Mobile // Mobile Devices
Commentary
11/15/2012
08:56 AM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
Commentary
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Why Android's Dominance Is Bad

Google's Android platform grabbed a commanding 72% share of the smartphone market during the third quarter. That needs to change.

Windows Phone 8: Star Features
Windows Phone 8: Star Features
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Google owns the smartphone space. With Android on nearly three out of every four smartphones sold during the third quarter, it has all but destroyed its competitors. The closest rival is Apple's iOS platform, which has a paltry 13.9% in comparison. The rest of the field? Fighting for Google and Apple's scraps.

Gartner estimates that Google sold 122.5 million Android devices in the July - September period, doubling the 60.5 million it sold during the same period a year ago. That's massive growth, and it shows no signs of abating. Google says it is activating 1.3 million new Android handsets each and every day.

Apple posted growth, too, boosting sales from 17.3 million iPhones a year ago to 23.6 million this year. But Apple actually lost market share, dropping from 15% to 13.9%.

[ Is Windows Phone started to gain momentum in the market? Read Microsoft Phone Sales Jump 139% In Q3. ]

Sales of BlackBerrys dropped from 12.7 million to 8.9 million, and RIM's market share collapsed from 11% to 5.3%. Bada, Samsung's proprietary smartphone platform (which most people have probably never even heard of), shipped 5 million units, giving it 3% of the smartphone market. That's more than Symbian and Windows Phone. Symbian plummeted from 16.9% a year ago to a meager 2.6% this year.

Meanwhile, Microsoft's Windows Phone platform improved from 1.7% a year ago to 2.4% this year, with sales of just 4 million units during the third quarter of this year.

Keep in mind, these are worldwide figures. In the U.S., the rankings are: Android, iOS, BlackBerry 7, and Windows Phone. But BlackBerry 7 and Windows Phone have such a small percentage of the market, they're almost not even in the game.

And that's the problem.

Google's Android platform has caught on like wildfire. Four years ago, it was a fledgling platform with one device -- a curiosity at best. Android and iOS together have destroyed the fortunes of Nokia and RIM. Nokia was the long-time top provider of smartphones, with RIM's BlackBerry behind it. Now, both companies are scrambling to survive. Android has successfully pushed the former market leaders face first into the dirt.

Competition is good, but Android and iOS together have formed a smartphone duopoly of sorts. Combined, they own about 85% of the industry. The market can't support more than three or four real platforms, but whichever platforms take those third and fourth spots need to do better than taking just 5% from Apple and Google.

Microsoft and RIM are both staging comebacks, but their potential for real success against these two juggernauts is uncertain. Windows Phone 8 is an excellent platform that deserves a spot on the pedestal with Android and iOS. We'll see just how competitive BlackBerry 10 is in a few months.

The ecosystem strategy is the best approach. Google and Apple have vast ecosystems supporting their platforms. Microsoft is in a better position than RIM in this regard, as its ecosystem is much larger and already present in many homes and businesses thanks to Windows and XBox. But is it enough? Can WP8 really take a significant (>10%) piece of Google's Android pie? Can RIM, with BB10?

I hope so.

Time to patch your security policy to address people bringing their own mobile devices to work. Also in the new Holes In BYOD issue of Dark Reading: Metasploit creator HD Moore has five practical security tips for business travelers. (Free registration required.)

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Apollos
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Apollos,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/18/2012 | 3:44:12 AM
re: Why Android's Dominance Is Bad
Completely agree. Different business models. Apple will never take the lion's share of the mobile space... but I don't think they want to be there, either. It's part of their mission statement.

There are a plethora of watches out there too. But high-end and high quality watches are closer to fine art or jewellry than a practical time piece for the masses.
Apollos
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Apollos,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/18/2012 | 3:41:07 AM
re: Why Android's Dominance Is Bad
The "right" thing is subjective. They're both different business models. I appreciate them both. They both have different clients in mind.
Apollos
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Apollos,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/18/2012 | 3:40:17 AM
re: Why Android's Dominance Is Bad
Samsung makes more money off Android as the platform allows them to sell things on their own store. It offers Samsung a chance to have close to the vertically integrated experience that iOS holds dear.

That's why Samsung integrates its phones with the ability to talk to its TVs, etc.
Apollos
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Apollos,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/18/2012 | 3:37:24 AM
re: Why Android's Dominance Is Bad
The "90s Microsoft" sold OEM versions of software for pennies to Hardware manufacturers who sell PCs with their own software loaded on there (AOL anyone?). Anyone could write a program for Windows and sell it on their own store.

The 2000s Google sells OEM versions of Android for pennies to Hardware manufacturers who sell Phones with their own software loaded on there (Kindle Fire, Samsung App Store). Anyone can write a program for Android and sell it on their own store.

You were saying? Even a 3rd party observer such as myself can see the obvious truth and I don't own an iPhone or an Android device.
Apollos
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Apollos,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/18/2012 | 3:24:21 AM
re: Why Android's Dominance Is Bad
BetaMax was superior to VHS. The best product doesn't always win. In fact, the BEST products RARELY have the highest market share because the MAJORITY aren't willing to pay for quality.

The product that almost always rises to the top is the "Good Enough" product. It's good enough for your average Joe, and cheap enough for everyone.

Android has low licensing costs, is a very similar interface to iOS (compared to Windows Phone, which is an original interface) and is offered at high discounts with a plethora of choices. The manufacturers loved it because they can take the interface and market their own stores and solutions on it, thus potentially generating revenue for themselves without the cost of supporting a wider ecosystem.

It's similar to why Windows was popular. It was good enough, ran on a whole range of computers and the manufacturers had more marketing choices and low costs. (OEM versions of Windows are practically free)
jasonscott
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jasonscott,
User Rank: Strategist
11/17/2012 | 4:41:39 PM
re: Why Android's Dominance Is Bad
Handset makers - like any manufacturer - relentlessly strive to minimize costs, since that maximizes profits. "A penny saved ..."

Getting Android for free also minimizes the investment needed to produce an OS for their phones, which further minimizes costs.

Android's "free" cost also allows the handset makers to sell their phones for less - or even give them away (often thanks to subsidies from the carriers, who are effectively paying for the phones).

Obviously, a free phone is a pretty big enticement. And most customers don't care enough about what phone they have; they do care about how much money they have to shell out, though. So millions choose a free/cheap Android phone over an expensive Apple iPhone. (Some - mostly techies - choose Android because they prefer it. That group is dedicated, but small, overall.)

But none of this is a bad thing, because obviously it helps make Android popular and gets lots of Android phones into people's hands.
jasonscott
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jasonscott,
User Rank: Strategist
11/17/2012 | 4:28:54 PM
re: Why Android's Dominance Is Bad
You're talking about completely different kinds of "free." Hardly analogous.
jasonscott
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jasonscott,
User Rank: Strategist
11/17/2012 | 4:25:12 PM
re: Why Android's Dominance Is Bad
Fragmentation is actually a bigger problem than the risk of stagnation.
jasonscott
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jasonscott,
User Rank: Strategist
11/17/2012 | 4:16:16 PM
re: Why Android's Dominance Is Bad
I agree that open source software benefits from having a diverse group of developers contributing to the project. But it's growth can almost completely be traced to it being "free," which has obvious benefits for consumers. It's. great OS, to be sure, but most consumers don't care about its abilities. Many (if not most) folks with Android phones or tablets don't even know what Android is.
jasonscott
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jasonscott,
User Rank: Strategist
11/17/2012 | 4:00:51 PM
re: Why Android's Dominance Is Bad
Despite my preference for Apple devices, I'm happy to agree that Macs aren't necessarily better than Windows PCs. Each has its pros & cons.

But Chuck is correct: more market share doesn't necessarily equate to something being "the best."

It's no secret that - just as in the desktop/laptop markets - the are numerous manufacturers of Android devices, whereas only Apple makes iOS devices (by its choice). Those multiple makers represent far more manufacturing capability than Apple has. The multiple vendors also compete not only against Apple, but against each other, which - again, just like in the PC market - has created a race to be the lowest-priced provider. A benefit of that - for Google - is that Android devices are less expensive than iOS devices, and that includes the newer, more state-of-the-art models, whereas Apple only gives away its 4-generations old iPhone 3GS and provides deep discounts on 2- and 3-generation old equipment (4S and 4, respectively). So, customers can get a "newer", more-current Android phone for less - free, even. And for the vast majority of consumers, price is the biggest decider, so they opt for the less expensive/free Android instead of the iPhone. To be sure, some folks - particularly techies - choose Android because they believe it's better, "it's more open" or just because it's not from Apple.

But most consumers simply don't care. They just want a smartphone so they can check email, post on Facebook and surf the web anywhere anytime. And Android offers that for less money.

Chuck's analogy to cars is dead-on, though: People buy more Ford Focuses than BMWs not because the Focus is a better car; they buy the focus because it's less expensive. Some don't care for the BMW's advantages. Some just can't afford them. Either way, Ford sells more Focuses than BMW sells of all of its models combined. But that doesn't make the Focus the better car.

I mentioned BMW specifically, because back in 1997, shortly after returning to Apple, Steve Jobs clearly explained that Apple doesn't define success as making the most popular devices, but by making the best devices possible. Then he compared Apple to BMW. Not everybody wants, needs or can afford a BMW, but for those who do, it's nice to have the choice. (Ftr, I don't care much for BMWs, I'd rather have a Caddy CTS-V ... Wagon. ;-)

Apple is successful enough with its strategy. It doesn't need to be the biggest in my market to be a successful business. Likewise, Android is successful. And I'd argue that we're all better off with both of them in the game ... and maybe Microsoft, too.
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