Android Is Already The Declared OS Winner? YES!? ER Wait…

August 4, 2010 - Written By Mike Corbett

Has Android won already and we haven’t even noticed? I think so. Competitors are suddenly finding themselves in the middle of an Android stampede. Way back in March — when Apple sued HTC over patent infringement — we told you that the lawsuit was Apple’s way of trying to slow down Android. We also wrote that Apple knew the iPhone 4 wouldn’t be the evolutionary device that they’d hope would be able to slow down Android’s momentum — so instead they were choosing to go the suing competitors route. Well, two months later and the iPhone 4 is out, and it seems we were right. At best, the iPhone 4 is an improvement over the iPhone 3GS, but not something that’d make people jump ship from Android. There was no Verizon announcement, no UI overhaul, no Widgets, multitasking was there but locked down to a few APIs, no iTunes on the cloud — there was simply not one single new feature that’d make people have to have it. At worst, the iPhone 4 is one of Apple’s most flawed and controversial products. The iPhone 4’s antenna debacle has been beaten to death by many news sites, blogs, TV news stations, newspapers, etcetera, so I won’t go there. Basically, Apple lost the opportunity to get the spotlight back on the iPhone. Now they must wait a whole other year to try and slow down the Android army that’s steam rolling over everybody. When that second chance comes next year, Android will be a completely different beast.

At the Android camp, while Apple is dealing — or shall we say ignoring — with the iPhone 4’s issues, new devices are coming out left and right. The myTouch 3G Slide and Samsung Vibrant on T-Mobile, the HTC EVO 4G on Sprint, and the Droid Incredible, LG Ally, and Droid X, on Verizon. The Android invasion is going forward at full speed — and it doesn’t seem to be stopping any time soon. The Droid 2 and Samsung Galaxy S phones are just over the horizon. After that, the Fall will be upon us — or what I like to call Androidpalooza 2010. Gingerbread, Google TV, and many more phones will be arriving this Fall just in time for Christmas’ buying season. That much Android excitement will last us a few months, or until CES 2011 and Google I/O arrive anyways — and the story repeats itself. What I’m getting at is this: Android has already won the mobile OS race — whether people at Apple or Microsoft for that matter realize it or not.

That’s a bold statement to make, so let me explain myself. Firstly, we need to break down who truly are Android’s rivals on the mobile space. There’s no doubt iOS is Android’s biggest competitor in the U.S. mobile OS market. Next one on the list is still-to-be-releasedWindows Phone 7. And that’s about it. No, I’m not forgetting Blackberry smartphones and their 40% market share. But unless they’re able to come up with devices up to par with the Nexus One or the iPhone 4, they’ll go the way of Palm or they’ll cater just to a niche market. So why is Android going to win this three-way cage match with iOS and Windows Phone 7? Let me tell you why.

Let’s begin with Apple’s mobile OS. iOS will lose to Android for the same reason Mac OS lost to Windows: Apple likes to control every single aspect of their products. Apple rarely partners with other companies, and when they do it’s because they have absolutely no choice — like AT&T or Intel for now. If Apple could have a wireless network up and running tomorrow, the iPhone would only be available from iWireless. Likewise, the second they can make their own chips for Macs — like they do for the iPhone and iPad — they will dump Intel. That kind of excessive control over their products is Apple’s biggest weakness. That top to bottom restrain Apple’s products have — from where you can buy your music to the guts of the device — opens up the door for Android to be adopted by every single company out there that wants to compete with Apple. On the other side of the spectrum, Google today partners with more than 60 companies — from handset makers and chip makers to mobile carriers — with a single goal, distributing and improving Android. That’s the same strategy Microsoft used back in the nineties to make Macs a niche product. As much as Apple innovates on hardware and software, they’ll never be able to compete with Google and the many different companies that are pushing Android. That’s the reason why Apple releases only one phone a year and new Android devices come out every week.

But you don’t have to believe me, just take a look at what the data says. Android’s market share is on the rise at neck-breaking speed. According to comScore’s last report, Android was the only OS to gain market share between February and May, while everybody else lost. If Android keeps up that kind of growth for the rest of the year, it could very easily catch up to the iPhone by Christmas. Apple’s very own Steve Jobs confirmed Android phones are indeed outselling iPhones.

Then there is Microsoft with Windows Phone 7. The once king of the smartphone landscape has been reduced to almost nothing.Windows Mobile market share has been on the decline ever since the iPhone and Android came on the scene. Now at a 13% market share, Windows Mobile could easily hit single-digits percentage by the time Windows Phone 7 is released this Fall. But there’s still a chance for Microsoft to make a comeback with Windows Phone 7. The user interface shows potential and tight integration with Office products could appeal to business users. However, they need to get everything absolutely perfect, right from jump street. And that doesn’t seem to be the case. Features that we take for granted on Android and iOS — like copy and paste — won’t be present on Windows Phone 7 at launch. Microsoft won’t have the luxury that Google and Apple had of improving the OS over time. Consumers today expect their phones to do much more than when the first iPhone or the G1 came out. Consumers won’t give Windows Phone 7 a second chance when you have Android 3.0 and iOS 4 to choose from. Moreover, Microsoft will also have to compete with Android’s very appealing zero licensing fee — and I don’t see Microsoft giving out Windows Phone 7 for free to manufacturers anytime soon.

However, the reason I say Windows Phone 7 will be a rival to Android is because Microsoft won’t give up so easily. They’re in it for the long run. The next big thing is mobile and they can’t afford to be left out of the game. If Windows Phone 7 fails, so will all other Microsoft’s mobile services — Bing’s and Internet Explorer mobile market share will be nonexistent. Expect Microsoft to really focus and push Windows Phone 7 this Fall, who knows maybe they’ll even make some TV ads that don’t suck. But even if Microsoft gets everything right and they promote the hell out of Windows Phone 7, they still have a huge mountain to climb in terms of third-party apps and consumer brand recognition.

Unless something goes terribly wrong with Android, it will continue to gain market share at a rapid pace — until it has completely obliterated its competitors. What do you guys think, is Android on the way to becoming the Windows of phones? Or is Steve Jobs’ reality distortion field more powerful than we think? Do you think Microsoft can make a comeback? I’d love to hear what the Android community has to say about this.