May 22, 2012

Google Android Will Win the Marathon

This article originally appeared in the May 2012 issue of Next Gen Mobility magazine.

There is no question that Apple leads the industry in many ways: beautiful design; easy to use operating system; an eye toward integrated product offerings, to name a few. But in terms of market share, Google Android (News - Alert) is the undisputed leader. More importantly, Google is securely set up to continue this dominance for the foreseeable future.

In the three-month period that ended in February, Android grew more than 3 percent to capture 50 percent of U.S. smartphone subscribers, according to comScore’s most recent statistics. That’s over twice as fast as Apple, which has 30 percent of the U.S. market.

You could accurately say that Apple is reaping more profits than anyone in the industry right now because of Apple’s sole ownership of its platform and devices, as well as excellent management of its supply chain. You could also say that some consumers have more emotional attachment to Apple products, probably because they are design-driven. For any single phone or tablet Apple may be on top, but if you are looking at overall market share, then Android is killing Apple.

Chris Anderson’s “Long Tail” and the theory that we live in a world of niches are very applicable here. Consumers are becoming more active at seeking out things that fit their needs. As they see more variation in mobile devices, they will seek the devices that meet their needs. Android is in a position to aggregate the market and serve this long tail.

If my primary interest is being able to read the news on my phone, I want a phone with a bigger display, that loads faster and is perhaps a bit thinner than the iPhone. The Samsung (News - Alert) Galaxy Note easily fits this bill. With Android, consumers can purchase a device that matches their specific needs, specifications and details. With iPhone, consumers get the exact same thing that everyone else already has.

If Apple has always been about building something that’s beautiful, but limited in its features and products, Apple isn’t going to serve the needs of an ever-expanding set of niche markets. What it will do is allow Apple to maintain a position as one of the leaders in the industry, and because of its ownership and excellent management of its supply chain, Apple most likely will be the most profitable within its industry for some time to come.

But Apple won’t have the highest market share. Android is going to continue to aggregate most of the rest of the marketplace, which is a more powerful position to be in. Saying that Apple will overtake Android is like going back to 2001 and saying that Borders will overtake Amazon. There is no chance that Android or something like Android isn’t going to be around filling that space in the market.

Don’t get me wrong; the Apple ecosystem is powerful one. Apple is fervently pulling together hardware and software and working toward seamless integration of the iCloud, iPad, iPhone, MacBook and Apple TV. But, Google (News - Alert) isn’t a hardware company, and isn’t trying to become one. Google is an information company. Thinking, for example, that Google purchased Motorola (News - Alert) to get into hardware is erroneous. Google purchased Motorola’s portfolio for its patents to be in a greater position to defend Android; Motorola’s hardware division was just the dessert course.

So while Apple is integrating hardware and software for a seamless user experience between devices, Google is building an ecosystem around information and accessing that information with ease.

Google amasses an incredible amount of information, from Google Maps to Google Local and acquisitions, like Google’s recent purchase of Alfred, a mobile app that recommends restaurants based on preferences and location. Google can apply this information in ways that are incredibly useful for consumers. For example, one of the main uses of smartphones is location-based services, and Google’s information inroads makes it easier for you to find things while you’re on the go. Arguably, Apple is in the trailing position in this respect, and they are merely trying to catch up.

The mobile industry can be a fickle one, subject to fashion, trend and evolving consumer needs. Apple produces a stable, quality product with little variation, and for now, these products make up mainstream fashion. Android devices are adaptable, produced in any form factor any OEM determines will be demanded by consumers; it’s this variety that sets Google up to aggregate the market and change as the industry changes. Layering in the fact that Google has dramatically more users and information, Google will easily outpace Apple in the marathon.

Kevin Ross is founder and president of Metova (, a software company that develops custom mobile applications for smartphone and tablet platforms, including Android, iOS, BlackBerry and Windows Phone (News - Alert) 7. This piece is a Counterpoint to this month’s Look, No Wires, on page 4.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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Rich Tehrani,
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