Google’s real problem is that it hasn’t found sufficient ways to diversify its revenue stream beyond its still stunningly profitable search ads. Now, those just aren’t growing the way they have been, and Google is struggling to find another gold vein to mine.
It no longer made financial sense for Google to fight the carriers with its own open phone hardware, even though that meant abandoning its open wireless principles. In retrospect, they may have never actually been principles — just an aborted marketing strategy that proved unnecessary.
Ryan Singel's Wired.com piece on the Google / Verizon proposal is worth reading; he does a great job of laying out the timeline of what's happened with Android, the Open Handset Alliance, the Nexus One and all of the other devices that have since come to market.
But. The cynic in me can't get over the idealism in Singel's piece -- and a lot of the other commentary that's been making the rounds in the past 24 hours. Of course it made sense for Google to toot the Open Trumpet when they were fighting the iPhone battle...and now that they're seeing success with Android and have found a way to milk the carriers for a new revenue stream, of course they're changing strategies.
The devil here isn't Google, frankly. You may disagree with their business strategy, but it's their strategy to take, in order to maximize returns for their shareholders. If you're looking for a devil -- or, preferably, an angel -- it's time to look to the FCC. It's their job, after all, to make sure that the mobile marketplace actually is more competitive and does change rapidly.