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So that's what Android is doing for Google

Billy MacInnes pores over recent details of the contribution that the Android OS is making to Google

Who knew that Android was such a good earner for Google? No one, officially, outside of certain people in Google but, if Oracle counsel Annette Hurst is to be believed, the search engine giant is doing very nicely thank you out of its mobile OS.

According to a story in Bloomberg, Hurst disclosed the figures in a court hearing on 14 January. The hearing is part of the long-running legal action Oracle is taking over alleged breaches of its copyright by Google in using 37 Java packages in Android. Oracle is seeking damages of more than $1bn.

In May last year, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Court in Washington ruled that Oracle was entitled to copyright protection for certain parts of Java. Google’s attempts to have an appeal against that ruling heard by the Supreme Court was dismissed in June.

In the US District Court in San Francisco on 14 January, Hurst claimed Google had made $31bn in revenue and $22bn in profits from Android (a profit margin of 71%). She did not reveal Oracle’s methodology for arriving at the figure but Google appeared to confirm the figures when it asked the court on 20 January to “redact and seal Google-confidential financial information improperly disclosed by Oracle at the January 14 hearing”.

Google claimed Oracle’s counsel had “twice revealed extremely sensitive information derived from documents and deposition testimony” that it had designated as “highly confidential” and that the counsel had “disclosed highly sensitive, confidential information regarding revenue and profits relating to Android which were derived from internal Google financial documents”.

Now, call me old-fashioned, but I can’t help but wonder if there would have been far less attention paid to Hurst’s original statement and the figures she quoted if Google hadn’t decided to try and redact them from the record.

The fact that the Bloomberg story is dated 21 January is, to me, the big giveaway here. A search on Google for Android profits doesn’t find any stories concerning the figures dated 15th or 16th January. By contrast, there a quite a few stories on the Android profit figures dated 22nd January that stem from Google’s filing on 20th January.

Google’s filing also strengthens the story by appearing to substantiate Hurst’s figures when it claims they are based on the company’s internal financial documents.

While this might make perfect sense from a legal point of view, from a news management perspective, it doesn’t appear to have achieved the objective of taking the figures out of the public domain. If anything, it’s merely served to shove them into the spotlight.

This was last published in January 2016

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