updated 03:45 pm EDT, Wed July 28, 2010
Schmidt says Android could have subscription news
Google chief Eric Schmidt floated the possibility today of a subscription news service for Android. When asked whether Android could be a significant money generator, the executive was confident the OS could make $10 billion a year by adding paid access to online newspapers. As 160,000 phones are sold each day, it would only take a small subscription to immediately generate a a large amount of revenue.
It's unknown how much the WSJ talk reflected serious plans, but the search leader has increasingly conflicted with traditionalist publishers like News Corp. head Rupert Murdoch. He and others have accused Google of 'stealing' news simply by indexing partial stories from subscription websites that reduce the incentive to pay. Murdoch has repeatedly warned he may hide articles from Google search results or has asked Google to obscure the results. Newspapers like the WSJ and now the Times rely chiefly on paywalls to generate income by charging for access.
Any such move would be a further tightening of competition between Google and Apple. Apple launched its own reading effort with iBooks in April but doesn't have an automatic periodical service like that mentioned by Schmidt. Android already has e-reader apps like Amazon's Kindle app and Barnes & Noble's Nook for Android, but these again aren't designed for newspapers.
Unlike Apple's deep link between its OS and its hardware sales, Google makes no money on most Android licenses as the platform is normally free to license and use.