As much as I’m sure several of the writers here at TheTelecomblog have been pricking their Steve Jobs voodoo dolls in hopes that Apple’s overall good fortune will soon come to an end, it is looking more and more like that will never happen—in the foreseeable future at least.
Despite the fact that these pseudo-spiritual efforts at bringing down one of the most popular mobile tech companies in the world has seemingly produced a string of bad luck for Apple–with reports that Android is outpacing the company in the operating systems race; news that a global supply manager for Apple has been charged with accepting bribes from suppliers; the fact that Apple’s mobile iAd feature is not panning out as planned; and the perpetual threat of companies gunning for that #1 spot– I am confident that Apple will retain its market dominance and eventually run Android out of town.
But how can this be, you may ask, with Android experiencing an unprecedented growth rate over the past year? The simple answer, the recent success of the Android OS has been a matter of quantity over quality, as throngs of mobile losers and midrange competitors have grabbed Google’s free OS to help turn around their slumping sales.
So while a strategy like this may have strong short-term effects, it’s the reason Android will never beat Apple. You want to kill the iPhone? Make one good device, not thousands of poor ones.
One needs only to look at the recent quarterly sales reports to realize that while Android may be outpacing Apple in terms of OS popularity, any single company producing an Android device is absolutely nowhere near Apple in the sales/profits rankings. Amazingly, despite only generating 3% of total mobile sales over this past quarter Apple has found a way to grab almost half (48%) of the $6 billion dollars of overall mobile profits, while the closest Android manufacturer, Motorola, managed to eek out a measly 2%.
Add to that the fact that both Apple and RIM have soared from a combined market share of only 7% in 2007 to a whopping 65% this year and you have an idea of how popular the incumbent Blackberry and iPhone smartphones really are.
But how do companies like Apple and RIM post such astounding numbers when they’re clearly dwarfed by Android in terms of unit sales and popularity? Simple, both these companies have found their niche; their specialty device(s) that they pour all their available resources into. For manufacturers using Android the situation is much different, as these companies pour relatively few resources into several Android devices to try and appeal to a wider market. While this strategy results in a market full of Android devices, it also results in none of them challenging the dominance of the iPhone.
In the end though, the cold hard reality is that Android will never see long-term success with this business model. If Google continues to depend on the mobile losers to market its revolutionary OS, Android will die; it’s really just a matter of time. Further, if Android does provide the sales boost these midrange companies are looking for, it will too be just a matter of time before these companies reinvest in their own mobile operating systems, as clearly that’s where the money is.
Beyond that, the fact that the biggest players in the game—Nokia, RIM, Microsoft, and Apple—have no need for Android means that the little-robot-that-could may forever be forced to hang out with the losers, never being part of the popular crowd.
So how will Android maintain its popularity? Good question, if I had the answer I’d probably be working for Google.