Saturday, December 18, 2010

Why Android Will Win?

Till about a couple of years back no one bothered about a mobile operating system. Mobiles were about talking and messaging. Then came camera, music players, gaming on phone. It was all going fine till the world slowly but surely started using phones not only for voice but also for data (Or should I say more data, messaging is also a form of data). And phones remained no more just phones, but transformed into smart phones. It may, in fact, be wrong to call them phones. They have become the device for communication, work and entertainment. But for now, let's call them smart phones.

Apple tasted blood through iPhone while still making great looking laptops/computers. Nokia was serving the masses. Blackberry was delivering emails to corporate executives. Microsoft was eager to repeat its desktop success through Windows Mobile. There were also iPAQs and Palm, guess they still do exist.  

Interestingly, the last two have been there for ages, but it's  Apple iPhone that brought freshness and zest. Google, while failing with Wave , created the buzz with Android. Of course, since then Blackberry wants boys. Nokia is desperately trying to lure people to Ovi. And, of course, Windows Mobile is fumbling. But the daggers are out! But, at this point, it looks like it's a straight fight between Apple and Google.

It was probably not an accident that Steve Jobs attended the Q3 FY 10 earnings call, as this report says. There are clear signs of war and while the market for such smart phones is still quite small, the players certainly are ascertaining themselves.

So, who could be the winner in the long run?

If I have to make a prediction, I would say Google is in the best position to be the winner or say garner larger market share.

And here is why I think so.

  1. History repeats itself: Have you watched Pirates of the Silicon Valley? For those who have tracked the history of computers know the pioneering efforts of IBM in standardizing the architecture of PC. The standardization and ripping a PC led to the creation of opportunity for different players who together grew the market. As Mr. Geoff Moore would agree, Google isn't trying to dominate the entire value chain. It prefers to become the Microsoft of mobile industry by giving a platform and letting device players and app makers to contribute their bit.
  2. It's all about App: Having conquered the PC market by ensuring that it was installed in all IBM and IBM clones, Microsoft ensured that it held the dominance over the applications built. And, of course, applications are the reasons we purchase computers, don't we! It's no different in the smartphone market. Every player has an application store. Apple as usual seems to have very high standards for app developers. That can go against it. Human beings have been rather lenient on not-perfect applications, it's the variety of choices that matters.
  3. Open or Closed, does it matter: I am quite skeptical like Apple about Open in the mobile world as much as Microsoft is or was in the PC world. Linux still hasn't broken Windows' back. Google's claim for Android being open actually doesn't make sense. As long as users get the apps they want, it shouldn't matter. But then openness could also mean faster go-to-market and choice.  
One of the biggest challenge that companies face when the market reaches the tornado phase is to ensure delivery. To me, Android seems in the best position today. It is developing a larger ecosystem than anyone else.

But then I am assuming a lot of things:

  • I am assuming that smart phone market will go through the same cycle as PCs. It may be entirely different. PC was lot about technology for a long time before it became mainstream and brand oriented. Mobile market is moving the other way around. 
  • The life of a mobile phone is rather short. In my own experience, 3 years is a good time for a phone. Except for contacts, I don't remember taking anything else to a new phone. Hence, stickiness factor maybe far less for mobile phones. 
  • Like I said in my earlier post on Apple, the company has never wanted to be the largest player in any market. It has always been at the forefront of bringing technology that empower users. It has also preferred to stay a chimp rather than a gorilla. Also, nothing to stop Apple from doing a Shuffle with iPhone.
  • I have completely discounted the role played by Telecom Services Provider as distributors. Not sure why this mode of distribution still hasn't caught up in India. If things were to go in that direction, a lot might change. 
It certainly would be interesting to see if there would be a real convergence of the mobile instrument with PC based equipments. The iPads/Tabs seem to be a natural, but not sure if that will be so. But if it is, then a larger market share would mean dominance. But again, if we are also moving to cloud,  the platform may not be important.

We certainly have interesting times in the air!

But I am curious, why don't have any excitement in the mobile chips space?
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