Rise of the robot… well, Android to be specific…


Android will win the mobile OS war…

…there, I’ve said it. I love my iPhone, and so do millions of people worldwide, but it’s going to lose the mobile OS war.

Not because Android has the best user experience, it doesn’t. Not because it has the most apps, it doesn’t. But because Google understands one thing: it’s not quality but quantity that counts.

Android LogoAndroid is an open source Operating System (OS), meaning that anyone can pick it up, play with it, and deploy on their mobile device. As a result Samsung, Motorola and HTC are already onboard: any one of these three manufacturers is competition for Apple, let alone all three together. In units produced they’ll simply swamp Apple.

It’s exactly the same battle that Microsoft and Apple fought 20 years ago, and we know who won then. Microsoft’s product appealed to the largest number of developers who created a cornucopia of applications, from freeware to shareware to paid software, giving the end-user a real choice. Apple, whilst maintaining strict quality control, would only ever have a small developer community, and thus, less choice.

Apple should be flattered, in both cases the competition have followed their lead: Windows copied Mac OS and Android copied iOS (the iPhone’s operating system). But in the end, Apple, in their search for perfection, will again be overtaken by the mob.

There are predictions that Android will overtake iOS by 2012. I think it will be sooner.

Of course, there are other players in the market. Symbian still leads the pack, but is for all intents and purposes the sole domain of Nokia. Then there is Palm’s WebOS, which was recently bought by HP. WebOS has been in decline for a number of years, I don’t expect to see it make a recovery without significant investment. Finally there is RIM, known for the Blackberry. They have a very large corporate following, but are starting to lag behind because of the robust, but basic, user experience they offer. As with WebOS, it will take some investment to start to slow the rise of Android and iOS as serious business systems. Together, Android and iOS make up 25% of Smartphone sales, growing rapidly where their competitors are losing market share, but they also account for 65% of mobile page views and 67% of mobile internet and app usage; far outweighing the competition (see slide 12 of Morgan Stanley’s Internet Trends 2010 research for more information).

So what does this mean to Marketers?

Mobile is the marketplace of the future, there’s no doubt about that. In the short-term a fractured market is going to make things more complicated, with multiple major mobile operating systems to support, but long term it’s going to help as the shakedown of the players leads to a dominant set. iOS is the current ‘beau’, but the Android is moving. Preparing now and developing the ability to deliver slick and focused applications will pay dividends for marketers and clients alike. Get ready for the rise of the robot…

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