The latest figures to hit the news from GFK show that Android’s share of the contract phone market in the UK has more than quadrupled from 3% in Q1 of 2010 to over 13% in Q2.
To use nerdy Star Trek speak, Google look like they are going to translate their tactics in the online services sector to mobile phones and Borg us all.
To me, this battle for the smart phone operating system crown looks alot like the way the computer OS market went in the late eighties/ early nineties.
Back then there were a handful of serious players – Microsoft had DOS and the embrionic windows which were not tied to hardware, Apple were doing what they do now and selling hermetically sealed software/hardware combos, IBM had OS2 and Linus Torvalds was beavering away on Linux.
Ultimately Microsoft won, with Apple as runner up OS2 consigned to history and Linux finding a small niche with nerds.
The players in the phone OS game right now are Google with android,available free to any manufacturer who wants it, Apple again tying the hardware and software together, Microsoft with Windows Mobile and Samsung and Nokia with their proprietary Bada and Symbian systems.
So who’s going to win?
I’m not a betting man, but if I was I would be looking back at why MS won the PC operating system wars. The bottom line is that there was more and better software available for windows than any of the others. It’s the same reason VHS won over Betamax and HD-DVD lost out to Blu Ray. Content.
Importantly in all these cases, the format’s fates were decided by third parties, the movie studios in the cases of VHS and Blu Ray, and software developers on the case of Windows.
Looking at the phone OS battle through this lens, it looks to me like a two horse race between Android and Apple. Microsoft are throwing money at developers and Samsung and Nokia have a small base of app developers too, but none of them compare to the numbers of developers working on Android and iPhone apps.
Now, if you held a gun to my head and made me choose between them, I would have to say Android is going to win.
Apple have one product in the mobile phone sector, the iPhone, whereas every single major phone manufacturer aside from Nokia is rolling out Android phones. Developers go where the money is, would you write apps for one phone or apps that owners of many different handsets could use?
On top of that, many developers are growing concerned about the Orwellian level of control that Apple exert on their App Store, by contrast Android Marketplace is a wild west style free for all.
Apple will always have a place in the hearts of style concious buyers, unkindly dubbed” fanbois” by the less charitable commentators, they will always have a significant share of the market, but I can’t help feeling that Android has the edge.