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Google throws $22m at bringing its services to feature phones with KaiOS

GOOGLE HAS thrown more money at investing in the ‘have-nots’ of the mobile world with a $22m partnership with the makers of KaiOS.

The operating system is designed for feature phones, rather than smartphones, making it ideal for low-cost handsets in developing markets.

This is a completely new OS with no relationship either with Chrome OS, Android OS or indeed Fuchsia OS (whatever it turns out to be).

But what the heck is KaiOS? The answer may surprise you. Well, not much. We’re rubbish at clickbait.

KaiOS is the operating system that powers the new Nokia’s feature phones, including the revived 3310 and 8110. It’s a fork of FirefoxOS for mobiles, which was abandoned by the Mozilla Foundation.

By investing in KaiOS, Google should be able to bring a lot more in the way of services like Google Maps to low power phones.

For those who want something a bit smarter, the next level up is Android Go, but certainly, at this stage, there’s no clear upgrade path – you’d be starting again.

The cynic will clearly see this investment as a way of getting ‘the next billion’ using Google’s services – it’s a software decision, not an investment in KaiOS at all, in fact, we can see KaiOS being unceremoniously dumped in favour of a fully developed Android Go somewhere down the line. But with people buying feature phones right now, it was important to get going.

Fundamentally, the hardware is starting to become a valuable battleground in the never-ending battle for software users. Control the software, control the buying power.

Microsoft’s S-Mode, for example, is aimed at getting children familiar with Windows (and specifically the tiled interface at an early age.

This deal is pretty similar, if first-time phone users in new markets are using Google early, they’ll probably stay on.

The Nokia name still holds massive power in developing markets, and by investing in KaiOS, Google has additional power in how that reputation is used. 

And let’s face it, it would be bordering on mental cruelty if the opposition were to stand by and thus we ended up with millions of North Africans who’d gotten into the habit of using Bing all the time. μ

Source : Inquirer

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