The imminent debut of the T-Mobile G1 has touch off a fire-storm of debate. Much of this can be summed up with “Android is going to crush _____” and you can fill in just about any mobile operating system you’d like: Windows Mobile, iPhone, Palm OS, etc.
Really this is just a sub-set of a much larger group of arguments that could be called “_____ is going to crush _____” Many of you know what I’m talking about because it’s been happening for at least a decade. “Windows Mobile is going to crush Palm,” “iPhone is going to crush Android,” “S60 is going to crush Windows Mobile,” and so on and so on.
None of these predictions are going to come true because all of them are predicated on the same mistaken idea: There Can Be Only One.
Many people have this idea because they look at Microsoft’s domination of desktop operating systems and think it’s normal. It’s not. If what Microsoft accomplished happened every time, 80% of all cars would be made by Ford and just about every soda can would be filled with Dr. Pepper.
Microsoft took an early lead n PC operating systems and through a combination of clever business moves and brute force has managed to stay on top. There was only ever one serious competitor, Apple, and it shot itself in the foot by refusing to license the Mac OS back in the 1980s.
The only company that had a chance of repeating in the mobile market Microsoft’s success with PCs is Palm. Back in the 1990s it was the 500-pound gorilla of PDAs, and if it had managed to keep ahead of its competitors we could be in a very different situation today. But it didn’t, and now there are too many strong competitors for any one company to convince everyone to march to its tune.
One Size Does Not Fit All
One of the many reasons why no company is going to dominate the smartphone market is it’s impossible to make an operating system that suits everyone.
What a 17-year-old high school kid wants out of a phone is profoundly different from what a 45-year-old businessman wants. The teen wants a user interface that’s heavy on graphics and emphasizes texting and music. The middle-aged guy wants minimal graphics and a UI that emphasizes productivity: email, scheduling, that sort of thing.
We need to give up expecting consumer-oriented devices to meet the needs of business people and vice versa. The iPhone and Android are going to do just fine without becoming more corporate, and BlackBerries don’t need to become more hip.
I’m not saying there shouldn’t be cross-over features, like support for Exchange or MP3 players. No one completely fits in a niche; a teen might need to keep track of his schedule and the businessman might have a secret love of Metallica.
But every device and operating system can’t appeal to every person, and the fact that they don’t isn’t a flaw. It’s just the way it is.
Let’s Move On
With most products, market share is divided among a group of companies, with no single one taking the lion’s share. This is how it’s going to be in the smartphone realm as well. No matter how good Android is, it’s never going to have 80% of the market. The same is true of the iPhone, Windows Mobile, etc.
So let’s call a truce in the platform wars. No one who says “_____ is going to crush _____” is correct.