Five reasons iPhone vs Android isn't Mac vs Windows

Competitive lessons from the PC era don't always apply to mobile


Last week I presented at Stanford Graduate School of Business in a session on Mobile Computing called, “Creating Mobile Experiences: It’s the Platform, Stupid.”

As the title underscores, I am a big believer that to understand what makes mobile tick, you really need to look beyond a device’s hardware shell (important, though it is), and fully factor in the composite that includes its software and service layers; developer tools and the ecosystem “surround.” Successful platforms, after all, are more than the sum of their parts’ propositions. They are not simply a bunch of dis-integrated ingredients.

Having built hardware and software platforms since 1994, this thought process has led me to harp endlessly on why the iPhone platform (and its derivatives) is such a game changer. By contrast, I would argue that the long-term success of Android is anything but a given.

It’s human nature to look to the past in an attempt to understand the future. As such, I was unsurprised when I was asked during my presentation if Apple and iPhone vs Google and Android in mobile computing is “destined” to play out as Apple and the Mac did when confronted by Microsoft and Windows in the PC wars.

As I have provided “big picture” analysis on this topic before in other posts (here and here), I want to share what I see as the five “little picture” reasons Apple vs Google isn’t destined for the same outcome as Apple vs Microsoft:

  1. Retail Distribution: During the PC Wars, everything came down to distribution and presence on limited retail shelf space. To be successful, you had to be on the shelves of retailers like ComputerLand, CompUSA, Circuit City, Office Depot and MicroAge. Given the wide variety of hardware OEMs making Wintel-based PCs, both shelf-space for Macs and the technical know-how to sell them were severely limited, making a differentiation story like Apple’s a hard sell. Today, Apple Stores drive a superior environment for consumers to experience hardware hands-on and get educated about the full breadth of Apple products. An aside, this is a consumer touch point that Google absolutely lacks.

  2. Pricing overhang: A primary reason for Apple’s crushing defeat by Microsoft was Apple’s misguided notion that it could charge grossly higher dollars for Mac products than Windows-based PC offerings. Contrast this with the present, where Apple is consistent in their assertion and awareness that it cannot and will not leave pricing overhang (i.e. a sufficient pricing gap between its products and the competition). This avoids the past dynamic where consumers saw picking Apple products as an either/or decision, in terms of price vs premier experience. iPod, iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad all have followed this course.

  3. Developer ecosystem: It is a truism that in platform plays he who wins the hearts and minds of developers, wins the war. In the PC era, Apple forgot this, bungling badly by launching and abandoning technology initiatives, co-opting and competing with their developers and routinely missed promised milestones. By contrast, Microsoft provided clear delineation points for developers, integrated core technologies across all products, and made sure developer tools readily supported these core initiatives. No less, Microsoft excelled at ensuring that the ecosystem made money.

    Lesson learned, Apple is moving on to the 4.0 stage of its mobile platform, has consistently hit promised milestones, has done yeomen’s work on evangelizing key technologies within the platform (and third-party developer creations – “There’s an app for that”), and developed multiple ways for developers to monetize their products. No less, they have offered 100 percent distribution to 85 million iPhones, iPod Touches and iPads, and one-click monetization via same. Nested in every one of these devices is a giant vending machine that is bottomless and never closes. By contrast, Google has taught consumers to expect free, the Android Market is hobbled by poor discovery and clunky, inconsistent monetization workflows. Most damning, despite touted high-volume third-party applications, there are (seemingly) no breakout third-party developer successes, despite Android being around two-thirds as long as the iPhone platform.

  4. Consumer technology adoption: During the PC era, large enterprises essentially dictated the industry winners by virtue of standardizing on a given vendor or type of solution. This created a winner-takes-all dynamic, inasmuch as consumers would ultimately buy the same solutions that had been blessed by large enterprises. By virtue of its conservative nature (remember the motto, “No ever got fired for buying IBM”?), staid Microsoft always felt like a safer choice than crazy Apple. And besides, accounting could solicit bids from multiple hardware vendors, which they liked.

    By contrast, today’s breakthrough adoption begins in the consumer realm and filters back to enterprises, not the other way around. This change deeply favors a consumer products and marketing force like Apple. While Google has done a reasonable job in the consumer arena, its approach is decidedly design-lite and techie focused, not mass-market friendly.

  5. Microsoft-like resilience: I remember too well the Microsoft mantra “Embrace-Extend-Extinguish,” which basically meant that any segment worth owning Microsoft would ultimately dominate by the 3.0 version of its competing product. Part of this was a by-product of the incredible “unfair advantages” Microsoft had built for itself by virtue of channeling items 1-4 above. Part of this was its ruthlessness in squeezing the lifeblood out of competitors through any means necessary. But, give Microsoft full props for manifesting an unyielding resilience to keep working its product offering and market assault until victory was at hand.

    Considering Apple’s rise from the ashes to re-create a very profitable Mac business — the dominance it has created with iPod and iTunes; the powerhouse iPhone and iPhone platform and the ambitious, and already well-regarded iPad — does anyone wonder about Apple’s resilience? By contrast, Google remains almost completely dependent upon search and advertising, despite launching so many new product offerings and seriously pursuing M&A over the past several years. Arguably, Google’s famously loosely coupled structure leads to a lot of seeds being planted, but so too, it seems to a less than laser-like focus on seeing those seeds to cultivation and full harvest. It begs the question, “Can a tiger change its stripes?”

Obviously a lot can change in the next couple of years. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that the mobile industry that exists today looks nothing like the one that did before iPhone came on to the scene. Just ask Nokia.

Clearly, the best case for Google with Android is that mobile technology and mobile platforms become sufficiently commoditized for its device OEM-centric, horizontal model to tip the balance in its favor.

Never say never, but paint me a skeptic — barring as =yet unseen missteps by Apple.


Check Mate: Understanding Apple’s iPad

The Google Android Rollout: Windows or Waterloo?

Google Android, the Dawn of Mobile, and the Missing Leg

tags: , , , , , ,
  • Matt

    Point 3 leaves out Apple’s continual screwing over of developers by rejecting apps with poor explanation, inconsistent rules, and an overall terrible attitude toward their developers. This article is pretty heavily biased towards Apple. I’m not saying Android is necessarily even better, but you really just gloss right over Apple’s flaws here.

  • John Bledsoe

    @Matt Mark always glosses over Apple’s flaws. He’s just a cheerleader who has lost any credence to those with independent thoughts. Notice he also hasn’t commented the “pain” Apple developers are having to go through in writing new applications for the iPad because of the new form factor. Plain hypocrisy considering he lambasted the fragmentation challenge of Android.

  • Sandeep

    Excellent points all. I was about to write an article about Apple’s undoing and why this is not as Shirley Bassey would say, ‘history repeating..’

    But you stole my thunder.

    @Matt: Apple is delivering what developers want most: 1. access to a well heeled clientele 2. profits.

    That said, Apple’s priority is keeping the well heeled clientele pleased and riff-raff off their lawn party. If it means pissing of a few developers, so be it. The ecosystem is self selecting.Think of it as Face Control in Paris’s nightclub scene — riff raff, the unsightly, the pornographers and the pimps stay out.


  • marcbl

    Regarding point #1, do stores even matter anymore? “Shelf space,” what a quaint and obsolete notion, unless you’re in the grocery or clothing business.

    I had to stop reading after #1 because you really started to piss me off.

  • Ronald

    Retail Distribution: You are missing the big point here. Google phones will be everywhere with many different manufactures, carriers and outlets. While Google themselves may, “consumer touch point that Google absolutely lacks”. The have partners that will coming at all different angles.
    I do agree with many of the other points.

  • Don

    Your forgot to include Microsoft’s illegal monopoly and protection racket that forced hardware makers to only use Windows and their drug dealer technique of giving schools software at extremely low prices so that IT students only learned Microsoft products and were addicts by the time they entered the enterprise.

  • H.

    @sandeep grow up … without developers there’s no ecosystem and sure as hell it won’t auto-substain itself if there’s no playground for inovation.

    Apple is delivering what developers want most:
    1. access to a well heeled clientele
    2. profits.

    As a developer yes I want profits but not at the extents of losing my soul, and about the clientele, 5.11% I hardly call that a clientele but a niche market instead.

  • H.

    not wanting to disagree with you on microsoft, Apple’s DRM force the bottleneck out of developers and content providers (i think that’s called monopoly ) isn’t a nice technique either.

  • James Katt

    One huge difference:

    1. Apple makes a huge profit from the iPhone. It profits from hardware sales, software sales, media sales, branded 3rd party accessory sales, and other ecosystem sales.

    2. Google makes little profit on the Android. It gives it away for free. It pays fairly little attention to it since it makes little profit from it.

  • Matt

    @sandeep It’s awfully hard to profit from an app that Apple arbitrarily rejects. When you develop for iPhone, you gamble on whether or not you’ll get rejected. Android may not be as likely to get you large profits, but you’re guarenteed to get your app out there. With the iPhone, you’re subject to the whims of some random app reviewer. No thank you.

  • H.


    1 – Agreed.
    2 – Google expects the community to make the ecosystem thrive if developers don’t jump on the bandwagon ecosystem will die by itself.

  • Don Marti

    My rule on riding public transportation in cities I’m visiting is: don’t even try public transportation in a city unless somewhere there’s a web site devoted to complaining about the public transportation in that city. That’s because if the system is bad enough, the kind of people who make web sites don’t ride transit. Sites that complain about the public transit system are a signal: transit here is good enough for webmasters to ride it.

    Compare the difficult and arbitary process of getting an application into Apple’s store with the difficult and arbitrary process of getting a Microsoft Windows or Mac OS application through the conventional sales channel. You don’t see posts on programmer forums complaining about the latter because you need to grow a sales and marketing department even to try it. Transaction costs are much lower with the “Click-N-Run Warehouse”/”App Store” model.

  • miffed

    I think Android is more like Linux than Windows, so I’m not sure how useful it is to compare Google to Microsoft.

  • MattF

    I think there is another key point missing in this article. I am a DBA/SA who uses open source when possible, but has made my living by using MS products for 20 years.
    I didn’t want an IPhone;
    1) because i found ITunes on my Ipod maddening.
    2) seemingly everyone else had an Iphone.
    3) and most importantly, because it was an Apple product.
    I love my Droid and have no problem with “clunky discovery in the marketplace.”
    I think Android is SPECIFICALLY Mac vs Linux vs Windows – i just didn’t even consider any windows based phones…

  • rogre

    Hi Mark,
    Nice article,well thought out and presented.

    The whiners that are deriding you are likely people who have never done anything; not even getting an app rejected. I am always dismayed at how many of these little snivelers show up on the net. They would rather complain than compete.

  • Scott Doty

    /me agrees with @miffed — but I’d go a little further:

    Android is more like Linux, because — among other things — it runs on Linux.

    And it’s hilarious that the embedded OS boils down to Linux vs. FreeBSD — with the latter’s OS X fork being far more closed than the former.

    One reason I bought my Droid was the ability to develop my own apps without the mother-may-I of Apple’s bottleneck.

    Don’t get me wrong: I have a Mac mini upstairs, which I occasionally use for multimedia work. However, all my other desktops are Fedora Linux, and I prefer my gnome desktops to Snow Leopard for day-to-day use.

    But that a so-called “power user” would prefer to use Linux is no surprise — but what might be surprising is I’d have no problem moving Mom over to Fedora — it’s only a matter of time before I do so, probably in lieu of moving her to Windows 7.

    I have plenty more to say about this, will blog it over at my Tech Scribbles blog shortly.

  • Ben

    ha ha another pointless comparison. A better comparison would be eclipse v/s visual studio. At one point in time, visual studio was totally dominant(close to 100 percent). But then eclipse happened(IBM open sourced and made it free), today the situation is both are about equal and the important point is for consumers, there are now choices available and that is what counts. I am not sure why everybody is so interested in who will be no.1, it is not about 1, it is about being a viable platform.

  • Sigmund

    Whatever the reasons stated, and I think the ones given are valid, “iPhone – Android” is not like “Mac – Windows of 1984”. Whatever reasons stated about the pros and cons of either platform and environment, it is not 1984, there is no demand that something be “IBM compatible” fomenting relatively cheap IBM knockoff clones running the same OS, and driving the market. This mobile climate we see now is simply not the same as the PC scene 26 years ago. The market drivers are not the same.

  • Patrick

    Hmmm… I find the article spot on. Small quibbles don’t change his basic point.

    Each of the Android handset makers are free to make their own “store”. There are even third party sites to allow distribution of Android apps. Those completely miss that single trusted aggregator comfort that consumers (non-geek every day users) want. That comfort is what let’s grandma impulsively buy a game for the kid looking over their iPhone.

    Has anyone seen any statistics on app store rejections? Everything I’ve heard about directly have been -very- fringe cases. A good idea executed following the HIG gets accepted. Every time.

    Well done!

  • Tom

    The article neglects the effect that the two year cell-phone contracts have on device adoption. Most users cannot just dump their phones whenever they want to. Apple has been very smart to deliver hardware upgrades on an annual cycle. This insures that users who renew contracts are never more than one generation behind. Apple has also been good about insuring that OS upgrades run on older devices, and all previously purchased apps run on the new device.

    The Android marketplace offers a wide variety of devices, with new ones coming out every few months. While this is good for first time buyers, it means that once an Android device is purchased, it will become obsolete very quickly.

  • Ben

    And for what its worth, here is my prediction, both android and IPhone will remain viable platforms for a long time to come. As to who becomes no.1 and no.2, it is pointless but fun to speculate. Also Windows Phone 7 will not be as viable as both IPhone and Android, because of the ‘delay’ factor and because both Apple and Google are way more innovative than the bureaucratic Microsoft whose only ability is to copy the ‘best’ features from their competitors.

  • Marcus

    While I find Apple’s inconsistency with app approvals as annoying as everyone else, there seems to be a peculiar assumption that an approval process of any kind is 100% bad. Many of the comments above imply that you have a miniscule chance of ever getting an app approved no matter how good it is – and yet somehow there are 180k approved apps on the store. This just smacks of whiners FUD.
    I’m entertained that many Android people cite the number of apps available on the marketplace as an indicator of its competitiveness with iPhone. So how many apps would there be on the App store if Apple allowed any old crap in the same way? I’m sure some enterprising spammer has a botnet poised to submit millions of trojaned apps to Android marketplace, at which point it will (gasp) have more apps than iPhone, and thus obviously better in every way (if the comments are to be believed). I bet you can’t wait.

  • Bob

    Comparing the present mobile smartphone wars to PC/Mac wars is wrong. PC/Mac war was a fight between Apple and Microsoft for dominance, whereas mobile smartphone wars is a triparty fight between Google, Microsoft, Apple. Google initial android play was intented to stall MSFT and it seems to have achieved that with a quickly rising market share at the expense of Windows Mobile, now Google will train its guns on Apple. By giving away an industrial class OS for free, Google is attacking both Apple and Microsoft simultaneously.

  • Scott Doty

    Tech Scribbles post: My Embedded OS is better than your Embedded OS.

    Happy Monday! :)


  • Synthmeister

    6. Management or lack thereof. Between the Steve Eras, Apple was probably one of the worst managed companies in the world. Inventory, time-to-market, logistics and forecasting were absolutely terrible and the product lineup was mishmash of overlapping and poorly conceived devices.

    7. Dependence on third parties. Apple was almost completely at the mercy of third parties for strategic parts of their ecosystem: Microsoft, Adobe, Avid, Sears, Circuit City. But in the last 15 years, almost every other new Apple idea has reduced that dependency. iTunes, Safari, Apple retail, Internet storefront, direct to developer SDK, Final Cut, iWork, iLife, Aperture all have allowed Apple to become very independent from third parties. The beauty of Apple’s scheme is that they are enabling third parties to make more money than ever before off the Apple ecosystem. Paypal, for example, admitted that they now make $500 million off the App store, revenue which didn’t exist 4 years ago. OEMs and developers don’t walk away from that kind of money.

    Apple now has an extremely small product line-up for a $50 billion dollar company, but that laser-like focus keeps hitting the bulls-eye.

    BTW, the number of apps that Apple “arbitrarily rejects” is miniscule compared to the number of apps Apple accepts. That’s why Apple has 125K developers on board, 180K apps, and has sold 85 million iDevices.

  • Scott Doty

    Marcus wrote:

    While I find Apple’s inconsistency with app approvals as annoying as everyone else, there seems to be a peculiar assumption that an approval process of any kind is 100% bad.

    Why yes, indeed: any approval process for what I put on my own phone (or for that matter, tablet computer) is bad.

    Why would it be any other way? The phone is my property, isn’t it?

  • Synthmeister

    You can put anything on your iPhone you want, just like you can walk into Burger King and eat your Big Mac. Just don’t expect the free fries to go with that and don’t expect Apple to help you out or guarantee your future user experience.

    The iPhone was never sold as an “open” device like a PC. Sure, it has the horsepower to be “open” but that is not part of Apple’s business model. In a few years, most TVs will have enough CPU power to run all kinds of apps, but they will still not be “opened” for Joe Consumer to install apps willy-nilly. They will be locked down just like Microwaves, DVD players, Game consoles and the iPhone. If you don’t like it, don’t buy it and don’t develop for it.

  • David M

    Android is Linux but not yesterday’s Linux which required the ability to dream in hexadecimal…

    To that end, today’s spender ‘o money is not yesterday’s either (as the author points out in point 4 but then tries to bend it to his pro-Apple stance) — people buy/use what they need & want (eventually). Example: the non-profit executive I worked with that asks all volunteers to have a Gmail account (and the related Calendar, Wave, etc. app.s) and put Google Voice on their smartphones (almost all of them Blackberry users – go figure).

    Free, easy, and efficient (no one cares if it’s Microsoft, Apple, Linux, etc.). ‘Standard’ or ‘popular’ doesn’t fit the new consumers like it did yester-year. Pragmatism takes another step forward.

    On another trail… having poked around the App. Store on my son’s iPod Touch, I can’t believe anyone is so ridiculous as to say that Android’s App. Market is full of junk – they both are! And don’t even think about comparing one market’s best with the other market’s worst (cough cough Mark Sigal). My Gmail and Google Voice app.s are helpful beyond explanation for my work & life. Nothing even close to my old iPhone app.s. But that’s ME and MY world (see paragraph above).

  • Wayne

    Go Apple! Death to open platforms and google!

  • Mark Sigal

    @Matt, as others have stated, the oft-cited case of Apple capriciously rejecting developers is a red herring; it just doesn’t happen enough to be a factor for iPhone, iPod touch, iPad developers.

    Is Apple’s approach perfect? No. For one thing, they do a poor job of communicating the nuance of “this third party framework is okay, this one isn’t.”

    That is 90% of the angst because again, there are 180K apps, many big cos and small cos, and plenty of “hits” (across multiple metrics) so for developers the outcome goal (distribution, download, monetization) is being realized, this background noise notwithstanding.

  • Mark Sigal

    @John Bledsoe, you probably missed my post on Apple’s upcoming platform fragmentation challenge, written well before the so-called hypocritical post you cite:

    Apple, the Boomer Tablet and the Matrix

  • Mark Sigal

    @marcbl, it may be shocking to some that retail still exists (quaint as you call it), but that doesn’t change the fact that Apple did $1.68B through the Apple Stores, versus 1.38B in the prior year’s quarter, but most importantly, they grew same-store sales to $5.9M per store from $5.5M in the prior year’s quarter.

    @Synthmeister, great points. There is a classic book called ‘Apple: The Inside Story of Intrigue, Egomania, and Business Blunders’ by Jim Carlton that captures how screwed up management was for all the reasons that you flagged. As an Apple partner during that period, it was beyond frustrating.

    @David M, I think that you miss my point about the distinctions between App Store and Android Market. I am not asserting that one has all crap apps and the other has all quality apps. Rather, I am saying that one has a broken distribution, discovery and monetization process, which is why we hear so little about individual Android apps, and third-party developer successes.

  • John Halbig

    @Synthmeister: You have NO idea of the truth you speak re: point 6. Or maybe you do — perchance did you work for the mothership under Spindler and Amelio?

    Internally it was a nightmare. I was working in the ULQ (User Level Quality) department, and just the test matrix alone was enough to give us fits. Throw in the clones, dead end initiatives such as Copland and OpenDoc, the Newton, and assorted internal cards, printers, cameras (video and still — remember the QuickTake?) … Apple was a company stumbling around in the dark in a nuclear missile silo, pushing buttons at random.

    Remember, Apple HAD all-in-one machines — they were, however, butt ugly. The Mac TV was one of these horrible enclosures, painted black, and packaged with a TV card that only displayed half the fields of the NTSC signal (BY DESIGN!!) and, as it turned out, was unsupported past the OS it was released with (System *7*). It took Steve to clean up the design, finally toss the Apple only ADB connectors for USB, and toss the already useless floppy drive to give us the iMac.

    Even before I left the company in ’98 he had tossed Newton, OpenDoc, the Centris line, and the Performa line’s days were numbered. Cameras, printers, and other low-margin products were also culled. Focus was indeed key!

    Which was why I was so shocked when the first iPod was announced — this seemed to be the opposite trend I saw elsewhere in Apple. And opening up retail stores during a massive retail slump? Madness!

    But now, even if it wasn’t exactly what Jobs had in mind, it does all seem to create exactly the kind of end to end experience that Apple had completely lost control of in the 90’s. I remember seeing this incredibly sad Performa display at a Sears. Pre return of Steve, management heralded the Sears deals as big winners for Apple. What it did was increase testing load (because Sears had price protection, they wanted their own model numbers on Performas — no else could offer a lower price, as Sears had the only examples of these specific models) for a company that never really gave apple a chance in their stores.

    Having had several opportunities to walk by Apple stores in malls in Santa Clara, Santa Rosa, and other locations, I’m always stunned at how these stores are always full of customers and activity, even when the rest of the mall could be used to represent a wild west ghost town. Whatever y’all or myself feels about some of Apple’s decisions re: closing the platform (and, for the record, I disagree with the closed approach!), it’s next to impossible to argue Apple’s success.

  • Tomas Sancio

    The Google app store is like self-publishing a book you wrote. Yeah, it’ll be out there for sure and no publisher will reject it, but given the low bar, users will become wary of its quality without even giving it a good look.

  • Phil Hood

    In the late ’90s I remember writing one of the first research reports on Linux and singing the praises of openness. But today’s Apple’s detractors who criticize it for not being “open” like Google, miss the point. Even before IBM and DEC the computer industry was winner-take-all, or at least 85 percent. Openness is to Google as closed was to IBM–a strategy for dominance. Google is merely a company that has figured out how to exploit this winner-take-all tendency within the open system of the browser. Just as Facebook will try to exploit monopoly within the “open system” of social networks. Under such market conditioins for a programmer to think he is remaining pure by only writing software for “open platforms” is mostly a waste of time.

  • Mark Sigal

    @phil, that’s a great point, and people forget how selective google is in it’s application of openness.

    After all, it’s not like Crown Jewels, like the search index, are white boxes for consumers to granularly control or repurpose, or for brands/publishers to do the same.

    And of course, the company exercises fairly tight control over what data is shared and what is proprietary to Google.

    For example, all of these years later, nobody really knows what “open” Google makes in the AdSense/AdWord model (an arbitrage of asymmetric control of information, if there ever was one), yet by contrast, “closed” Apple’s 70/30 split with developers is pretty transparent in the realm of App Store.

    And while Android is open source – because, if Android marketing is to be believed, it just makes sense, leading to more diversity and more consumer choice – the Google apps that ride on top of it are not open source, which to me fits the old mantra of “be open where commoditization is the goal, be closed where proprietary differentiation is the goal.”



  • EB

    Well, 5.11% of what? If you are looking at the figures of installed based of iPhones vs smartphones in the US (I have no idea, but am guessing that may be the figure,) you are ignoring a much more critical issue:
    The 5.11% that own iPhones buy software for them
    The 94.89% left don’t buy software. Even the Android users. Which would I rather develop software for, the one that has 100 Million installed base, and people buy TONS of software for, or that one that MAY at some point have 100 Million, but there are 50 different devices to test for and so far no one is willing to spend any money on software for?

  • Marco A.

    Apple didn’t get rid of pricing overhang on the iPhone, they just buried it in AT&T’s kickback from the data plan, which you’re required to sign up for as part of the purchase. That puts iPhone, at $30/month just for the data plan, at $720 ahead of some other smartphone using the cellular network for voice and WiFi for data (which is not an option on any Apple product).

  • Charbax

    1. Retail Distribution: Android phones are coming to all retail stores as soon as the 50 next Android phones are released. Those are unlocked, cost below $200, will be sold by all retailers, even by super markets. Those Android phones will be so extremely cheap, even be sold below $100 out of contracts, with pre-paid plans like Virgin Mobile and MetroCPS. There are about 100 pre-paid telecom companies in Europe and all Telecoms in China are exclusively pre-praid services.

    2. Pricing overhang: You have to quote “Total Cost of Ownership”. Consumers get to learn the difference between a $3500 iphone with 2-year contract and a $150 Android phone, unlocked, out of contract. If you do not want to believe Android phones will sell $150 unlocked out of contracts, think again, Bill of Material of Nexus One is below $150, Google has said they do not plan to make money on hardware, and the new business model for manufacturers is to earn a share of Google’s long term ad and services sales.

    3. Developer ecosystem: Google wins by far being open, providing real multi-tasking, and most importantly, providing a multitude of hardware configurations including more powerful devices with HD video decoding, larger screens and lower prices. Any developer can release their .apk as they wish, no walled garden approach. The really powerful apps only work on Android such as real VOIP, real itunes-alternatives, real video players, real instant messaging, real podcast downloader, real synchronizer, free disruptive access to services like Navigation, Google Voice, and more.

    4. Consumer technology adoption: Android is MUCH cheaper than Apple, provides the customized experience that enterprise and professionals can use. Most importantly it is about price, consumers don’t see a UI difference, they just look at the price. And Android is literally just about to be 20x cheaper than the iphone and 3x cheaper than the ipad.

    5. Microsoft-like resilience: Google is not Microsoft. Microsoft was just pure evil and corrupted markets to slow innovation. Google is the opposite of Microsoft and Apple. Google simply does what absolutely makes sense, they just disrupt market monopolies wherever they are with free and open source alternatives. This makes Google’s solution instantly much better than whatever is proprietary and the free and open aspect means Google enables real market competition, which drives prices down far below any company like Apple can afford to still stay in business. Apple’s profit margins and revenue are just about to disappear from the market.

  • jonny

    point two is odd- apple charge way over the odds for their “imyfirstcomputer” toys- which is what they are.
    apple are succeeding in what they are doing which is disguising a product that is designed so that idiots and children can use it out of the box as some sort of designer piece of genius- when the only design genius going on is how to convince the US patent office that they own the copyright on the human finger- open source always wins- its the nature of the beastie -computer tech is a collaborative, ever evolving product that was collectively developed by you, me and ever other soul who ever picked up something with a chip in it and said- “it would be better if…..” or “this is rubbish” to equate what we have now with old patent law and copyright is silly and blocks development- this whole”i patented the finger” debacle will hopefully blow the doors off all this “mine,mine,mine” bullshit and we can get the internet to where its needed most… to those people who have no access at all- iphones for every goatherd so he can learn more about his goats- apple with such an idiotproof device could change the world if jobs wasnt a fucking megalomaniac barmpot (Barmpot=loony)

  • Scott Doty

    “Under such market conditioins for a programmer to think he is remaining pure by only writing software for “open platforms” is mostly a waste of time.”

    BUT! How about writing software for all platforms, hmm?

    All my word processing needs are met by OpenOffice. Why should I drop a couple of C-notes for Word, pray tell?

    But that’s general purpose computing. Android tries to stick to write-once, run-many through use of Java.

    Today, most people can’t imagine what life would be like with their own apps running on their own phones. Ten years from now, I daresay we’ll wonder why it could have been any other way.

    More to the point:

    “You can put anything on your iPhone you want… Just …don’t expect Apple to help you out or guarantee your future user experience.”

    Actually, one has to break into one’s iPhone to install arbitrary software — or fork over $100(?) for the developer kit. As Jamie Zawinski writes:

    Oh, yeah. So Dali Clock works on the iPhone and iPad now, I think. I can’t actually run it on my phone, because I haven’t gotten over my righteous indignation at the idea that I’m supposed to tithe $100 to Captain Steve before I’m allowed to test out the program I wrote on the phone that I bought.

    Ponder that.

    ( )

  • n8han


    re: unlocked phones and prepay plans, I WANT this to be true but where in the world can you buy kilobytes of wireless data at a reasonable price? US telecoms are too daft to price data correctly. Apple forced them to discover pent-up demand with ‘unlimited’ data plans, but they still refuse to offer metered data at the obvious average-price-paid by ‘unlimited’ consumers. So I have a $60 / month (tax included) unlimited data plan with Verizon I don’t really want, which subsidizes my Moto Droid. There is no cheaper data plan for an unlocked phone, so, what would be the point?

  • Edwin

    O’Reilly should be ashamed of themselves for publishing this drivel… and what was Stanford thinking?

  • Anonymous

    some major reasons why apple vs android isnt apple vs microsoft- erm because its 20 years on – refers to a completely different and evolved marketplace- droid isnt microsoft.
    some major reasons why apple vs android isnt mikey the squireel vs batfink
    1. batfink is now dead he was murdered by bill gates allegedly
    2.apples arent oranges
    3.some other nonsensical rubbish loosley hingd in reality.
    4.can we get a psychiatrist in here people are listening to this man and hes dangerous bereft of a functioning brain.
    5.something else, wibble apple rule wibble.
    the internet appears to be populated with people who cannot go 2 minutes without saying ipad?!!
    have you all finally lost it?

  • Walt French

    “4. Consumer technology adoption: … today’s breakthrough adoption begins in the consumer realm…”

    This comes close to my understanding of a huge difference: in the 80’s, Apple was peddling a product that did almost nothing that consumers could relate to. Virtually all the tech dollars were spent by the corporations that Apple denigrated, with a couple of tech nuts willing to spend more than 5% of a good after-tax paycheck on… well, a great toy.

    After the technically promising, but commercially failing, intro of the Mac, Apple burrowed into niche markets — education, design and some sci/tech — that it could defend. It could not, however, generate enough volume in these niches to be able to spread development costs thinly. They justifiably got the reputation of high prices.

    The pre-iPhone explosion of cellphones shows how the tables have turned. Beyond that, internet devices are highly desirable to stay in touch with friends. Portable movies & music matter. The economics of publishing has shifted. Consumers are now calling the shots. Apple has recognized its opportunity to come out of hibernation, and has built a prodigious war chest for the coming competitive fights that WILL be coming.

    Spending in the Enterprise IT space is not increasing to give us worker bees more expensive PCs, nor for B2B. It’s all about the consumer. This time around, Apple has the ammunition it needs.

  • Walt French

    Well, a little Googling (naturally!) and I found Scott Doty writing on Toyota’s website that he can’t put whatever fuel he wants — biodiesel seems to be his favorite but two-stroke gas/oil is oddly also mentioned — and replace the batteries on a Prius, so he’s buying a 1968 Mustang (a freedom-mobile if there ever was one!) instead:

    “Why yes, indeed: any approval process for what I put in my own car (or for that matter, motorcycle) is bad. Why would it be any other way? The car is my property, isn’t it?”

    Looks like he just copy/pasted and did a quick edit before cross-posting here.


  • pveera

    I agree with 1.

    I was about to get a Nexus One and the only thing that stopped me was that I could not see the device. The videos and 3d models maybe compelling, but for me to churn out $600, I need to see and feel the device!

    But, I do not agree with 5. Apart from Apple, Google is the only company on the leading edge with smart phone OSes and Hardware. Blackberry, Palm etc are way behind and Win 7 Phone is still just on paper.

  • personne

    Apple is a cancer on the free Internet and the human spirit, without any real regard for fairness or care. They sit on emerging ideas and try to create a constrained system, Apple HQ to iDevice. Their dominance would be a huge step backwards. While they’re good at riding emerging trends, they will be squashed as they have been in other cycles for their greed and narrow mindedness.

  • Greg King

    1. Micro-computer -> Appliance Computer.
    Your desk & den -> Your pocket & side
    Tethered -> Mobile
    Wired broadband -> Mobile broadband

    2. Micro-computer: Corporations > Consumers
    Appliance Computer: Corporations

    3. Micro-computer -> Age of Productivity
    Appliance Computer -> Age of Information

    4. Micro-computer: IBM > Apple

    Appliance Computer: Google and clones
    Device for software

    5. Micro-computer: Pros get just enough.
    Consumers get too much.

    Appliance Computer: Pros don’t get enough.
    Masses get what they need.

    6. Android = JAVA
    iPhoneOS = Objective-C

    Quantity: Java Developers > Objective-C
    Quality: Look at the software.

    7. Micro-computer -> Standard Hardware
    Appliance computer -> Standard Software.

    History: Mini-computer -> Micro-computer -> Appliance Computer

    Age of Productivity -> Age of Information Network

  • brisance

    Well-written article. Android Marketplace is effectively non-existent outside of the USA. Why does that matter? Because if you look at the data, 50% of the revenue (at least for Apple) comes from non-US sales.

    @Scott Doty:
    “All my word processing needs are met by OpenOffice. Why should I drop a couple of C-notes for Word, pray tell?”
    You’re equating your anecdotal experience to be a universal one. Conversely, OpenOffice chokes on my spreadsheets whereas Excel performs the same task easily, so the former’s a non-starter for me.

    “Free” (as in beer) is not necessarily better if the beer is not any good in the first place. People are willing to pay for a product in exchange for efficiency.

  • Mark Sigal

    @brisance, to put a bow around your point on international reach, the first App that Unicorn Labs (, my iPhone, iPod touch & iPad gaming company came out with has consistently seen 70%+ of its downloads coming from OUTSIDE of the US. We’re huge in France and Hong Kong. ;-)

    So, yeah, based upon direct experience, much of this dissage rings hollow.

    To be clear, though, the premise of this piece is not that Android is destined to fail (although, I remain a skeptic); rather, it’s that it’s not Apple’s DESTINY to lose based upon repeating the mistakes of the past.

  • James Kielland

    I agree with the basic thrust of this article: far too many people are misinterpreting the history of the 1980s and 1990s.

    Far too many people think it’s just simply obvious that a single provider of hardware/software is destined to lose out to multiple manufacturers running the same software. This strange belief is really more like a groundless superstition.

    What do proponents of this case cite? The original Mac vs Windows war. And the more historically informed might throw something out there about Sony Beta losing out to JVC’s inferior VHS format because multiple manufacturers produced VHS recorders.

    What too many people don’t understand is that the original Mac vs. Windows story was far more than a contest between these two basic strategies. First off, Microsoft was already on countless PCs and an vast array of clones, in the form of MS-DOS, before the Macintosh even came to market. Secondly, Apple was in a desperate situation because of the threat of the IBM PC eating up the Apple II. Mac was in a very, very weak situation to begin with.

    The situation nowadays between iPhone and Android is similar in only one variable: multiple hardware makers versus one hardware maker. But there are some incredibly important variables being overlooked:

    1. Apple has $40 billion.
    2. Apple already has the installed lead and it’s substantial
    3. Apple has its own worldwide retail distribution system
    4. Developers, developers, developers.
    7. 2 year cellular contract lock in allows Apple an easy 1 year refresh cycle.
    8. Apple is making more profit from each iPhone than Google or any droid manufacturer is making from each Android.
    9. Apple is leveraging iPod Touch, which expands the userbase and developer incentives. More iPod touches have been sold than all Droids combined.
    10. Content and apps on iPod touch transfer seemlessly to iPhone.
    11. iPod touch is a huge hit with teens who will soon be buying iPhones.

    Lastly, Google’s Nexus One is such a disgustingly unconscionable copy of the iPhone as to really be quite shocking. I have no idea why some people hate the iPhone yet want a Google branded counterfeit. The fact that many of these people also resent Microsoft’s supposed copying of the Mac with Windows raises even more irony. Personally, the Nexus One left me with a dramatically reduced esteem of Google as a company. I’m sure it’s a good phone and a good OS, but a little bit of originality is called for.

    iPhone isn’t threatened by Android at all. The Android userbase may eventually become larger, but the simple fact is that the iPhone is firmly ensconced in the mobile market, will retain the largest variety of useful applications, and the largest variety of accessories. Mac survived on 3% of the market. iPhone can absolutely flourish with only 10% while Windows Mobile and Android battle it out.

  • Ivan

    I can’t even buy iPhone in my country.. non of the carriers offer it.. but on the other hand there are.. 6 or 7 Android devices, available from varying carriers. When it comes to world market, Symbian is the most popular smartphone by far. And thats where google’s Android is heading, and there is no way apple can beat that.. It’s like trying to conquer the world by yourself..

  • James Kielland

    Apple doesn’t need to beat Android in market share.

    Apple just needs to make the most out of its market share while leveraging economies of scale that other manufacturers are unable to match. If Apple takes the top 10% and the remaining 90% is fought over by Android and Windows, Apple wins.

    Yes, it’s hard to compete with a number of manufacturers throwing all sorts of variety at the market. But the more that variety increases the more the margins of handset manufacturers will go down. It’s very hard for a company making 6 different models to have the same margins as a company making just one.

    This will also reduce the accessory market for Android. Take something as simple as cases. One production run can over millions of iPhones. But the vast variation of Android handsets will naturally result in fewer choices. In such minor areas as fashionable cases this might seem trivial. But there are plenty of future hardware add ons (credit card swipers for anywhere POS service) that will be far more sensible to manufacture for a platform that has only 1 external set of dimensions.

    Google might win in terms of greater numbers. But they are merely giving away this system. In return, Google is hoping to be able to extract sufficient personal data from Android users to make it all worthwhile. You get a free operating system, you only need give up all of your privacy and be bombarded with Google advertising.

    Free is frequently highly overpriced.

  • H.

    @James Kielland
    “You get a free operating system, you only need give up all of your privacy and be bombarded with Google advertising.” … oh yeah .. what’s the iAd i wonder if it’s not a bombardment of advertising?

  • James Kielland

    iAd is limited to whichever apps developers choose to include in the program. By placing ads in apps, developers can offer the apps for free. Or, developers can offer the same apps without ads for sale.

    So, no, it’s not a bombardment.

  • Philos

    Geeks arguing with geeks about how geeky they can be miss the point completely. Once companies tried to get a computer in every home. The geeks wanted computers to be complicated and hard to use but people preferred easy, unless they were geeks. So few homes are owned and operated by geeks that Apple realized there was a market for stuff that was easy to use and non-geeky. They got so good at doing this that they dropped the word “computer” from their name. This proved to be a money-making strategy but it drove the geeks crazy. Now they hate all things Apple and wish they could make life harder by eliminating easy from the dictionary.

  • fei

    @Charbax: I would say only 30~50% of China mobile subscribition are pre-paid.

  • Mark Sigal

    @Philos, that’s a riot, and painfully true to some; this was the core of my last piece, ‘Grumpy Old Men’ (

  • Jed Willard

    Good article.

    Funny how you say iPhone vs. Android isn’t the same thing as Mac vs. PC, but your whole article completely proves that this is the same thing; the roles are just reversed.

    You now have iPhone as PC and Android as “crazy apple”.

    Now the question is, does this story play out the same way?

  • Dantv

    @Philos BINGO!!! You hit the nail on the head.

    The Geek is Dead! The Mass Market consumer rules today! The geeks can go back in their basement and play with Linux!

  • Mark Sigal

    @Jed, interesting question but I don’t think that the roles are reversed. Android is piggybacking on device handset oems as a way to maximize both device diversity and ubiquity within the channel, which is very much akin to what Microsoft’s primary strategy was to win the market. Where we are probably saying the same thing is in the conclusion that Google is not a very good platform builder in terms of delivering an integrated offering that developers achieve application and market success around. All that said, it’s early in the story.

    To me, the richer angle in all of this is that Google has two linchpins – search and advertising. By virtue of stepping into what Apple sees as their domain, Apple is now competing with them in Mobile Ads (iAds), and Apple is likely to align with Facebook, where social search/discovery threatens Google’s core search property.

    All of this has to be proven out in the market, of course, but Google’s ability to treat Android as a gimme is a by-product of it being able to be subsidized by Google Advertising. Expect Apple to attempt to disrupt that directly in mobile, and indirectly by partnering with Facebook, et al.

    Disrupt the disrupter.

  • Ben

    iPhone is positioning to be more like a Console than a PC.

    Android like release cycle is attractive to people who buys a new gadget every few weeks.

    I see iPhone and Blacberry taking the majority of the smartphone market, while Android and Microsoft battling for the rest of it.

  • Ewiser

    I work with non techie users an if they could get a iPhone on their cellphone carrier of choice they would drop their android phone for ab iPhone. The whole “free” is lost to them they just want the easy use of the iPhone

  • Steven Simmons

    You misuse the phrase “begs the question”. Of course, so does everybody, but I took the time to post because @MattF provides a great example of begging the question:

    “I didn’t want an IPhone …. because it was an Apple product.”

  • addicted

    First of all, the whole “App Rejection” complaint is way overblown. I for one hate Apple’s gatekeeper policies, but considering the fact that it is Apple selling millions of phones, and billions of apps, lets consider the following:

    1) People are paying good money (not just in aggregate, but on a per customer basis) on the iPhone App Store. Far more than the Android Market.
    2) The iPhone App Store has more apps.
    3) The iPhone App Store has greater quality apps.
    4.a) Only an extremely small number of applications get rejected. It seems like more, because of the disproportionate noise they generate.
    4.b) However, the rejected apps have a disproportionate effect too, since they discourage some developers from even trying to build apps. OTOH, I wouldn’t be surprised if these developers overlap heavily with those who would not have built apps anyways, since its Apple’s platform.

    However, I think the Big Mistake by the author is in point 1. I agree that retail and sales channel is extremely significant (consider the lukewarm sales of Nexus One vs. the Droid. Or even the failure of the Palm Pre, which runs probably a better OS than both the iPhone OS and Android). Apple, however, does NOT have good sales and distribution. In fact, in the US, the iPhone is not even available to more than 55% of the market (non-ATT customers).

    Consider this. If Apple had sold even 90% of the iPhones they did to ATT customers to Verizon customers before the Droid was released, would the Droid have any sales whatsoever to speak of? However, Apple is just letting this market slip away (although, I’m sure its because they are tied to their ATT exclusivity contract, question being whether its 3, or 5 years).

    The only way Apple survives the onslaught of the Android phones is if come WWDC, they show the iPhone 4, and Steve Jobs says “and one more thing…all Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint customers can walk out of this center and go buy their iPhones”. That would be a killer blow.

  • Mitch

    I love how people portray Google as an angel ‘doing the right thing’ in the battle against the evil Apple.

    Google gives everything away because they make their money on advertising. Period. They are not altruistic. Yes it’s true that they could care if you look at porn or puppies. But it’s not for your own good; it’s for their own good. They make money off you regardless of what you do and where.

    The Apple experience is more controlled but that’s because we have seen what happens when there are no controls – spam, viruses, rampant unavoidable porn, and ugly software. All of these lead to a poor user experience.

    People make a big deal about apps that are rejected but considering the size of the App Store, it’s not even one percent. It’s not THAT arbitrary; the guidelines are pretty clear. When there have been nonsensical rejections, Apple makes amends.

    I never understand why people bash a company that goes out of its’ way to make sure its’ customers have a great experience. So you prefer companies that make things difficult?

  • Steve

    1. Retail Distribution: Number of Apple Stores

    2. Pricing overhang: maybe Apple has made sufficient strides towards eliminating this, maybe not (original iPhone was… $600? Plus no subsidy). Regardless, consumers still have this preconception lodged firmly in their brains.

    3. Developer ecosystem: maybe apps on the Android platform haven’t been break-out monetary successes, but it’s a bit short-sighted to claim that the only reason developers will develop is to make a huge load of cash. This argument boils down to free & open (Android) vs closed & controlled (iPhone). I personally think the winner is still TBD. Obviously consumers tend to enjoy free….

    4. Consumer technology adoption: IMO, this is kind of like saying “Grassroots political campaigns are always going to be more successful than party-backed campaigns”. Seems incorrect to me. The idea that because I _want_ an iPhone means that corporate will actually _buy_ me an iPhone hasn’t ever panned out for me. :)

    5. Microsoft-like resilience: not really sure what this point is even about.

  • addicted

    All those folks pointing to Apple’s $600 price tag for the iPhone (which is what the carriers are paying them) and saying they still suffer from price overhang are completely mistaken.

    Apple charges $600 for the iPhone, because THEY CAN. The moment they can’t (real competition, at cheaper) they will drop the prices. For proof, just look at Apple’s iPod events around Zune launches. Every time Zune would launch, and try to compete on price, their launch event would be preceded by an Apple event that dropped the iPod price lower than the Zune. The other example (a slightly different one) is the price of the low-end iPad. All polls before the iPad release started the iPad cost at $500 (I cant remember a single one that even suggested a lower price). Apple needed to create a new market, and guess what they priced the iPad at….

  • harry

    This meme of “closed Apple = evil” has become amazingly pervasive, for something that impacts so few people in practice–and something done to improve the quality of software available and avoid malware.

    I can tell you that as a consumer I’m very happy Apple is doing something (only a little actually) to keep trash and malware out of the app store and off my iPhone. Not having to worry about malware is worth a lot to me, and I don’t miss the porn and other (handful) of apps that have been rejected. With 180,000 apps to pick from, I’ll never exhaust the possibilities.

    I can also tell you that as a developer I’m also very happy for Apple’s walled-garden app store. I would never have been able to develop and sell apps without the marketing assistance I get from the app store, and I’m happy that my apps aren’t mixed in with porn, etc. I’m not even bothering developing for Android because of the much smaller reported revenue for Android apps.

  • davesmall

    It seems most of us have forgotten our history. What really happened with Microsoft vs. Apple is that IBM dominated computing in those days. IBM was a clear technology leader and no one else what even close.

    Big company IT departments went with IBM for most everything. When there came available an ‘IBM PC’ that’s of course what they bought. Early PCs went first to the secretary’s desk as a replacement for the IBM Selectric Typewriter. It was a word processing machine running MS/DOS. They were also used for spreadsheets. There was no email or worldwide web.

    Employees who saw IBM PCs at work naturally bought them for home use too.

    Years later, when Apple had moved beyond the Apple II to the Macintosh, and Microsoft was introducing Windows, it was software migration that won the day. PC users didn’t want to throw away their investment in MS/DOS software. By going with Windows they could hang onto that valued investment.

    Apple didn’t really start to take market share from Windows until they moved to Intel processors and offered migration paths from Windows to Mac. Had they done that sooner they could have had a much large market share today.

  • David W.

    This is getting worse than the PC vs. Mac wars.

    A few points: This is not a winner take all game as the PC/Mac wars. You can hold 20% of the market and survive. Mobile apps are much easier to program than full desktop apps. Part of it is that mobile apps operate on a simpler environment and part of it is due to better tools. But, maintaining an application on two different environments is not a killer.

    In the Mac/PC days, it was much harder to maintain both a Mac and a Windows version of your program, so it was worth walking away from the smaller platform.

    Another reason is despite all the hoopla, the app isn’t all that important. It’s the web browser. You include the basic tools and a web browser and people are happy. Google even agrees with their ChromeOS operating system. No apps, just a browser. Ironically, any “app” that runs on ChromeOS will run on any Apple product, or even RIM 6.0 since all three use the WebKit browser.

    You also left off a very important point: Google doesn’t control Android. They do a lot of the work, but the control is by the Open Handset Alliance. Also because Android is open source, it is easy for any manufacturer to modify it. For example, AT&T has taken off Google apps on replaced them with Microsoft and Yahoo versions. Verizon is talking to manufacturers not only to prevent users from downloading apps off the web, but to force users to use the VCast store instead of the Android Marketplace.

    I have no idea how Google intends to make money on Android. They might try to do something like iAds, but it is very possible that the Open Handset Alliance won’t allow them, or make Android use their own servers.

  • Hamranhansenhansen

    > Point 3 leaves out Apple’s continual
    > screwing over of developers by rejecting
    > apps with poor explanation, inconsistent
    > rules and an overall terrible attitude
    > toward their developers.

    Grow up. This is consumer electronics now, not PC industry.

    The managed native app platform on iPhone makes native apps as safe and easy to install as music and movies, and people buy and use the apps in music and movies -type numbers. If you want consumers to buy and install your apps like candy, you have to do more work than in PC’s. To music and movie publishers, the whining from the Internet peanut gallery that iPhone is not more like Linux is the panting hysteria of a 2 year old. Actual iPhone developers have just worked harder and they’ve made great apps. Hardly any have been rejected. Apple rejects fewer native iPhone apps than Google bans site from their Web index. And they’ve kept the platform malware free.

    In PC’s, you have viruses, malware, botnets, DLL hell, 10 year old XP, and users who are forbidden to install native apps, if they even knew how. You have rampant piracy. *That* is hostile to developers.

    I cannot tell you how many people I know who have 50 native apps on their iPhone that they bought and installed themselves, and on their Mac/PC they have zero native apps. They use what came with the box, and they use Web apps. Even the Mac users, who have easy drag and drop install and no viruses, simply don’t use native apps like iPhone users do. *That* is the PC industry being hostile to developers.

    And, if you don’t like the managed app platform on iPhone OS, there is a complete Chrome OS -style open app platform on there as well. App Store is entirely optional, it’s the iPhone’s secondary app platform, the open one came first and is still there. You can deploy an open API app from your own server, install to the user’s local storage with 1-click in a Web browser, run in an open source environment, with absolutely no management or even involvement from Apple. If you want to make an app where little Android logos chase a little Steve Jobs around a maze and each level unveils a new kind of pornography, you can do that, you can deploy that to iPhone users, it will run *great* on all of Apple’s devices, right out of the box. So what are you complaining about? Open is there. Open is on all of Apple’s devices, even the Mac.

    What’s amazing is that Apple has provided a choice of open or managed app platforms, and you think they should both be open. That managed apps should not exist, whether consumer users need them or not. That’s totalitarianism.

    What’s even worse, is we see Android providing the same open API apps as well as unmanaged native apps, and we see Android having less success, developers making no money, and there is malware in Android Market, malware shipping on phones, malware getting onto devices from the Web. That is simply not consumer-ready. Be in denial about this as long as you like. Google certainly is. And it’s a very clear part of why iPhone is succeeding and Android failing, which is what we’re talking about here.

  • Chris

    LOL @ MattF for using Microsoft products for 20 years but not wanting an iPhone because everyone has one.

    Hypocrisy can be good for a chuckle sometimes.

  • Mark Hernandez

    It’s amazing how few people even understand what “open” means, and that it’s pretty much a confused and meaningless concept.

    Then, people confuse “closed” with “controlled.”

  • Andre Richards

    Another point to remember: in the Windows vs. Mac era, Windows was controlled by one company and deployed to multiple hardware vendors. That gave MS the ability to set the course for the PC industry. You could have variations in the hardware, but the OS was one OS.

    In the iPhone vs. Android era, we have an operating system (Android) that is controlled by multiple companies, each producing their own variants with their own UIs and hardware controlled by multiple companies. This many-to-many relationship is going to be prone to spinning out of control. I know Android-fans like to dismiss suggestions of fragmentation but the evidence that it’s happening and causing problems for users (i.e., the Droid buyers revolt we just saw) is out there.

    I don’t know if Google can or would assert some control over these things, but you can see the benefits of it.

  • L

    @Hamranhansenhansen Excellent excellent post.

    It’s amazing how many of the posters here do not get the author’s point that Apple tends to target consumers while Google/Android targets techies, and are still posting about their geeky wants while splashing their hatred onto Apple for not giving them what they want.

    Apple doesn’t care about what you think or want. They just put out what they think the mass market wants. And clearly it is working. Hate them and go flock to Android if you disagree, but Apple isn’t dying now and likely won’t be in the near foreseeable future.

  • Sancho

    Mark, as others have commented here, the PC war was won by Microsoft because of just one of your factors: corporate adoption rates in the 80’s far outpaced consumer adoption rates; a single PC vendor, IBM, quickly dominated the corporate market; when consumers started buying computers they wanted compatibility with what they used in the office. War over.

    It’s important to see this clearly, because the same single dynamic may cause Apple to crush the competition in the mobile war. Unless Android starts gaining ground quickly on all aspects of mobile (not just against iPhone but also iPod Touch and iPad) there is a real chance that folks will start buying Apple primarily because it is the de facto standard.

    And why go so far back to the 80s for an analogy, when a more fitting one is much more recent: the mp3 wars. Apple won, completely. There are a lot of reasons that Apple started winning, but only one reason why Apple has now completely won: it is the standard. If you go to the gym, there will be an adapter on the equipment for your iPod, but not for any other device. War over.

    Once enough developers, third party equipment makers, colleges, hospitals, etc. flock towards one platform, the platform wins the war.

  • Eric

    All this hate aimed at Apple is like taking poison and expecting the hated person to die.

  • Jody

    Actually the obvious comparison is that Nokia is Microsoft and Apple is still crazy Apple. Android is just the crazier Apple.

    Funny how Americans conveniently ignore the reality of the global market where Nokia has over 40% of the smartphone market and growing.

  • Dan

    Basically, this article is saying that Microsoft did a better job distributing, supporting, and selling their product than Apple, and that even if Google does the same, Apple will be fine.

    What Microsoft did:

    1 – Better distribution
    2 – Lower prices
    3 – Better developer support
    4 – Broader interoperability
    5 – Leveraging their existing business strengths to increase their market share (It’s extremely inappropriate to refer to the first four as an “unfair advantage.”)

    All five of these are good things. Apple has chosen to:

    1 – Increase distribution (even to Best Buy and Wal-Mart!)
    2 – Persist with the Apple Tax (It really is still too expensive to switch to Apple.)
    3 – Treat developers like disposable/replaceable commodities
    4 – Limit interoperability
    5 – Leverage their “mythos” to increase their market share

    So, Apple’s imitating Microsoft on point 1. Otherwise, they’re going a different road. I think that Apple will do a okay–it’s not going anywhere–but I think that Android will ultimately outpace the iPhone because people will want to pay less money for a phone that does more. At the same time, developers will prefer to develop for an OS that won’t randomly reject an application that took many hours to develop.

    Apple’s best hope right now is tech journalism–as long as journalists are afraid to criticize Apple products (because they’d lose their chance at review models, etc), Apple will always have an inflated reputation. For instance, since when is the inability to service a device a positive thing? In every other laptop or phone manufacturer, being able to swap out your battery or replace your hard drive is considered a good thing. Only with Apple is the lack of freedom spun as somehow helpful. Another example: letting Apple repeat the claim, “Surf the whole internet,” when so much flash content is out of bounds. The journalists need to gain some integrity in how they deal with Apple.

  • Si


    So very balanced. So very impartial. So very surprising that another one of Jobs’ finger puppets (John Gruber) has posted a link over here.

  • James

    Dan writes:

    ” Apple will always have an inflated reputation. For instance, since when is the inability to service a device a positive thing? In every other laptop or phone manufacturer, being able to swap out your battery or replace your hard drive is considered a good thing. Only with Apple is the lack of freedom spun as somehow helpful.”

    The benefit is this: by not including the mechanisms for a swap out battery, a device can be stronger and lighter and the battery can be larger. That is a benefit.

    “Another example: letting Apple repeat the claim, “Surf the whole internet,” when so much flash content is out of bounds. The journalists need to gain some integrity in how they deal with Apple.”

    I just googled the phrase “Surf the whole internet” and found zero references to Apple claims.

  • Bob

    Iphone still does not have more than 17 percent of the smartphone market share, despite all the stupendous growth. And when they say 8.8 million devices sold in last quarter, is it sold to operators/carriers or is it sold to customers. And why all this Google hatred. If Android pushes Iphone, Apple will either have to add more features or reduce their prices, how is this bad for the customer ? customers should actually push for android to provide more competition to Apple Iphone.

  • Daniel

    I’m a mac user and lover and I generally regard Apple as the best computer manufacturer on the planet. They have brought us many good things and as an iPhone 3G owner for the past two years I’ve benefited from this technology.

    However I have decided to move from the iPhone to Android because of several reasons:

    1. Apple controls the App Store too tightly and is very unfair in it’s decisions

    2. Having made a good start with the original iPhone, Apple has lagged behind the competition, and even with OS 4, still lags behind. E.g. bluetooth file transfer: my 14 year old cousin can do this with her cheap LG Cookie but my fancy iPhone can’t.

    3. Apple is becoming like an evil conglomerate now and it doesn’t care about the customer. E.g. it favours it’s commercial dalings with AT&T (and other providers globally) over what is best for the customer. It locks users into crappy service providers because it is more profitable for them. It only allows tethering at an extra charge, whereas Windows Mobile and Android have it enabled for free (and WM has had it for years)

    4. Having moved to Cyprus this year, there is no iTunes here. This means I effectively cannot buy apps even if I wanted to. Neither can I buy any other content (music; DVD’s etc).
    Because of their stupid rule that you have to have an address and credit card in the same country as the Store, people like me are cut out. With Android you aren’t limited to the Market, you can buy apps in many places and even directly from the developer.

    So all in all, I think the iPhone will still do well because most people find it simple to use, but of course this will only be in countries where there are app stores. Android is still partially mostly for us geeky types but thanks to people like HTC is rapidly becoming mainstream and easy for the common man to use.

    I predict that Android will eventually overtake iPhone OS and with Blackberry 6 on the way, the iPhone will loss ground to them, probably a very significant amount too!

    Watch out Apple – your days are numbered!!

  • Nathan Smith

    Do O’Reilly blog posts not go through any sort of copy editing? This article reads pretty choppy. It could have used a once-over before being published.

  • Mark Hernandez

    Another thing that’s confusing this conversation is an assumption that there is a kind of competition going on here in which nothing is considered successful unless it dominates. We have to get away from that.

    The bottom line is that we DO have CHOICES. And we’re already there now, cuz we can scoot our chair up to our computer of choice, and we whip out the phone of choice now, too, and soon the pad of our choice. We are fortunate to have choices. It would only be a bad thing if we didn’t have choices.

    It’s not important that one company is the largest of all and must capture EVERYONE’s hearts and minds and market share.

    Apple, for example, is quite happy exactly where it is, and doesn’t have to have a dominant marketshare to have a blast putting out it’s products, or live in fear that it is teetering on the edge of existence or irrelevance, or they don’t have enough developers supporting their ecosystem.

  • Dan

    Two points in Google’s favor, and why, today, it looks like Google dominating the market is an inevitability:

    1) Android is not tied to a specific carrier. Today, Apple’s iPhone OS is exclusively on AT&T, and so their market penetration is limited to areas with AT&T coverage. Android will be available on EVERY carrier.

    2) Android phones will hit EVERY price point, including the fully subsidized FREE ones. Apple has often shown that they have no interest in competing with the absolute low end. So, Apple will maintain their profit margins while losing a huge amount of marketshare.

    Winning marketshare is key to winning developers; they go where the biggest opportunities are, and they will endure hardships to get there. Microsoft didn’t have their act together as neatly as the article suggest through the 80’s and 90’s. My first home PC was a Windows 98 system, and my gawd, the hoops I had to jump through to get some of the games installed and working properly! But what Microsoft did have in spades was marketshare, and that’s why they had the lion’s share of application development.

  • Dan

    Oh, and one last point I just thought of as to why Apple will eventually lose to Google, if they don’t change their mindset:

    3) Frequency of updates: Apple is still in the PC manufacturing mindset, thinking that they can release a new model once a year and be competitive. New Android models are hitting the market at a rapid-fire pace. What happens when an Android phone is released during the summer with a killer new feature that Apple hadn’t thought of? iPhone users will have to wait a year to see if Apple will copy that feature.

  • alex

    “Time” is a resource limitation that seems to be left out by posters here. While I am reasonably tech savvy, I’m not keen to study a system for a few weeks just to get it up and running.

    Please don’t forget that what’s easy peasy for a developer to do in a few seconds actually means weeks to figure out even for a someone with a phd.

    My personal productivity is already 10 to 15 times greater within 48 hours of getting the iPhone. From SMS to simple apps. Just 6 apps did that. Value for money.

    I don’t know about you developers but get busy understanding your market that feeds you. If Android does the job, fine.

    If it just thrills your soul but not doesn’t feed the baby, then its a hobby. Do your family a favour, separate that please.

    Apple connects you with us, the customer in a minimalist fashion that the customer wants. Nothing more, nothing less.

    The iPhone as far as I am concern is in my hand to make things easy for me. Not you.

    Not a rant but my reality from a world beyond the bits and the bites.

  • JDo

    Another difference between Apple/iPhone and Google/Android is that:

    • Apple knows how to monetize consumers, while
    • Google monetizes businesses
  • Chris Alford

    Love the article, not so sure about most of the comments.

    As a developer I wanted a Java based OS since Java first appeared, nice to see Android has almost achieved this. Unfortunately the people with more time than brain cells will hack, crack and trash Android. Why, as most people have pointed out the Android market place is not supervised like the App Store, thus I expect all sorts of worthless junk apps will appear, either with poorly written code or just plain old malicious content. This will certainly kill the desire of the average person to buy an Android device (yes there are plenty of other devices besides a mobile).

    At least with Apple a developer knows up front what to expect!

  • Chipp Walters


    This is one of the more disingenuous arguments for Apple I’ve seen lately. It appears, like many Apple fans, your enthusiasm for their company and products interfere from you ability to stay non-biased in your approach.

    For instance you say,

    “Today, Apple Stores drive a superior environment for consumers to experience hardware hands-on and get educated about the full breadth of Apple products. An aside, this is a consumer touch point that Google absolutely lacks.”

    This argument is so easily refuted. As of March 2010, Apple has 222 stores in the US. Contrast with the number of Sprints, Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T stores and kiosks, not to mention the number of WalMart, Sears, Radio Shack and all the other stores which sell phones which are not iPhones. The numbers aren’t even close. Heck, there are 7000 Radio Shack stores alone. As a writer you may not understand marketing. This is a numbers game, not a ‘quality of sales experience’ one.

    I do agree with your notion this is a pricing issue. But we reach very different conclusions. As a pricing issue, Apple will still be one of the most expensive mobile phones available. But, there will be many more flavors of Androids, and some with a much lower cost of ownership to users. Also, my iPhone dropped 7 calls today. I yearn for the service performance I used to have with Verizon. If my contract expired tomorrow, I would purchase an Android from Verizon, not because I love Android, but I hate AT&T. Remember, the number one function of a cell phone is to make (and keep making) calls. The Apple iPhone, as currently configured, is priced as a best of class device, but the service performance is on par with worst in class.

    And how can you even mention developer ecosystem without talking about how Apples new license has effectively removed thousands of potential developers? Of course writing in XCODE does insure higher quality apps, like Pull My Finger and IFart, still, couldn’t those same wonderful apps have been written in Flash? And speaking of lame apps, have you even looked at any of the latest iPad apps? OMG, are they horrible ( ).

    The Android already has over 55,000 apps compared to the few hundred thousand of Apple Apps. But how much money are developers REALLY making? ( )

    “The top 100 are collectively making $304k/day and the top 1000 are making $372k/day, which means that those who are in the top 1000 but below the top 100 (the lower 900) are collectively making only $68k. Split that among 900 apps and that’s $75.50 per app per day.

    And then there are the other 180,000 apps. With the top 100 making $304k and the next 900 making $68k, at that dropoff rate we can expect the second best-selling 1000 apps in the AppStore to make about $17k, and the third best-selling 1000 to make about 4k.

    Then it goes down from there for the other 150,000 apps, ranging from $4 per day per app down to zero.

    Meanwhile, the current minimum wage in California is $8/hr. In an eight-hour day a worker with very few skills can make $64.”

    The smartest thing you said was, “Obviously a lot can change in the next couple of years.” I agree.

  • Geoff Green

    Chipp criticized your point about the Apple Stores, pointing to the number of cell stores, kiosks and other retailers which sell Android phones.

    Three points here. First, iPhones can be purchased at many stores other than Apple’s, including AT&T stores and kiosks, Radio Shack, Best Buy, Wal-Mart, and perhaps other stores that I’m forgetting. The numbers are much closer than you imply. Second, with all due respect to those other stores, I believe the Apple Store experience is superior to all of them, and it does make a difference. Quality does matter sometimes. And third, I think word has gotten around that the service experience at Apple Stores is pretty good, and it’s a point in its favor that when you have a problem with your phone by Apple, you can call Apple; you don’t have to figure out whether you need to talk with T-Mobile or HTC (or Google, in the case of the Nexus One), to deal with a problem with your HTC phone.

    “I do agree with your notion this is a pricing issue. But we reach very different conclusions. As a pricing issue, Apple will still be one of the most expensive mobile phones available. But, there will be many more flavors of Androids, and some with a much lower cost of ownership to users.”

    I was unaware that Apple briefed you on its future pricing schemes, or Android. As for the price of the phone (and this is partly in response to an earlier comment), the cheapest iPhone is now $99 and there’s not a whole lot of pricing room below that. Moreover, I believe that Apple has shown that they’re now more willing than ever to be flexible, and if there are inexpensive Android phones which start to pose a threat, Apple will respond accordingly. Android is definitely doing well, but contrary to the claims of the oh-so-wise Engadget commenters, neither the Droid nor the Nexus One nor the Incredible are “iPhone killers.”

    “And how can you even mention developer ecosystem without talking about how Apples new license has effectively removed thousands of potential developers?”

    Doubt it.

    As for the profitability of apps, I would only like to point out that the Wall Street Journal app makes Dow Jones exactly $0 from the Apple Store. Pandora’s been out for two years and has also made a total of $0 in revenue from the Apple Store; meanwhile, Pandora’s founder has said that the iPhone basically saved the company, despite that $0 revenue figure. Several apps which I use, all free, include display advertising. Revenue figures don’t tell the whole story. The fact that today developers can make apps that they can be assured will run on all iPhones, as well as 35 million other devices, matters.

    THings certainly might change, but this isn’t a convincing argument.

  • BT

    The only reason that this will play out differently this time is if Apple doesn’t screw it up like the did back in the early 90’s. They had leadership and a superior product, and the blew it. Overly controlling, profiteering, and just being dismissive of users and partners. Just what is Steve Job’s obsession that no one is allowed to add things to his creations, and to create closed systems. Anyone remember how long it took them to allow color monitors to the Mac back in the day?

    Google is a much smarter competitor than Microsoft ever was, from my vantage point.

    And apple still treats their users and partners like sh*t, and prices their stuff at 2x the competition. And creates pretty little closed things.

    So the table is set for a repeat, in my opinion.

  • Mark Sigal

    @Chipp, appreciate the detail and vigor of your response, but the numbers of Apple Retail Stores speak for themselves (and are noted elsewhere in the comment thread).

    My key point is that this company-driven channel presence, which is expensive and bucks conventional wisdom, guarantees that Apple products are presented fully, optimally and with the complete inventory, which is both a brilliantly successful entry point to new customers (50% of Mac buyers there are first time buyers) and a hedge against losing existing ones (for lack of access, knowledge, etc.)

    As others have noted, Apple has both quantity of outlets (through partners) and quality (through their own stores), so unless you don’t trust the numbers of what Apple is doing in its own branded stores in terms of new customer adds, units sold, add-ons to existing customers, margins, customer loyalty, then we probably differ in our respective beliefs about the importance of absolute units versus margins, etc.

    Now, as to the assertion that Apple’s “destined” to leave pricing overhang, we again, completely disagree. Apple has been quite clear with investors that they will not leave pricing overhang in pursuit of nose bleed margins. It’s a focal point of their strategy.

    Now, if you think they are going to stop executing on promises, despite coming out of the worst recession more solid than ever (READ: “Unfair Advantages” – Assessing Apple’s March, 2010 Quarter -, I am not sure what else to say.

    One thing that Apple doesn’t do is chase market share for market share sake, so, for example, in segments where device functionality is sufficiently hobbled so as not to deliver a compelling user experience, it’s money in the bank that Apple will avoid these segments.

    A note aside, all of this talk is focused on iPhone, but that ignores the fact that there are 35M iPod touches out there, and another (rumored) 1M iPads, segments where Android does not yet have a touch point.

    You can knock the iPhone ecosystem in terms of it’s value proposition for developers and consumers alike, but when you talk to developers of same, it’s a short conversation (developer attrition is very small), whereas with Android, strangely despite large numbers of touted applications, there are shockingly few non-Google created SUCCESSES touted, something that I am assuming Android marketing would be all over in trying to outflank the “there’s an app for that” freight train.

    One thing we do agree on, though, is that ultimate measure of the platform’s success for developers will be if enough of them make money. Just like the real world, not all of them will.



  • BCB

    I just signed up for a HTC Incredible with VZW. I want an iphone but had no option because i have to use the VZW network for coverage issues. I only signed up for a one year contract hoping the next iphone comes out on VZW in the next 12 months. But seriously what the HELL is taking so long!!

  • John

    iPhone wont my heart and mind when it allowed wifi AND 3G here in NZ. Befre then the telcos had made sure any smartphone or PDA only had network connection through the cell networks, and were raping their customers on the dat charges.
    iphone made it worth the money to buy a NZ$1000 phone as with wifi at home and work, 90% of the places I use the phone the data was effectively free.

    Apple are still in the process though of shooting their shiny image in the foot by acting like spoiled brats protecting their cool club.

    If Google gets its Dont-Call-It-Linux-And-They’ll-Buy-It -By-The-Truckload OS, Android act together iPhones will quickly loose their lead.

  • Tim Almond

    1. Android subscriber share went up over 5% in the past quarter and iPhone share went down slightly. So, this effect is not working.

    2. “Price Overhang” is there. The price difference between the monthly cost of an average Android phone and an iPhone is something like 25-30% in the UK.

    3. Android has huge advantages for developers. Yes, Apple have actually built some decent APIs. But they also have a feudal attitude to banning apps, you have to own a Mac to start or learn development, and they’ve now banned the use of 3rd party tools.

    4. Fair point.

    5. Google makes their money from search, but like Microsoft before them, they get developers. Apple don’t.

  • Terry Trippany

    In reading the comments I see a lot of complaints that fall on two sides of the issue, 1.) People don’t like the fact that Apple is trying to maintain quality (or control, take your pick) by approving apps in the apple store, 2.) People complaining that the openness of the Android market will allow any old app in.

    I see it a bit differently. With open source we have opportunity. I can’t see why someone can’t step in and create their own store for screening out apps targeted for the android market. It could even have, gasp, support.

    It needn’t be one company but you certainly should be able to have opportunity to create a market if there is a need (licensing permitting). This is the beauty of open source. Many companies support various flavors of Linux for the enterprise and have built huge consulting firms around such models. It needn’t be any different here. Perhaps I’m missing something.

    The unfortunate downside of this is fragmentation across mobile devices that makes it difficult for developers and companies to choose. There is a point of diminishing returns. Just like me having to develop web sites that work across IE6-IE8, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, etc. When does it become cost prohibitive to develop for all targets? What targets lose out? This is where market share comes in.

    I only hope the device wars don’t end up in a BluRay vs HD Video or Beta Max vs VHS type scenario. One can argue that the best technologies didn’t rule the day in those cases (others may argue differently).

    We are already starting to see the same sort of problem with Flash vs H.264.

    I am an app developer but not for mobile devices so I am interested in the informed opinions I am reading in this form.

  • Michelle Hooper

    These are very good points that are brought into mind of all users. yah..I completely agree with alllpoints but mainly with 3 one… Really Human brain is a big deal.

  • xtraad

    The iPhone is great if you want an app to make fart noises or whatever, but really when you compare whats on offer on Android there is really no comparision. At all. From a cloud computing perspective you have some real horsepower on email, docs, maps, video, music. Apple has iTunes and not much else.

  • Aaron Smith

    Lol @ anyone who thinks that a single company controls their destiny.

    Apple is focused on providing a great, consistent experience that users can rely on, while building the most elegant products they can.

    If you don’t like Apple’s game, don’t play. No one is forcing you to.

  • Hellboy

    Amazing how much the apple fanboys have been brainwashed. “Oh there’s nothing better than Apple controlling my life – because nobody other than Steve Jobs and his crew have better creativity and technical knowledge. After all it’s all for my own good!”

    Guess what, the i in Apple products stands for idiots.

  • Narayanan

    Very informative post with some excellent comments.

    As someone using PCs and Macs from early eighties, I agree with the post. Price, presence and perceptions were crucial factors in the ultimate outcome.

    Conversely, in the current iOS vs. Android debate, the same factors will play, though the outcome may not be the same. Price wise iOS is on par. I remember the gasp when iPad entity pricing was announced and the AAPL stock did a quick jump.
    Presence wise iOS is now 100 million plus and has the momentum even in traditionally hostile Apple markets like Asia(perceived price factor).
    Perception is somewhat a mixed bag with a lot of negative PR from the “traditionalists”, but so far has not spread too much outside the core tech media.
    However, credit must be given to Google for seeing the vacuum being created among the “Sorry, No Apple for me” market early on and displacing Windows mobile out of the game.

  • Mark Sigal

    @Narayanan, thanks for the comments. To be clear, while I decidedly brush off the assertion that this is Windows and Mac all over again, I am not asserting that that means Android loses.

    Both Google and Apple appear to be students of history, and the lessons learned, and that’s half the battle right there.



  • Gaz

    Article misses some important points.

    1) Any bedroom hacker can make Android apps in their spare time without the need to fork out over a grand for a Mac. Android dev boxes are age old desktop PCs running whatever you like, including free software. The App Store can’t compete in the long run.

    2) Java is massively popular and the Android SDK is ten times easier to develop for than the iPhone. I know, I’ve done both Java and Objective C as a newbie to both. The online support is better, rather than a closed ecosystem of registered developers you’ve got friendly chat rooms and Google Groups. I made two Android apps in under a week, my first iPhone app took me nearly a month.

    3) Technology gets better and cheaper every day, you don’t need the latest smartphone to run Android today and eventually we’ll see $30 phones running the platform. Manufacturers have got a free OS to stick on their cheap handsets, Apple can’t compete against this because it’s not how they roll.

    4) The freedom to run interpreted code will be hugely important in the future. Not just HTML5 or Flash, but scripting languages and click-n-go type app builders. Apple will never allow this.

    5) OS features feeding back from the community. Replace “There’s an app for that” with “there’s a hack for that”; today rooted Android handsets have WiFi tethering, USB host and 720p video recording thanks to the community. An open platform can always out-innovate a closed platform because there are simply more options. Android will always be one step ahead here.

  • Mark Sigal


    The strongest argument that you put forth, in my opinion, is that the openness and community leverage will lead to a level of innovation that a governed platform can’t compete with.

    That is certainly a big part of what played out in PC Wars, but as my piece notes, there was a lot more to it than that, and also, with one vendor CONTROLLING the platform (Microsoft), you ended up with homogeneity, which favored the one vendor takes all model.

    In this case, the counter to all of the arguments in favor of Android is fragmentation to the Nth degree, if for no other reason than handset makers can and will one-off to support their needs, carriers will one-off to support their needs, and the wide diversity of devices needing to be supported, will force developers to make all sorts of tradeoff decisions on form factor, processing capabilities and the like.

    Plus, let’s not forget the complexities of app discovery, distribution and monetization within this model, all of which have contributed to their being virtually no non-Google app segments where massive downloads, brand and/or monetization have been realized in Android segment.

    Case in point, you have Chinese mobile market embracing Android as a base platform to create their own closed platform, you have Motorola forking Android by blending their Moto Blue, others forcing bloated trial-ware on phones, and so on.

    To be clear, Apple faces a smaller version of these same challenges, what with iPod touch, iPhone, iPhone 4, iPad and perhaps, an iOS based Apple TV coming, something I’ve experienced first-hand from a developer perspective with my company.

    As to which environment is quicker to develop around, I’d say two things. One, as with any environment, it depends on the scope of your ambitions. We built a highly graphical space shooting game start to finish in

    A lot of variables there, but the table stakes in terms of libraries, the core framework, toolsets and the end-to-end is pretty solid on iPhone.

    Biggest headaches on iOS frankly, as with all platforms I have worked on is between third party libraries and native interfaces, which is no different than with Java, MFC, etc.

    Two, the numbers don’t lie, and there are 15K apps a week pouring into app store, that cover the spectrum from graphic illustration, to photography, video, gaming, etc.

    In other words, R&D is humming on the developer side. In fact, legitimate quibbles aside, most developers don’t consider the iOS platform closed – that’s marketing speak by the anti-Apple crowd – but they do consider it governed, which is fine in the sense that it removes the developer from having to worry about a bunch of stuff that makes their job easier. Imperfect, but again, pretty darn good.

    Developer adoption, app creation and examples of real success by developers is the litmus test of the success of the software side of a platform, and at the moment, Apple is rolling, which isn’t the same as saying that Android won’t do a ton of units and/or that Android won’t find the winning combination for software developers.

    I just would argue that on the developer side of Android, things look good from afar, but are far from a good (but getting better every day).

    Thanks for the detailed challenge and exposition.



  • Edwin

    Game over, buying anything but Apple is an act of gross stupidity and ignorance and all-around badness.

  • Jim H

    Apple gives the developers some clear rules. Develop with these tools, and for this you pay $100. Ohmigod, the arrogance.

    The number of upset developers is not very high. Much exaggerated by the tech press and the whiners and overdramatizers on forums.

    The number rejected represent a small percentages, and most are because of bugs and crashes and using private APIs. Some are just goofs. You can’t process that many and not do something stupid from time to time.

    Apple has paid $1 billion to developers over the past two years. And now, with the ads, there will be income for even free apps.

    Apple was passive last time, and made the horrible mistake of acting like any other company: they made dozens of products with indistinguishable names, they kept their prices absurdly high, at the same time as licensing their OS to clone makers.

    They’ve come back with Jobs’s strategy. Stick to it, because it works.

    The Apple Way isn’t monopolism. It produces a well-designed machine with an OS that is stable, secure and easy to use. BY DEFINITION, Google (and Windows) are using the monopolistic strategy.

  • Ahmad

    On iOS, you can’t move a picture from a friend’s computer onto your phone.

    On iOS, you can’t shoot a movie with a video camera, move the SD card onto your phone, and copy the movie onto your


    On iOS, if you’re in a hurry and need to move a song from your computer to your phone quickly, you still have to

    launch iTunes and sync, because iOS doesn’t allow drag and drop from a computer folder.

    On iOS, you can’t move your Word/Excel/Powerpoint document from your computer, work on it on your phone/device, save

    it, and move the updated document back onto your computer.

    On iOS, you can’t use your phone as a storage device.

    On iOS, you can’t say “Dial Blockbuster near [your zip code]” and have your phone go to the web, find the number,

    and dial it, all without typing anything.

    On iOS, you can’t make your own song, or use your own remix, as a ringtone.

    On iOS, you CAN have a browser that’s slower at showing a web page.

    On iOS, you can’t use Flash for your internet. Therefore, you can’t see content on BILLIONS of web pages, from

    videos, to animation, to games.

    On iOS, you can’t use SWYPE, the Guiness world-record holder for fastest way to text.

    On iOS, if you don’t like your touchscreen keyboard, you can’t download an app to replace your touchscreen keyboard.

    On iOS, you can’t have your touchscreen keyboard vibrate everytime you type a letter to give you better feedback.

    On iOS, you can’t receive notifications about your apps, your texts, and other usage items unless that app is on.

    On iOS, you can’t check the weather without launching an app, because widgets are not allowed.

    On iOS, you can’t turn on Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, by clicking on a customized screen button, or widget. You have to go

    into settings.

    On iOS, you can’t see updates to your social networking websites, like Facebook, unless you launch an app, because

    iOS doesn’t allow widgets.

    On iOS, you can’t create a customized touchscreen button that allows you to call your friend with a single click or

    text a family member with a single click. The iOS doesn’t support quick contact widgets.

    On iOS, you can’t pick a different size screen.

    On iOS, if you want a real keyboard, you can’t get one.

    On iOS, you can’t get a phone with a faster processor.

    On iOS, you can’t get a phone with more RAM memory.

    On iOS, you can’t get a phone with an HDMI port so that you can connect your phone to your TV and watch a movie you

    downloaded from Netflix/Blockbuster in HD.

    On iOS, you can’t have more buttons in case you’re faster with buttons.

    On iOS, you can’t use your device as a wireless internet router so your laptop can get online. Hot-Spot capability

    is unavailable.

    On iOS, if all your family and friends are on wireless carrier [X], you can’t use that carrier, because your

    phone/device is available on limited carriers.

    What iOS can’t, Android does.

  • Let us Assume if Apple is beaten by Android which seems very unlikely when right now apple is the largest mobile devices manufacturer in the world, Will that mean that android is the best ?

    I would differ to think from this, As google describes on the android developer site : “We wanted to make sure that there was no central point of failure, so that no industry player can restrict or control the innovations of any other.”

    Does it sound rosy ? Well If every one in the world start using an XYZ platform will that make sure they are innovative ? Look at PC can you compare that With a Mac ? PC survive and thrive on demand and supply. The innovation in PC is dependent on large scale production, competition is about price not Quality.

    Do you still think Google android can breed Innovation ? Innovation is not dependent on Open platforms but shear Imagination , Thinking and willingness to take risks. These are the signs of a great innovator like Steve Jobs and Apple. Not companies like Motorola,HTC,Samsung and Half dozen low cost manufacturers.

    Who has stopped other players in the market to look into the future and bring that futuristic piece of Technology today ?

    Infact, Android Devices and App market have started to show signs of fragmentation how do you think it will affect innovation when every one uses the same platform. Evntually most of The hardware manufacturers will be lost in oblivion only top most will survive just like in the PC era. The innovation will be about prices same as what happened with the PC’s. Would you like to live in another mobile-PC era …? except this time its Android instead of Windows.

    Which innovation is google talking about ? Look at the Mac OS X , GNU/Linux and Windows each with its own distinct usage and features.

    Still Which is an undoubtedly superior platform ? Think Again Open could lead to dozen flavours of Android just like GNU/Linux Distributions.

    You keep installing new versions and flavours of linux only to be dissatisfied with one or the other lacking something.

    Look at windows and wealth of applications on windows platform. Think again is “Android: Smart Enough for a SmartPhone ?” Innovation requires more than just Open Platform.

  • Awesome Post!!!
    Widely researched article, but i still assume the war between Iphone and Android will less spark as to PC and Mac.

  • from my experience you tend to choose a side very early on and stick with that brand. For example personally I’m a bit PC fan more than Macs but love my iPhone over the android platform.
    Besides the iPhone has loads more apps as far as I know

  • Until coming across this article, I have never though about Android vs iPhone to the same extent as Window vs Mac. Come to think of it, I don’t think we will ever see a bigger contest than Window vs Mac. Maybe Google vs Bing but that’s pretty one-sided.

  • Great post, but i don’t think iPhone and Android are on the same level like Win and Mac, maybe i’m wrong but this is just my opinion.

  • Re: Pricing Overhang

    In my opinion, Apple products are still way overpriced considering. Especially when it comes to laptops vs mac books… where you can purchase a laptop of equal spec to the mac book, at half the price.

    When it comes to iphones and ipad type devices, Apple really is the market leader when it comes to innovation and mass market appeal… but again you are paying a high price

  • I don’t know how to differentiate Apple Iphone from Android. But what I can say about Iphone is it is very basic when it comes to messages or SMS, it has low quality or not even working bluetooth (I don’t know why this happens and how to fix this). But what I like about it is whatever application you would load or put to your phone and no matter how large is the size, it will work still fast and high quality. And also the music..

  • Kevin

    Mac: I’ve been raised on a DOS platform with a Commodore, later on I was given Microsoft’s 3.1 platform and so forth. Once I started working towards a graphic extend my education forced me on a Mac platform still the earlier versions of MacOS, at home I still had a high pc config with which I was very happy. The MacOS 10 plus Lion announced look very promising. But then again Win7 is running smoother then any Microsoft OS so far. I think there will allways be a market for these two platforms, and both OS systems will learn and reïntegrate from eachother.

    Android: I wasn’t a fan in the beginning. Having experience with an Ipod and how smooth it runs could often lead to frustrations on android. So I didn’t check up on it until I had a tablet on android in my hands. After a couple of days of tweaking stuff out and seeing how much support from the community there is out there, my interest got peaked. As of this point I see a reasonable big community out there for Android. It might not topple Ipad or Iphone on a mobile OS just yet. But opensource has earned their stripes aswell promoting an open envirement will attract people to tinker with programming some will be unsucceful but many eyes with create something better.
    Also Flash support is in my book of importance! I can understand Apple’s choice of not suporting it memorywise and all. But in the past they made choices like these aswell some planned out others did not. When I see a promoting of html5, which in essence ain’t bad at all, I see that maybe a wrong choice is made there. HTML 5 is still in it’s infancy, in maybe 2 years maybe even longer it could catch up with Flash eventually but by that time Adobe might have ironed out there memory issues and it might have progressed even further. Small recap I think that both OS systems will earn their stripes and probably will eventually be as MacOS and Microsoft in the end both sharing the market. Sometimes one will have a bigger share of it then the other.

    only the future will tell

  • The iPhone simply carries with the the Apple brand which appears to permit them to charge substantially more for the same quality of phone. If you look at the technical specifications of both items then the Android is certainly fit to stand as a competitor. The thing is that such purchases are often heavily influenced by peer pressure, as such whichever handset gets the first hold of the market can enjoy an exponential growth making it far harder for other brands coming to market. In this case Android seems to suffer the following “reasoned argument why the android is better” – “yeah but it’s not an iPhone”

  • Cam

    It is surprising how important the relative success of a platform is to people. Google bought Android Inc in 2005 because they identified with the idea that there should be an “open” platform for mobile phones and that it should be based on one of the most popular “open” platforms for PC, Linux. Google benefits from users of Android being exposed to their other products, not from the sale. Android can not really be compared with Microsoft Windows in the 1980s.

    The primary parallel I draw between Mac vs PC and iPhone vs Android is in both cases, Apple are using the hardware-software coupling approach.

    There are numerous advantages and disadvantages to this approach with respect to the success of the software platform. One of the advantages is complete control over the user experience and this has been one of the key factors contributing to iOS’s incredible success.

    When you’re interested in raw market share (with Mac vs PC circa 1985, you were; Android vs iOS, perhaps not) Apple cannot gain/maintain dominance with their hardware and software coupled. Android has flooded the market with phones that hit any price point (taking up the shelf space). It is too difficult for iOS to prevail when consumers have so many additional, seemingly equivalent options. This worked when iPhone first launched and there were practically no touch screen phones on the market. No amount of marketing prowess will convince consumers to choose the iPhone every time. My friend bought a Motorola Droid and I don’t think she even knows what Android is.

  • Of course it isn’t Mac vs Windows.

    Its Mac vs Google, much worse in my opinion!

  • GTA

    Apple’s IOS is an original and Android is a copy. It was hastily put together and buggy and resource hungry. Multi-tasking is not rocket-science , neither was it invented by google. Apple has made it work in the confines of a mobile environment. It is the very essence of Apple – to take an idea and make it work beautifully and seemlessly. The controlled ecosystem of Apple is its strength.

    I had a brief experience with Android, and it was enough to make me realize what a mess it really is. It will be very difficult for google to get out of this mess and very frustrating for hardware vendors to make money out of it.

  • Matt A.

    Cheers for Android crowd, the results are in:

    The trend is alarming (or should be, for Apple).

    Not withstanding the religious wars similar to Mac/PC, it seems Apple will soon have to deal with “deja vu all over again”, again…..

  • Yes, Mac Versus Google is what it is. Windows already had the mobile game before them both.