I guess it’s time I offer up my comments on these two behemoths battling it out. Right now Apple is king. It’s market share continues to rise, the number of apps available continues to grow at what at times seems an exponential pace, it is no longer confined to just ATT’s network. It’s a fast paced enjoyable story. On the other side you have Google’s “open source” OS Android. The one the press is hailing will be king. It has developer panache. It’s market share continues to grow at a very impressive rate. If you look at one of the latest surveys, Android in Q2 of 2011 amassed a startling 43.4 % market share in the smart phone markets . On top of all this Google just decided to acquire Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion. Who will win? Will there be a winner? Does there need to be a winner? Will others challenge the two dominant players? Each phone has advantages and disadvantages.
Nothing revolutionized mobility like the iPhone. It was a titanic shift in how we use and interact with technology on a day-to-day basis. Within a short time frame it seemed everyone in the streets, in the mall, at sports events were doing something more than talking and texting on their phone. They even got ATT to join in the fun , all 300,000 employees. Then they did the double “whammy”. They got people excited about the web on mobile devices and applications. Before you knew it the mass audience of the whisper campaign was the mass audience of consumers. Thanks to the iPhone and also Google, the idea of a Garmin GPS was pretty much thrown out the door. Apple did not change phones, they changed mobility. Phones were merely a by-product of their success. The latest estimates for the iPhone 5 is total shipments of iPhones will hit 95 million by the end of 2011. This would be cause for concern for some of the also ran’s, like RIM, Nokia and Microsoft. At some point in time the gap between competition becomes so great that the bottom feeders will never catch up. The success of Apple launched Apple into some new territory, namely with the success of applications on the iPhone, Apple was suddenly more attractive to developers on a large-scale. As I have stated before it goes to show all this talk of open versus closed environment’s is a load of crap. Developers go where the market goes. Like so many things it’s all about market opportunity and money.
It was not long after the release of the iPhone that rumblings in the valley started murmuring about a phone from Google. It was a smart campaign as it was decided early on that Android would be released on the web as an open source project. If you are going to create an effective “whisper” campaign one thing that is a must is mass. Google did something a bit different is that they really got developers on board in their campaign, initially not as consumer driven as Apple. But what it did was through developers get the consumer base listening. Since it was open source anyone who wanted to build a phone could participate. Pretty soon you had Samsung, HTC, LG, Motorola etc all lined up to deliver their first Android phone. Being open source it provided the hand set manufacturers a better ability to tweak and tune the mobile OS to the handset’s. This enable Google to scale the available marketing budgets as the handset manufacturers had a stake in the game and were clamoring for something to compete against Apple.
New to this is the Google decision to acquire Motorola Mobility, which to me is simply about two thins: Patent protection and owning the user experience, head to toe. Patents are the legal area, nit my core, but I do understand in technology you want to have a fairly large patent library to protect yourself from lawsuits. From that standpoint I get why Google is doing this. From the other side I understand the attraction of owning the hardware soup to nuts, but I don’t understand why Google is doing this. The side I don’t understand is to date Google has pursued more of a Microsoft Partner model in getting companies to use their Android OS, with this acquisition they are now saying they will compete against them. This does open an opportunity to the other provider of mobile OS software, Microsoft. My one piece of advice to my old friends is give the software away, there never was nor will there be a huge market for operating systems in the mobile space. The real money will be in mobile advertising. Maybe a light bulb will go off over in Microsoft mobility, it would go something like, “Bing”. Maybe.
There has been talk among the smaller players about a third eco system. It has not been very well vocalized, but rather just drowned out as a bunch of noise from “wannabe’s”. A third way is nice but you have to create excitement. The mobile space at its core is about lifestyles, about making people feel good about themselves. It’s about handling an important call or email and then getting back to your beautiful view of the Grand Teton’s. It is there to make us happy. When potential competitors dumb it down to features, killers applications, etc..they are missing the point. make no mistake it’s a very big hill they have to climb, and as I pointed out with the Google – Motorola acquisition it may take one of the big two to make a mistake. Apple, for certain has made those mistakes before and as long as they continue to pay attention to history I do not see that happening in the imminent future. Google at this point depends on how head to head they want to go with Apple. If the Motorola acquisition is about patents, they should be fine. As far as I am concerned the third eco system is more a “niche” play then about gaining significant market share. Some circles discuss Microsoft buying RIM or Nokia. If that is what it takes to get market share I think it will end up being a colossal waste of money. Don’t buy market share, innovate.
In the foreseeable future we are going to see the battle taking place on two fronts – the iOS versus Android. It’s not a battle of phones, it’s a battle for the soul of mobility. The next innovations will remove us further from our dependency on hardware while making our devices seem more productive, like our old desktops, without the handcuff’s. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy sitting down and typing these blog entries, and I do not do it on my tablet..yet. It will change and it will change soon. Just don’t thin of it as a physical keyboard. To break the dominance of Apple and Android it will require yet another big breakthrough, like the one’s the iPhone introduced. These type of titanic shifts do not happen that often – it could be in an area not related to software. such as alternative energies and longer battery life (I think we are all hoping for that one), or new virtual experiences. In the meantime we can enjoy the battle as it is leading to new innovative technology and form factors that will enhance our life experiences. At the end of the day we are human and we are designed to live. Today that living is being done in two worlds, which is about all I can handle.
Good Night and Good Luck
Hans Henrik Hoffmann August 16, 2011