Game of Smartphones: Why neither Apple nor Google can win this war with China

While Cupertino and Mountain View are enjoying their war of attrition over handset market share, a chilling wind comes blowing from Shenzen.
Written by Jason Perlow, Senior Contributing Writer
Image: HBO/ZDNet

How about that season six finale of Game of Thrones? Awesome, right? Ok, no spoilers here. But if you haven't watched it and are considerably behind, consider binging the show over this long holiday weekend.

I see a lot of parallels between Game of Thrones and the technology industry. In fact, a lot of tech industry opinion you see on the Internet nowadays is analogous to the fandom surrounding the show -- there are all kinds of theories regarding what is likely to happen, who is going to get wiped out next, which player is going to come out on top, et cetera.

As it relates to the mobile tech industry, a lot of the theories of who is going to beat whom and how they are going to do it are as fanciful as the idea of a dragon-flying army of half-naked Valyrian she-warriors wielding giant broadswords coming back through a time portal in order to destroy the Lannisters before they can seize the Iron Throne, thus altering future history.

Dude it just ain't gonna happen. But sign me up to write the script for HBO.

I realize it is fun to watch the seemingly never-ending Google versus Apple "war" and micro-analyze every single OS and product release and predict how some upcoming minor feature or technology advancement gives one party the edge over another.

For geeks this is spectator sport. We revel in the shedding of blood, the incestuous litigation, the public feuds. We enjoy watching our despised and beloved products and our most disliked or favored vendors get hammered or succeed in the marketplace.

It's not unlike how we've been subjected to the entire main plot line of Game of Thrones for six years, which involves competing houses fighting for supremacy and ultimate possession of the Iron Throne.

So much wasted effort by dramatis personae, only to get their hopes and lives dashed so quickly. Watching the balance of power between families shift back and forth.

All while unbeknownst to most of the characters, a giant army of Ice Zombies approaching from beyond The Wall prepares to kill them all.

And yeah, I realize the pretty blonde with three full grown dragons, a huge army of Unsullied and Dothraki barbarians and a massive fleet of Iron Island warships is coming across the Narrow Sea. But stay with the analogy for the moment.

The Giant Freakin' Army of Ice Zombies, or the Wights, led by the White Walkers, were created millennia ago by the Children of the Forest during their war against the First Men. The White Walkers create more zombies from people their army conquers.

They are WMDs, or Westerosi of Mass Destruction.

Basically they got an endless supply of zombies. They are a renewable resource. Are you following me?

Like the Children of the Forest who created the White Walkers, Google created Android and the device OEM business that goes along with it.

They open sourced it. It's out there. It's extremely unlikely, because of the massive developer bad will it would generate, but Google could certainly close-source future versions of it.

However the genie is out of the bottle, and Android Open Source Project (AOSP) could be forked as a derivative work. Endless amounts of Android devices can be made by third parties without Google having any say in it.

Sure, they could make their own Uber-Nexus, go to market with that to try to distract from all that Android fragmentation, and do magical things to try to steal market share away from Apple. That seems like a strong possibility.

That would be an interesting battle to watch, but it ain't gonna stop the Giant Freaking Army of Ice Zombies. And when I mean Ice Zombies I mean extremely competent and powerful Chinese manufacturing giants such as Huawei, Xiaomi, and ZTE. And instead of the North they're coming from Shenzen.

By the way, these Ice Zombie smartphones are pretty damn impressive. I embrace my Ice Zombie overlords. Sign me up, the health benefits alone are extremely attractive.

And Apple? I'm pretty sure Apple already knows about the Ice Zombies, they know the iPhone business is in a slow decline, and they know they can continue to make money from a loyal customer base for some time to come.

But they know they can't defeat the Ice Zombies. If they go to war with the Giant Freaking Army of Ice Zombies, they are toast.

They know most people can't afford to pay $600 for a smartphone. If a perfectly viable alternative exists for $200, most consumers are going to opt for that instead. They know they are a luxury goods manufacturer. They know they have pretty much maxed out market share for what they have, and they are in maintenance mode.

Most people can't afford to buy luxury goods, and no amount of fan theories about iPhone 7/8 or fantasy Google Uber-Nexi by a bunch of millennial hack tech bloggers who don't know their heads from their asses about large scale manufacturing or supply chain management or basic economics is going to change that.

China is going to transform the mobile industry landscape. That much is certain. Apple and Google and its most favored Android OEMs are living on borrowed time. The Ice Zombies are going to lay waste to the current smartphone industry, and nothing is going to stop them --regardless of who ends up in the Iron Throne in Washington in November.

The only defense Apple and Google has -- and my bet is on Apple to be the one that figures it out first -- is innovation, and moving on to the next thing, and creating a new market entirely before that one is also mowed down by the Ice Zombies.

What market is that? It could be wearables. It could be augmented and virtual reality. It could be the next wave of IoT. All I know is it isn't smartphones.

The Ice Zombies are always going to be there. The Ice Zombies were always there. Now they are mobilized, and they are more enabled than ever.

Who is ready for the Ice Zombies? I'm going to start taking courses in Zombinese. Talk Back and Let Me Know.

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