John Siracusa looks closely at the the dependencies between Google, Samsung, and Apple. This post includes everything I love about John's writing (including an obscure link to a Gone with the Wind clip).
At one point, John explains Google's overall success with Android:
"Google’s present position looks weak, but it has two big trump cards. First, Google has proven to be one of the few companies capable of creating, popularizing, and supporting a platform. Despite all the skinning and branding by handset makers, Google is still the driving force behind Android. This power can only be negated by another company that’s willing and able to match Google’s Android efforts on all fronts: OS development, app store, developer tools, evangelism, the works. That’s a tall order."
I still don't get how Android really helps Google. I'm sure there is some revenue and they want a foothold as a "player" in the mobile future, but I have to wonder how much they spend on Android vs. how much they make on the back end? While giving away search was a smart, I don't think that business model works for a lot of Google's other services, as we've recently seen with Reader. I especially don't think this works for building an operating system. It seems to me Google is eventually going to have to either start charging license fees to manufacturers or stop giving Android away entirely and distribute it on their own Motorola designed hardware.
John's second point about Google, their dominance in online services, is an excellent one. Apple is clearly behind in online services. They simply can't deliver the bandwidth that Google does. Don't believe me? Compare the speed of Siri vs. Google's voice search on your iPhone. I think one of Apple's greatest vulnerabilities is its inability to deliver online services at the same level as Google. Apple is getting better at this but they need to start closing the gap a lot faster.