Why Android has a reason to be paranoid

September has been bad news for Android, which now has Apple's iPhone 5 and Nokia's Lumia 920 to contend with. And with the launch of Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 set for October, next month is looking tougher still.
Written by Ben Woods, Contributor

August and September have been pretty challenging months for Android; there are now two new range-topping handsets in the market that weren't there just a few weeks ago — the iPhone 5 and the Lumia 920.

Even so, October will be worse, especially when it comes to the Android on tablets. 

Has the sheen come off Android?

While Android-based handsets are selling relatively well for some manufacturers — most notably Samsung — it's no secret that Android-based tablet penetration is paltry in comparison to Apple's iPad.

Tim Cook didn't miss the opportunity to mock Android tablet makers at the launch of the iPhone 5, pointing out that the iPad has 68-percent tablet market share and accounts for 91 percent of tablet web traffic:

"I don't know what these other tablets are doing," Cook said. "They must be in warehouses or on store shelves or maybe in someone's bottom drawer."

While big name handsets such as the Galaxy S III are few and far between, thanks to the attractive licensing terms Android continues to attract a lot of low and mid-market licensees, which will likely to carry on for the foreseeable future.

But it's the high-end tablets and handsets that sell the low-to-mid range devices — people want the best but can perhaps only afford the next model or so down.

As such, in terms of smartphone handsets, the launch of the iPhone 5 and Nokia Lumia 920 has taken a lot of the limelight away from the most recent big name Android annoucements, such as the higher-end models seen at IFA, like the Sony Xperia T, or (at a stretch) the Galaxy Note II. In between there has been a host of middling device launches too — such as the HTC Desire X.

Pincer movement

Android is caught in a pincer movement — iPhone 5 and Lumia 920 on one side, Windows 8 and Microsoft Surface on the other side.

Indeed, Android's real problem will be the release of Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 operating systems next month; while manufacturers could struggle to offer Windows 8 tablet devices running at the same price point as a bargain-basement Android tablet, I expect the Microsoft devices to be more appealing in many ways.

Windows 8 will add to this challenge by providing consumers with a brand they recognise and by offering enterprises devices that are easily integrated

As Apple's Tim Cook pointed out, there certainly isn't a shortage of Android tablets on the market but people aren't really buying them. Windows 8 will add to this challenge by providing consumers with a brand they recognise and by offering enterprises devices that are easily integrated into existing systems and services. And we don't even know how Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 will work together yet.

Another way to look at it is: what does an Android tablet (or even iOS) offer that a Windows tablet can't? I'm still struggling to answer this question.

Now switch it around and consider what a Windows-based tablet (whether RT or Pro) can offer a consumer or business that an Android tablet can't. Now that's an easier question to answer.

For me Android has lost its sheen and the most exciting platforms out there are Microsoft's mobile and desktop offerings, and BlackBerry 10. That said BlackBerry 10 won't be worrying anyone (except RIM) for a while.

October is unlikely to be a make-or-break month for Android, but in a battle for consumer and enterprise buyers' hearts and minds, Google will have a fight on its hands.

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