It's Not Just Apple vs Android

 » 15 Mar 2013

I read Gruber’s latest piece nodding. While many may find him to be an Apple cheerleader (I don’t) his approach to the industry is much more insightful than the broad-brush approach of most of ‘mainstream’ tech journalism.

The whole narrative around tech companies is typically forced into a cookie-cutter narrative. Company X smashes Company Y. Samsung good, Apple bad. Google open, Apple closed. Not true.

The truth is more nuanced than that. At its most basic level we should appreciate it’s not the zero-sum game that the media pretend it is.

It’s not a straight battle. There will be no ‘winner’. Companies are engaging on multiple vectors. There are participants in the market that don’t get the press because their logos are buried deep inside the phone in your pocket.

There is an ongoing series of improvements all these groups of people work on improving their version of the ‘tiny connected computer in your pocket’. Mostly better stuff for us, yay!

  • Apple make incredibly high-end (but single-option) hardware and supplement with great global content and simple, friendly software.
  • Samsung make a variety of great hardware which often fill customer needs an iPhone does not serve, are friendlier to carriers and offer huge marketing muscle. Various other Android-based companies attempt to do similar - but mostly lose money.
  • Google underpins the loose Android crowd, to protect itself from a market homogeny, then also competes in this market by owning Motorola and as Nexus: lovely but relatively small scale.
  • Nokia (with Microsoft) make beautiful hardware and Windows Phone is lush, but for some reason is not getting the market love its quality deserves.
  • Amazon circle menacingly flexing their razor-thin margins.

But success looks different for all of them. And multiple companies can succeed.

In fact it’s happening now: Samsung and Apple are both making huge amounts of cash, Google have the diverse smartphone market that protects their main web-based business (again tons of money) and they’re quality competitive on physical phones too.

Android is merely an enabler for a whole chunk of the market, which is currently dominated by Samsung if you measure profit.

Google have done with Android what Linux promised on the desktop: make a vast, fragmented, mostly-interoperable ecosystem of computers. That’s a good win for them.

And this had to have been their plan, if Apple ‘won’ in the way Microsoft ‘won’ with Windows in the mid-90s to mid-00s Google would have had a problem, the same problem Apple always tries to avoid, someone else directing their destiny.

The Nexus brand however is about Google fully controlling the handset experience. In that same way as Samsung do with their Galaxy and Nexus branding.

Let’s not pretend it’s ‘Android’ versus iOS in a slugging match. Or that one company has to reign imperious. It’s so much more interesting than that.

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