Firstly let me just say that it’s pretty clear that Apple will sell about a gajillion iPhones in the next few years. I’m not debating that. What I am debating though is whether Apple’s stranglehold on the “actually practical and cool smart phone” market will live forever more.
Quite to the contrary, I predict that one day, Apple will switch to using Android… like they switched to using Intel when the realised that the Intel chips were unquestionably better than the PowerPC chips and they were bound to lose market share if they didn’t jump ship… and JUST like they switched to a unix kernel when they realised how crappy their own one was.
That’s right, I said it.
1. Open Source
Open Source will win any programming battle, eventually. Open Source doesn’t mean a bunch of long haired, unwashed hippies sitting in their basements coding up the next version of sendmail… These days it’s some of the worlds finest developers working at Google and a plethora of the rest of the world’s finest developers working at the various handset manufacturers. All of them with a single goal in life. To make the best mobile platform ever.
Android brings the promise of a truly open platform. Apple doesn’t think this way. They like to limit, enclose, encapsulate and encase anything they possibly can. While Apple’s approach has historically worked for them, the sheer innovative power of the masses will mean that Android phones will be doing things that will make Steve Jobs simultaneously cringe and salivate with jealousy.
Innovation doesn’t just mean software innovation. Personally I like the idea of a querty keyboard on my phone. I find it easier to work with than the iPhone interface, but if there’s one thing we know about Steve Jobs it’s that he hates buttons. For the most part (ipod etc) Steve’s button hating ways are correct, but there are 6 billion different ways people will be wanting to use their phones. Steve wants the world to be all be like him… Not all of us are.
3. Open Markets
Probably the most powerful force in the upcoming battle for smartphone supremacy is who can knock out good quality, powerful phones at affordable prices. The iPhone does not cost $199 dollars. It costs a hell of a lot more, they’re just letting you pay it off over 2 years. In Europe an unsubsidised iPhone 3G is going to start selling at 499 Euros… that’s $769 when you convert it back to dollars. That’s almost 4 times the subsedised price, which means that even if you factor in the fact that Apple products cost more in Europe than they do in the US, the real cost of the iPhone is still nowhere near $199. This is the era of EEE PCs
Android is not greedy. Apple is. Apple specifically excludes functionality on the iPhone in order to increase the amount of money you spend with your carrier. For example, there is not SIP (or VOIP) client on the iPhone so you’re “forced” to pay your carrier’s voice rates rather than being able to make the call via SIP over a wifi link.
Android will have no vested interests and will be available to all manufacturers for free. This will mean that Android phones will have all kinds of cool functionality built into them that Apple, for sheer economic reasons, will resist putting in the iPhone.
The other interesting greed factor is what I like to call the “Windows Vista” shuffle. The idea is that everyone upgrades because there are all these cool new features you just *have to have*. The more we learn about Windows Vista the more we realise how blatantly it was an attempt from Microsoft to convert all those millions of 8 year old Windows XP owners into fresh revenue. Open Source’s approach has always been to squeeze every last ounce of performance out hardware and to support that hardware for as long as possible. This means you only need to upgrade when you really want or need to… not when someone else decides they want your money.
Greed is also the reason that Steve Job’s version of “worldwide” is actually only 30 countries… Every time Apple wants to start selling the iPhone in a particular country they have to go through a process of trying to find a mobile carrier in that country willing to sell their souls and rip off it’s customers. (Aapprently this isn’t hard but it does take time)
Google has a lot of money and they’re on a mission to change the world. From search engines to Solar Panels, they’re trying their best to make the world a better place for as long as they have the power to do so. Whether you love them or hate them they have a track record of rocking the boat and Android might just be the depth charge that roundhouse kicks the iPhone into a brick wall.
As for the assimilation… lets just say that I wont be suprised if I one day in the not too distant future get to read “iPhone Touch – Now Powered By Android”