I’ve mentioned this before and pointed out that while Apple is a very innovative company and does user interfaces really well, the closed nature of their business model is damaging to their success. Henry Blodget over at the Business Insider does a great job of taking apart the most recent market share numbers for Apple vs. Android:
Google’s Android OS has gained an astonishing 7 points of market share in the US smartphone market in the past three months, Comscore says. RIM’s market share over the same period collapsed, dropping almost 5 points. Apple’s iPhone share increased slightly, but is dead in the water and has now fallen way behind Android (in smartphones). Android now has a third of the US market (33%). RIM’s share has plummeted to 29%. Apple is holding at 25%.
The Android gains matter because technology platform markets tend to standardize around a single dominant platform (see Windows in PCs, Facebook in social, Google in search). And the more dominant the platform becomes, the more valuable it becomes and the harder it becomes to dislodge. The network effect kicks in, and developers building products designed to work with the platform devote more and more of their energy to the platform. The reward for building and working with other platforms, meanwhile, drops, and gradually developers stop developing for them.
Especially when it’s easier to build and deploy smartphone / mobile apps for Android than Apple (less restrictive market, more open set of tools, etc.)
Importantly, it’s not a question of which platform is “better.” (This is irrelevant.) It’s a question of which platform everyone else uses. And increasingly, in the smartphone market, barring a radical change in trend, that’s Android.
So that’s why Android’s gains matter. And, yes, Apple fans should be scared to death about them.
Apple is fighting a very similar war to the one it fought–and lost–in the 1990s. It is trying to build the best integrated products, hardware and software, and maintain complete control over the ecosystem around them. This end-to-end control makes it easier for Apple to build products that are “better,” but it makes it much harder for the company to compete against a software platform that is standard across many hardware manufacturers (Windows in the 1990s, Android now).
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