Why Android won

Why Android won

Summary: The OS wars in the mobile space appear to be over and there are two left standing, the iPhone and Android, a Linux distro.

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TOPICS: Open Source
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The LiMo Foundation and GNOME sent out a press release this week touting their cooperation and the media laughed.

Mean-spirited? Yes. Snarky? You betcha. But filled with real truthiness. (Image from the LiMo Foundation.)

The OS wars in the mobile space appear to be over and there are two left standing, the iPhone and Android, a Linux distro.

Why is that? Both were very late to the party. Neither came from players experienced in mobile phones. There were many Linux-based phone designs before the Android showed up.

Some theories:

  • Size Matters -- This is always true in a mature market. Once sales leap to the tens or hundreds of millions, it's much harder to overtake a leader grown fat on the market. You either have something really different, do a cheap copy, or you put out the big bucks.
  • Monopolies are stupid -- So are the people who get fat doing business with them. Cellular carriers are government-approved licenses to print money, and always have been. The companies they choose to let supply them become just as fat and stupid on that business as they are.
  • Altruism -- Giving away control to the stupid manufacturers and carriers was essential to Android's success. Without that control the fools wouldn't commit. And without Apple taking in money like Kevin James eating at an AYCE Braves' game they still would not have moved.
  • Good Enough -- Very early-on Android delivered a design that was directly competitive with the iPhone, something that could be turned into a device that looked, felt, and even worked like the iPhone, right down to its "apps" metaphor.
  • Not Invented Here -- Devotion to an early idea, especially one that worked, creates inertia and can make it impossible for even the largest company to make progress in other markets.

Groups like LiMo, and Symbian, OpenMoko, Microsoft and even Palm's WebOS all made one or more of these mistakes. Some were too small, others too greedy. Apple had the size to blow by them, and Google had the wisdom to follow in the correct way.

Lesson learned.

Topic: Open Source

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75 comments
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  • RE: Why Android won

    and yet the majority of the enterprise market still uses Blackberry and to a lesser extent Windows mobile
    jfp
    • RE: Why Android won

      @jfp You're right in that the Blackberry still has substantial market share. That's falling. And Windows Mobile is barely in the game -- they're falling like a stone.

      As smart phones geared to Internet access replace older devices that are just phones, Apple and Google are cleaning up, while Blackberry and Windows are fading, with Windows fading faster.
      DanaBlankenhorn
      • And yet Google gives away Android for free

        @DanaBlankenhorn

        I wonder why they would do that? Altruism? Or is it something else? Maybe they realize they can already track user habits and actions across 80% of the web and now they realize that mobile phones are a gateway to track users across the rest of their lives as well. I don't trust any company with as much information as Google is acquiring. Apple may be control freaks, but they are for the most part harmless control freaks playing in their little sandbox and kicking out the kids they don't like.

        Google on the other hand is amassing way too much information. Google's database has rapidly expanded to encompass more current information than any other entity in the history of the world has ever possessed. If information is power and absolute power corrupts absolutely, what does that mean for Google moving forward? They already have the potential to make Microsoft at their worst look like an altar boy.
        2drinks
      • RE: Why Android won

        @DanaBlankenhorn The other day I had a dream that Microsoft and HP will work together to bring WebOS to the forefront. In that dream, Windows Mobile ceased to exist. (Seriously, it was a dream).
        asg749d@...
      • RE: Why Android won

        @DanaBlankenhorn 2 thoughts:

        1) Your perspective is too small. I admit the US is normally ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to technology. I'm in the UK but I read US tech sites and listen to US podcasts. However in terms of the global market the US is becoming smaller and smaller. Nokia own the continents of Asia and Africa. Although they are behind in terms of software technology, that kind of size makes them a sleeping giant. If they wake up and make the right choices they could be back in the game. Which takes me to my second thought...

        2) It far too early to make the kind of call that you have. We are at the very beginning of mobile tech / cloud orientated revolution and it's going to be many years before it matures to the state of, for example, the PC market where we have stable big players.
        jamfuse
      • RIM isn't out yet

        @DanaBlankenhorn
        The newest (yet to be released) Blackberry has pretty much everything the iPhone has. And in many areas, thanks to Blackberry's push technology, the blackberry is gaining ground, not losing it. For business use, Blackberry remains the front-runner by far, but it's now making inroads into the consumer market.

        I'd say, now that we've eliminated the weaker teams, let the play-off begin!
        mheartwood
      • RE: Why Android won

        @DanaBlankenhorn

        Oh, can I manage an Android like a BlackBerry these days? Can I remotely manage EVERY SETTING on an Android, the same way I do with BlackBerry? Can I force an Android device to redirect all the Internet traffic through our company firewall/proxy without opening an incoming port on my firewall??

        And you do know that RIM's next browser will be based on WebKit right?

        You might be right in the consumer-space, but in the Enterprise-market, BlackBerry is still king.

        But I must admit, the way you make up your own reality is just ... wow!
        sithlord2
    • enterprise may soon not have a choice or need to specify

      @jfp I don't think Blackberry will survive the next hardware refresh. It may very well do it, but Blackberry will need to at least feel like it's a competitor even if it currently "just works".
      crythias
      • When was last time FOSS declaring themselves NOT a winner?

        *yawning*
        LBiege
      • RE: Why Android won

        @crythias

        I tried surfing the web on my sister's blackberry. Within seconds, I knew that was a deal breaker. I TRIED to make it work, but it just couldn't render properly.

        This was after the iPhone, but I think it might have been before the G1, or maybe it was just after. Android was definitely not on my mind at the time. I knew about the release of the G1, but when it failed to make a huge splash, I decided to come back to Android later. Then, when Google and Verizon announced their partnership, that's when I started reading up on everything Android.

        Now, I have a Motorola Droid overclocked to 1 Ghz, running 2.2 Froyo.

        And the web experience is really what propelled the smartphone space, and made the iPhone the groundbreaking device it was. *Most* of the internet in your pocket.
        midenginedrift
      • RE: Why Android won

        @crythias RIM's new OS coming in the new hardware refresh is compelling. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0SBdtsD4vk
        asg749d@...
      • RE: Why Android won

        OpenMoko and Microsoft and even<a href="http://www.fermatelapioggia.net/"><font color="light&amp;height"> about it</font></a> is bank that <a href="http://www.cuentosdemascotas.com/"><font color="light&amp;height">website</font></a> attacked from the <a href="http://www.ilyasipeudendroitsconfortables.com/"><font color="light&amp;height">site support</font></a> from any soldier <a href="http://www.greengrrlsecoadventure.com/"><font color="light&amp;height">site</font></a> to the light <a href="http://godtoldmetokilltheenglish.com/"><font color="light&amp;height">home page</font></a> is great Palms
        gorians
    • Because they put emphasis on integration

      @jfp <br><br>with Microsoft software. Not desktop Windows, because that does not require integration beyond syncing capabilities, but with Exchange and Office. Android apps are still not 100% there with that, and until they are that will hold them back. But when they do get there, I would not be surprised to see the enterprise make the move as well, considering the price advantages of Android phones over Blackberry and Windows Mobile plus the better hardware choice.
      Michael Kelly
      • Not really true that Android isn't "there" with Exchange

        @Michael Kelly I switched from a Samsung i760 with Windows Mobile 6.1 to a Motorola Droid with Android 2.0 (then updated to 2.1 and now hacked and running 2.2). I actually find that I get better integration with Exchange on Android than I did on Windows Mobile. It is much easier to configure and Android gives me the option to accept SSL certificates from the server - unlike my Samsung + Windows Mobile where I had to manually download and install certificates.

        Microsoft's problem with Windows Mobile is that it has just moved way too slowly. When Android was at version 2.0 and really starting to take off, Microsoft just did Windows Mobile 6.5 which seems to be just a minor refresh. Had they been releasing Windows phone 7 at that time, they may have had somthing. But in the end they will have given Android a whole year (from the release of 2.0) to establish itself unopposed. I say unopposed in that for those of us who do not want to switch to AT&T (ruling out iPhone) there really is no other good choice.
        cornpie
      • The lack of hardware encryption is a HUGE issue

        @Michael Kelly As bad as Apple's "lying iPhones" were, it was also 2 years ago, ancient history in the smartphone world. The fact that Google had the advantage of watching that happen but still doesn't support forcing hardware encryption on the device is pretty inexcusable.

        As for enterprise moving to Android from Blackberry, I'd pose the fact that I haven't seen a big move to Google Docs from Office, despite it's HUGE price advantage
        matthew_maurice
    • RE: Why Android won

      @jfp You forgot to qualify that with "...for now."

      History is changing faster than consumer's 2 year contracts. Also, no doubt the geeks will be on the leading edge, where consumers typically remain where they are comfortable, until the momentum caused by the industry shift finally does carry them in a new direction.

      So yes,
      ...for now.

      Unless you have citable reason to believe otherwise?
      geolemon
    • RE: Why Android won

      @jfp To RIM's credit, they are still enjoying the benefits of having created something that just works from version 1.0 onward. When was the last time we saw a non-apple device work like that and cover all its intended purposes from the get-go? (Disclaimer:I am not an devout apple fan).
      asg749d@...
    • RE: Why Android won

      OpenMoko, Microsoft and even Palm?s
      gorians
  • The race is over in a nascent market?

    According to the chart in <a href=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smartphone>this article</a>, OS market share in the smartphone market is as follows:

    Symbian has 44%
    RIM has 19%
    Apple has 15%
    Android has 10%
    Windows Mobile has 7%
    Linux has 4%
    Other has 1%

    So Android is among the bottom 4 mobile OSs and it has won? Also no one has a monopoly, and the race is over? Dana, you are dreaming. The iPhone came out of the blue and managed to perform strongly in a short time. The Android has also been performing well of late. When you have this much volatility in a market, you cannot declare a winner.
    P. Douglas
    • RE: Why Android won

      @P. Douglas
      This Q1, in Q2 WinMo lost couple of percent points, Android won several. Now look again.
      kirovs@...