Great Debate: More growth ahead for Android, or is it stagnation time?

Moderated by Jason Hiner | October 10, 2011 -- 07:00 GMT (00:00 PDT)

Summary: Can Google's Android operating system continue its push toward mobile domination? James Kendrick and Larry Dignan debate.

James Kendrick

James Kendrick

Android Growth

or

Stagnation

Lawrence Dignan

Lawrence Dignan

Best Argument: Android Growth

The Rebuttal

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Thanks for joining the debate

    James and Larry will post their closing statements tomorrow and I will give my verdict on the winner on Thursday. Remember to vote and post your thoughts in the comments.

    Posted by Jason Hiner

  • Great Debate Moderator

    How open is the ecosystem?

    Is it fair to call Android an open ecosystem, and do consumers care one way or the other?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Open not so much

    I wouldn't call Android a truly open system, but it doesn't matter. Consumers just don't care and it is a non-issue with the majority of the market. Android has grown faster than any other platform in memory no matter whether people think it is open or closed. This is an advantage for Google due to the lack of platform awareness in general.

    James Kendrick

    I am for Android Growth

    No one cares if it's open

    For the record, consumers don't give a hoot about whether an ecosystem is open or not. Apple is controlling and folks seem to like it. Consider it a benevolent dictator of sorts. Android is open, but Google clearly runs the show. I'd call Android an open system and that's why I have complaints with it too. If Android were more locked down perhaps the hardware-software integration would be better. Overall, it's a trade off with any smartphone platform. My bet is that consumers don't care and could drop Android going forward.

    Lawrence Dignan

    I am for Stagnation

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Amazon Kindle Fire

    Is it fair to call the Amazon Kindle Fire an Android tablet? Why or why not?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    It's an Amazon tablet

    Doesn't matter, it's from Amazon and looks like nothing else. That's the impression that consumers will have of it, and given that cheap price they will grab millions of them. This is why Google needs to be thinking Android phones, tablets not so much.

    James Kendrick

    I am for Android Growth

    It's an Amazon tablet

    I think it's a stretch to call the Fire an Android tablet. The Kindle Fire OS is so customized that you could call it Amazon's World. If Amazon moves the Android market share figures it should have an asterisk by it. But the price, business model for Amazon will make the Fire a hit. As a Prime subscriber I already ordered one and plan to watch video, read magazines and check out comic books. I'm already entrenched in the Amazon ecosystem, so it's a no brainer for me at $199. I don't think you can call it an Android tablet given that all the spoils will go to Amazon not Google.

    Lawrence Dignan

    I am for Stagnation

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Android tablet expectations

    We came into 2011 thinking Android tablets were going to invade like an army and potentially overrun the iPad. There have been a lot of Android tablets coming to market, but adoption has been slow and Android 3.0 Honeycomb hasn't received rave reviews. Do you consider Android tablets a disappointment and, if so, do you expect the situation to turn around soon?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    It all comes down to Ice Cream Sandwich

    I am in agreement with Larry about Honeycomb, I find it is a mess. Google decided that the tablet version of Android needed to be more desktop-like, and in fact I think the opposite is true. I use Honeycomb tablets and they work fine, but they don't "feel right". That's not good, and I think along with price the main reason that they aren't selling in greater numbers. Ice Cream Sandwich can't come soon enough for the tablet space, and Google needs to hit a home run with it. Unfortunately based on what we're beginning to hear it may just be an incremental update over Honeycomb. That would be a very bad thing.

    James Kendrick

    I am for Android Growth

    I was on the Android army bandwagon

    And then fell off after a month or so. I'd say that Android tablets have been a disappointment, but as I noted before it's all about the price. At $250 I'll put up with a lot less refinement than at $499. At $99 I'll even get a tablet with no future in the HP TouchPad. If Android tablet pricing falls enough there will be share and a rebound. However, Android on tablets got off to a rough start and that's hard to overcome. There will be no money for hardware makers. The likes of HTC, Motorola, Samsung can't compete with Apple's supply chain and sure can't charge a premium. Microsoft may be the luckiest company on earth. It missed the tablet market by a country mile and there's no one stepping up to be No. 2 in the market.

    Lawrence Dignan

    I am for Stagnation

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Android tablet penetration

    Okay, let's talk tablets, because I know you both have some strong opinions there. First of all, how much of the market do you think Android tablets own, because there are reports of up to 20-25%, but Comscore just released numbers saying the iPad accounts for 97% of all web browsing from tablets? What gives?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    May not be a tablet market for Android

    Tablets are the big question when it comes to Android. There may not be a large market for non-iPad tablets that I can see. The big OEMs can sell some Android tablets through marketing, but not in any numbers sufficient to be very profitable. I believe the Android tablet market share is somewhere between the 3% and 20% mentioned. My gut feeling is it is toward the lower end of that range. I can count the number of Android tablets I have seen out in public on two fingers over months. While we are preoccupied with tablets, it's important to realize that Android as a platform doesn't need them at all. Look at all those smartphone activations taking place daily.

    James Kendrick

    I am for Android Growth

    I'll put this delicately

    Android tablets to date suck for the price. Force closes, lack of tablet specific apps and pricing has kept the Android army at bay in the tablet market. However, in a year I'll give Android tablets 35% share, maybe 40%. I won't count that share as a victory though. Why? Amazon's Kindle, which has an old version of Android that's customized out the wazoo, will drive tablet share. It's almost comical that old Android for phones is trumping Android Honeycomb for tablets. Android tablets are fine if you've never played with an iPad. Gmail on an Android tablet is a killer app. Unfortunately Google hasn't stepped up to the plate on tablet apps for Android. At the end of the day, price is all that matters. When Android tablets are all $199 and lower, Android will take share. I'm not paying $499 for an Android tablet. In three years, Android may get more share but all the profits will go to Apple and Amazon. Google gets the search revenue. Hardware makers are toast.

    Lawrence Dignan

    I am for Stagnation

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Android's loyalty question

    How much are consumers conscious of buying Android phones? How much loyalty does Android have? Are people more loyal to Google or the hardware makers (HTC, Samsung, Motorola, etc.)?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    First time consumer ignorance is a plus

    I have seen firsthand that in the mainstream consumers have no knowledge of Android. While this means little platform loyalty, it is a good thing as it is not competing with anything as one. Instead of one platform against a couple of other platforms, it is dozens of compelling phones against a handful. The average consumer is entering into buying decisions based on the phones alone. While that strategy plays a role in the oft-chided update situation, it undeniably leads to Android being a success in the global market. It's the biggest reason for RIM's losing so much share to Android (lots of phones). It's hard to fight something your customers aren't aware of. Android isn't the driving force in the consumer space, it's the fact that good smartphones are released constantly that attract buyers. That an enviable position for Google and Android.

    James Kendrick

    I am for Android Growth

    Loyalty is THE big unknown

    I think the Android loyalty question is the great unknown at the moment. We'll know more as contracts expire and the iPhone winds up at all carriers. If I had to pick one, I'd say the loyalty lies with Google services. Can anyone really tell the difference between HTC, Motorola or Samsung? Aside from annoying overlays and UI tweaks, they're all the same to me. The other wrinkle is the carrier. I'm on Android because Verizon bet the farm on the OS before it got the iPhone. There were no other choices really. So in my case, my loyalty is with the carrier. That is playing out again due to 4G/LTE connectivity. I don't sense a ton of Android loyalty. It's not like a cult or anything. Over time I'd bet against Android loyalty. It's a commodity OS and often acts that way.

    Lawrence Dignan

    I am for Stagnation

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Is Apple poised to grab some Android converts?

    Apple's iPhone 4S + iOS5 + iCloud is hotly debated as a significant upgrade or a minor iteration. Does it open the door for more Android gains, or will it potentially win over a significant number of first generation Android users to Apple's side?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    The faithful will stay home

    I don't see a lot of iOS users dropping it and jumping to Android. That is a largely satisfied customer base that is happy to stay home. The strength of Android's staggering growth is that it happened irrelevant to what was going on in the iOS camp. Android and iOS have been going along merrily side-by-side without impacting each other much, and I think that will continue. Don't forget that while iCloud is new to the iOS world, Android has worked with the cloud since almost the beginning. It's one of the platform's strengths; unbox an Android phone and have all of your information on it in just a few minutes.

    James Kendrick

    I am for Android Growth

    Apple needs an Android-iOS challenge

    I think Apple can win over Android users in a taste test. However, the lack of LTE for Apple's iOS is a problem. For me, that's my only hang-up. I'm annoyed with Android a little more every day, but I may stick with it just because of Verizon's 4G network. It's a conundrum over what you value. Apple took preorders for 1 million iPhone 4S devices and when you add in a few more carriers I don't see how iOS doesn't hurt Android for a few points of share. Another thing: Apple's new pricing has a "free" iPhone 3GS with a two-year contract. That will fend off Android in the prepaid market.

    Lawrence Dignan

    I am for Stagnation

  • Great Debate Moderator

    A looming showdown with Windows Phone 7?

    Windows Phone 7 plays the same platform game as Android and has many of the same hardware partners, is it a threat to Android long-term? Could the Motorola buy push HTC and Samsung to WP7?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Maybe a teeny-tiny one, maybe not

    As long as Android partners make money, they will remain loyal to the platform for the most part. The cost of using Android is minimal compared to licensing Windows Phone, and that will always be a factor with partners. Don't forget how big the Android Market has become, as apps play a big role with smartphone owner satisfaction. Windows Phone has shown the ability to attract a decent number of apps to its Market, but it pales in comparison to that of Android. Developers are not going to drop Android any time soon, given that vast target market. It is also important to remember that Google is not playing the platform game like Microsoft. MSFT's sole results with Windows Phone is determined by how many licenses it sells to partners, whose profitability is tied directly to sales of devices. Google is making money off advertising and search, which is highly profitable given the numbers of Android phones in consumers' hands.

    James Kendrick

    I am for Android Growth

    If consumers buy, Windows Phone is dangerous. Big IF

    In the long run, Windows Phone 7 is a threat. Why? Microsoft won't give up and has proven it will keep going no matter how ugly the quagmire gets. Meanwhile, Windows Phone 7 is a nice operating system that I'd rate No. 2 on quality behind iOS. Toss in the fact that other smartphone manufacturers are going to hedge with Microsoft and Windows Phone 7 has a shot. I think the Motorola acquisition if anything pushes that hedging process with Windows Phone. I predict that Windows Phone will at least stall Android a bit. The wild card here is consumers. Will they buy a Windows Phone device? If they do, Microsoft has a valid platform. If not, Android continues its reign. In any case, I don't see how Android winds up with say 60 percent of the market unless Microsoft abandons ship---something that won't happen.

    Lawrence Dignan

    I am for Stagnation

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Android vs. BlackBerry and Nokia

    A lot of Android's growth has come at the expense of BlackBerry and Nokia, will that continue?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    BlackBerry sure, Nokia probably

    I believe so, because nothing is changing in the smartphone space with the exception of the Nokia/ Windows Phone alliance. Android is going to continue to take market share from BlackBerry, which seems unable to get its act together. While Nokia's Windows Phones will undoubtedly attract buyers whenever they finally hit the market, I believe they will take share from RIM more than Android due to the enterprise connection. The Nokia/ Microsoft pact may spell the end for the BlackBerry.

    James Kendrick

    I am for Android Growth

    When in doubt kick RIM and Nokia in the head

    Android will always have RIM to kick around. In fact, the whole industry has RIM to kick around. I see no evidence to argue that RIM will suddenly be formidable. BlackBerry OS 7 is nice, but not enough to do more than keep customers on the line. Nokia is a story of two geographies. In the U.S. Nokia is a no-show and that's likely to continue. Globally Nokia can rise up and ding Android market share. RIM is also strong globally and may do the same. Both Nokia and RIM are messes of the moment. In other words, Android will continue to knock both RIM and Nokia around for a bit longer. Nokia's bet on Windows Phone is also make or break for the company with little in between.

    Lawrence Dignan

    I am for Stagnation

  • Great Debate Moderator

    The Motorola question

    How is Google's purchase of Motorola going to affect the ecosystem, both short term and long term?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Short-term should be OK

    This unexpected move probably will affect the ecosystem to a degree, but I think Google has the right intention with keeping Motorola operating as a separate company. A lot of Android partners will be watching the deal closely when it is consummated, and Google must say/do the right things. The last thing it wants to do is give big players (HTC, Samsung) reason to look around for another platform to test. Android is making these partners so much money now that the risk of this is minimal in the short term, unless Google does something stupid over the long haul. The key is business as before.

    James Kendrick

    I am for Android Growth

    Short term neutral, long term negative

    At this point the Motorola purchase is neutral to negative. In the long run, the Motorola deal is troublesome. On the one hand, Google allayed patent worries since the Motorola deal is really about intellectual property. The negative part comes from a channel conflict. Unless Google dumps hardware, it's an ally and foe to HTC and Samsung. The Motorola deal will send smartphone makers to Windows Phone if only to hedge their bets. Short-term the deal may be a win for Google on the patent front, but the long run looks very murky to me. When Google reports earnings on Thursday rest assured there will be a lot of questions about what Google will do with those 19,000 extra Motorola employees.

    Lawrence Dignan

    I am for Stagnation

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Our Android overlord

    Android is an ecosystem more than a product, has Google proven itself to be a good ecosystem leader?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Sort of

    That's a tough question, Jason. Google hasn't done everything correctly, has even bungled some things like giving up control over updates to telcos and OEMs. I think it has spent a fair chunk of the time at market learning what happens when you have over half a million customer device activations per day. Overall Google has reacted quickly when negative press about the ecosystem has emerged. The updates situation is such an example; Google stepped up at its IO conference this year and got the largest Android players to join a consortium aimed at addressing the helter-skelter update situation. Nothing has been heard of the outcome, but it's making the right moves. Hopefully Google will step up with more content deals with providers. This is a glaring shortcoming in the ecosystem, and one Amazon hopes to take advantage of.

    James Kendrick

    I am for Android Growth

    Overlord cat herder

    Google has herded the cats as well as anyone, but the issue I've heard repeatedly from developers is that the diversity of devices makes developing apps difficult. What works on one device won't on another. Google is in a catch-22. It can take more control of the process---some argue it already has---and be less open. Or it can keep things freewheeling, endure force closes and have the mobile version of Microsoft's driver problems a few years back. There's also an argument that a good ecosystem leader wouldn't allow Android forks.

    Lawrence Dignan

    I am for Stagnation

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Why has Android succeeded?

    Alright, time for the first question. Android came into a crowded market and has skyrocketed to 40% market share in the past 24 months. How has it been so successful?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Good handsets, and lots of them

    I believe it was a combination of giving the market an alternative to the iPhone, along with the lack of clear affiliates globally. This opened the door for mass international adoption, aided by the fact that Google gives it away. The risk to OEMs and telcos was minimal, in an age when that is not the norm. The short time it has taken to get such a large market share was surprising, but due in part to the sheer number of Android handsets that flooded the market. It helped that many of these handsets were state of the art, including dual-core processors and advanced camera optics.

    James Kendrick

    I am for Android Growth

    Here's how it happened...

    Android's market share gains were created by Apple as much as Google. Android came along as right place at right time. Carriers---notably Verizon---needed an anchor OS to fend off Apple, which had an iPhone exclusive at AT&T. In other words, Verizon had to push Android. That was a nice kick start for sure. Android also benefited from Microsoft, which spaced out on the mobile market, and RIM, which also had miscues. Android's success has even surprised Google. Due to incompetence from other smartphone players, Android was the only counterweight to Apple. It's worth noting that carriers now want a No. 3 player to act as a counterweight to Apple and Google. I'm a bit tired of Android and some days think the OS just sucks. I'm almost waiting for an DOS screen to show up on my smartphone.

    Lawrence Dignan

    I am for Stagnation

Talkback

170 comments
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  • RE: Great Debate: More growth ahead for Android, or is it stagnation time?

    while Android has it's issues.. i believe the growth will go on
    Lone Goat
    Reply Vote I'm for Android Growth
    • RE: Great Debate: More growth ahead for Android, or is it stagnation time?

      @Lone Goat There are more: 1)Phone choices with Android! 2) More carrier choices with Android. 3) More free APPS with Android 4) More customization with Android. 5) More updates on OS with Android than with iOs and Windows. 6) More newer phones around with top brands as Samsung and HTC! Go Android!!!
      petite_kj
      Reply 1 Vote I'm Undecided
      • RE: Great Debate: More growth ahead for Android, or is it stagnation time?

        Android growth is already stagnating.<br><br>Androids global sales growth rate dropped to 3 percent in the March 2011 quarter from 7.5 percent in the fourth quarter 2010 and 9.5 percent in the September 2010 quarter. <br><br>CommScore reports Android growth in US smartphone marketshare (where Android growth has been strongest in the developed world to-date) has dropped to 1.9 percent July through to August.<br><br>Android tablet marketshare has already dropped from 34% in Q1 to 26.8% in Q2 are projected to hit 23.0% this quarter according to IDC.<br><br>Kevin, that 550,000 Android smartphone, tablet and other device activations per day sounds great until you realise Apple sold 622,000 iOS devices per day in the 45 days up to October 4th this year - and that was with the year-old iPhone 4.
        marthill
        Reply Vote I'm Undecided
        • RE: Great Debate: More growth ahead for Android, or is it stagnation time?

          Android is still missing in action in the mini-tablet market where vendors such as Archos and Samsung with tablets ranging from 2.7" up to 4" have been unable to make a dent in the complete dominance of the iPod touch which in the Dec 2010 quarter when Apple sold a third as many units as all Android smartphones, tablets and other devices from all manufacturers combined.

          The iOS installed base at 250 million is far larger than Android's 135 million. ComScore reports iOS has 43.1% of the active installed base in the USA in August 2011 versus only 34.1% for Android. The numbers in Europe are even more in favour of Apple with iOS 116% larger than Android.

          All these numbers are however useless if those Android users don't buy more apps and browse more sites and ads than iOS users. The data says they don't. The iPad had 97% web browser share and iOS as a whole had 58.5% browser share in August compared to Android at only 31.9% according to ComScore.
          marthill
          Reply Vote I'm Undecided
        • RE: Great Debate: More growth ahead for Android, or is it stagnation time?

          Nielsen reports that iOS users have 27% more apps than Android users and use them 13% more than Android users. iOS app developers make 18x more income than Android devs according to ABI Research etc. MobClix reports that iOS users are up to 2x more valuable to advertisers than Android users.

          Apple is now capturing 61% of the profit share of the entire cell phone industry.

          All things considered, it is obvious that although Android will maintain a large share of smartphone market unit sales, further growth *is* stagnating and those numbers are not translating into overall platform market share or manufacturer profit share or developer profit share.
          marthill
          Reply Vote I'm Undecided
      • RE: Great Debate: More growth ahead for Android, or is it stagnation time?

        @petite_kj There are also more PROBLEMS with Android. For the end user, that will be the final product of the whole equation on each unique device. Too many PROBLEMS breeds disloyalty. Ask Microsoft about how its still hurting in being trustworthy due to the problems it had with Windows Mobile. While that's mainly a matter of perception, as Windows Phone seemed nice for the short time I used it, it's still a result of the PROBLEMS that were present. Google has to manhandle control of Android back in-house if it wants to keep gaining marketshare. Android is capturing the ignorant right now. Developers like the open feel of it, but can see the light at the end of that tunnel beginning to flicker. While that control should result in fewer crap apps, it will constrain the sense of freedom developers feel they gained by developing for Android. Having used all the major OS's, Android proves to be the most disappointing in the user experience, with Apple and webOS being the least worrisome.
        trollCall
        Reply Vote I'm Undecided
      • RE: Great Debate: More growth ahead for Android, or is it stagnation time?

        @petite_kj More free apps? I am sure you are one of those haters that assumes every apps for iOS costs an arm and a leg but they don't. Do you have any stats to prove this claim or are those irrelevant? More updates? Does an update count if nobody gets it? On iOS devices you are guaranteed to get the updates for at least two years, not so on Android. Number of updates isn't always a good thing either. If you need an update every month that's probably a sign there are numerous issues that are being worked out month by month.<br><br>I will give you the others but more is not always better.
        non-biased
        Reply Vote I'm Undecided
    • RE: Great Debate: More growth ahead for Android, or is it stagnation time?

      @Lone Goat Larry Dignan nailed it. Monopolies always provide better technical service when motivated. Diversity of hardware models is bad for software apps. Single hardware models with few optional hardware features means more and better software at lower costs. The closest Android can come is to create a public database of hardware IDs under GOOGLE administration for universal device/hardware platform description and API registration. Even then software has to read IDs or category code and adapt - far more work than simply using the single hardware solution option Apple provides. In hardware less variety is better.
      wellduh
      Reply Vote I'm Undecided
  • Growth and Refinement

    I agree with Larry that Android does feel rough a times and could use some refinement.
    My concern is that without the growth of an OS like Android or WP we will see a serious stagnation in the mobile world driven by the tenants of Apple.
    With their mindset of "family consumerism" and "Apple Moral Values" we need an area where the "wild west" is open to those who want to expand and have choice - the pioneer spirit if you will.
    Android: let's see where it leads us. It allows me choice.
    rhonin
    Reply Vote I'm for Android Growth
  • RE: Great Debate: More growth ahead for Android, or is it stagnation time?

    The fact that Sprint is adding an iPhone should blunt Android growth just a little in the U.S. (but just a little... this is, after all, Sprint we're talking about here). But still, I just don't see the Android juggernaut slowing down all that much. In the past, Microsoft could leverage its dominance in the enterprise market to push Windows Mobile adoption, but more and more corporate IT departments are allowing users to choose their own Android or iOS phones for work. It remains to be seen whether consumers will choose Windows phones absent a push from IT once said phones become widely available. My suspicions are that Windows Phone will never be a major player in the phone arena. RIM is dying a slow death, gliding irreveribly into irrelevance as smart phones handle e-mail as seamlessly as the Blackberry's of old. And iOS will command a strong, but very gradually diminishing following as users warm up to the much wider range hardware options that Android presents. I can't see iOS dipping below 25% or so of the market in the next 10 years, but I don't see the platform overcoming Android either. And I predict that Android's dominance in the phone market will eventually pave the way for success in the tablet market, too... albeit at a much slower rate than originally predicted.
    dsf3g
    Reply Vote I'm for Android Growth