Whoa. Now there’s long-winded title. And as a disclaimer I should probably mention that I’m as anti-Google as they come and none to pleased to report this, however, It is a conclusion that I’ve arrived at in the last few days.
The iPhone is wonderful, right? The best thing out… it’s “changed everything” (again) and we should all be grateful, right? It has, after all, ushered in an age where capacitive touch-screen goodness now invades all our lives, where most people carry a prop from Star Trek- The Next Generation and everyone has “an app for that.” Wonderful.
Except you can only buy an iPhone from Apple, and if you want the lastest iPhone you are going to have to put up with their obvious design flaw (even to the point of applying some Heath Robinson solution) if you want all those apps, music and the kudos you will get from owning the damn thing. Every iPhone has been a little bit pony, lets admit. They’ve only just caught up with people wanting to shoot video(!) on their phone, a feature everyone has been taking for granted for about five years for the gods’ sakes. In their favour, they had everyone talking about it, they had the momentum from the iPod and they had a smartphone with ease-of-use, a corporate-guaranteed application store and a hell of a lot of goodwill as the company that had stood up to ‘evil’ Microsoft for all those years.
Then along comes Android. Unlike Apple, Google didn’t start building phones themselves. They built a touchscreen smart phone operating system and started licensing it out to already-established mobile manufacturers like Sony, Samsung and HTC. They introduced competition into their market, taking a leaf from Microsoft’s early wins against Apple, Atari and Commodore. All the companies building Android phones are competing against each other to build the best phone, so if Samsung drop the ball with some dire design flaw, then all the better for HTC, and if Sony introduce an Android with a HD screen then the other manufacturers will rush to fit HD screens to their handsets in a similar way to Dell offering one deal and one spec. PC against HP’s deal on another PC (running the same OS) and so on. Like Windows for PCs, Google are seeking to make Android ubiquitous. With that, you get the Android Market (all the safety of Apple’s App Store without being tied to it), the ease-of-use AND a choice of handsets at different prices and different specifications.
Or, you could buy an iPhone4.
So what of Microsoft? Well, considering that the business model for MS-DOS and Windows is the same business model that Google have copied for Android, you would expect Microsoft -already having a well-established (albeit small) chunk of the smartphone market- to be seeking to beat Google on their own home turf. However, in a strangely arse-about-face way of doing things Microsoft are heading for an App store, and although they are not building the phones themselves they are demanding ‘Bing Buttons’ and god knows what other strictures on the hardware the the manufacturers can provide. They are trying, in effect, to out-Apple Apple (while behind their very backs Google out-Microsoft THEM) and all without the goodwill, the fashion or the newness in the field that Apple brought with their phones and on top of that they seem to have competely abandoned their business market- those little stylus gizmos you sign for DHL etc. deliveries on are largely Windows CE or WM6.x PPCs- who will happily move on once the machines they are using become obselete. Microsoft have gone from practically inventing smartphones to being a busted flush.
The iPhone will go the way of the Commodore Amiga. They led the way, but as Google sit back and watch the cash roll in while the electronics manufacturers do all the hard work for them competing with each other with a better device coming out every couple of months, Apple will not only have to design an OS but build a machine to compete against that onslaught. How many iPhones do you think they can release in a year to keep up? And even if they did how long do you think they’d keep their user base? Google is going to wipe the floor with them,and this is even before the iPad-beating Android tablets start to arrive in earnest.
Not that this is a Good Thing, mind you. I’ve noticed a few scary things with regards to privacy on my Android and I’ve only had it a couple of weeks, and everyone in the world having Google in their pocket is a sobering thought. But its the way its going to be. Apple and MS have painted themselves into a corner and until a serious contender rears its head, or Apple license their mobile OS, that’s the way its going to be.