As the world moves towards a more private internet, an ad-supported model will also not work especially on Apple’s iOS store, and even on the Google Play store as the app deals with imaging would raise eyebrows, so Google would do well to trend this safely.
  • Giving away the GCam would commoditise Android smartphones to lower price points which will further accelerate the slow down in the smartphone space. Google wouldn’t want that.

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warpcore

warpcore

Serving communities on the intersection of technology, indie music and culture, the warp core is a think tank founded by technology journalist Sahil Mohan Gupta