Chances are, unless you’re an Apple fan, that your mobile or ereading device will almost certainly be running Android. The mobile OS with the cutest mascot (how come Apple never got such a dinky one?) was running just under 83 percent of mobile phones worldwide in mid-2015, according to IDC, and dominates the tablet market outside the US. But it’s been something of a mystery till now how much money Google makes from an OS that it essentially gives away for free.
No longer. An exclusive report from Bloomberg, based on confidential figures briefly revealed by an attorney for Oracle Corp. during an ongoing patent dispute between the two tech giants, quotes Google’s total revenue from Android since its commercial launch in 2008 as $31 billion, and Google’s profit on same as $22 billion. Oracle attorney Annette Hurst reportedly presented the figures to the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco), to help fix the level of damages Oracle is seeking in its claim that Google violated Java patents by basing Android predominantly on Java. Google immediately protested that the financial data was based on confidential, and competitively sensitive, internal documents, and the court removed it from the record.
Google doesn’t sell Android to mobile device makers and the slew of Chinese and other OEMs who use it inside TV sticks, ereaders, and other devices including desktops. However, it does monetize the OS primarily through revenue from the Google Play Store and ads that show up on Android devices, as well as other associated services and revenue streams. Remember that Android was first announced in 2007 as the key platform for the Open Handset Alliance, if you need to be reminded why Google, unlike Apple or Microsoft, doesn’t actually sell its flagship OS. Yet there has been plenty of speculation as to whether Android is actually a loss leader for Google, and if so, how long and how well the King of Search will continue to support its development. Such claims were fueled by the last round of Oracle vs. Google patent feuding back in 2012, when a judge cited information that Android had lost Google money in every quarter of 2010.
If so, and if Oracle’s spin on Google’s numbers is to be trusted, things have clearly changed. According to Google’s third-quarter 2015 results, Google netted $18.7 billion for that quarter alone – up 13 percent on the same quarter in 2014 – with “other revenue,” meaning income from sources outside Google’s main search and ads business, contributing $1.89 billion, up 11 percent. Android therefore hasn’t contributed a huge share of Google’s overall take since inception, but again, if the Oracle-derived figures can be trusted, it is an extremely profitable slice of the revenue pie. Google execs would be fully justified in throwing money and resources at such a profitable segment. So you can look forward to full-dress support for your preferred Android ereading platform for the foreseeable future.