Saturday, October 8, 2011

The smartphone wars are over

Apple started out a computer manufacturer, and by Apple's definition it meant creating their own hardware and software. In a perfect Apple world, an Apple personal computer would be 100% designed and manufactured by Apple, with the installed software being 100% developed by Apple and the only computers would be Apple computers.

Microsoft and the IBM PC, pretty much opened up the the personal computer industry by letting multiple manufacturers and multiple software developers work in a relatively open environment. The end result is what you have today, lower and lower cost personal computers which also means opening access to more and more of the world. What Microsoft and IBM strive to create was an environment where there are more and more computers. As the computer has morphed from a business machine to a communications and information device, this has become more important. Microsoft perceived by many people as "evil" had a large part in opening up the PC world. True, they do their best to keep Linux at bay, but remember these are all companies trying to turn a profit. Even Free and open-source software companies had to find a way to turn a profit. The FOSS companies are manned by men and women who like everyone else need to earn a living and have families to feed and so is Microsoft.

Still, if Linux had been more dominant, the spread of the computer would have even been much faster I think. If Linux did not exist, well that is a scary thought.
As Apple morphed into a consumer electronics company, it kept pretty much the same mindset as it had as a personal computer company. Apples own services are kept proprietary to its own platform. Apple makes money selling hardware, music and apps from its own stores and over time if feasible would probably want to extend the reach of its proprietary services. In areas where they cannot monopolized proprietary content, Apple would want it sold through its own stores. Where they can create their own content, Apple would eventually want to close the market so that only its own software would run in its hardware. I think it is not unreasonable to think that in the future Apple may launch its own gaming label like Sony Playstation or Microsoft's Xbox.  In a perfect Apple world, an Apple ecosystem would be hardware 100% designed and manufactured by Apple, with the installed software being 100% developed by Apple and with the only devices available being Apple manufacture devices.

This is really nothing new, RIM and its BlackBerry were designed to run its services only to run only on its own hardware. Looking back at things now, BlackBerry excessively charged for its hardware and services. When BlackBerry ruled, 24/7 mobile email and instant messaging access was really just limited to corporate users and the affluent. Nokia tried to follow the BlackBerry model, and when Apple entered the mobile phone market it too was hoping to take over from BlackBerry, only on an even large scale.

Google destroyed all of this. Google's Android platform supports its own apps and services, but it also provides these apps and services to other platforms. Any manufacturer who wants to can manufacture a Google Android device.

For Google, Android is just one way to expand it services to a larger base of users. What Google wants is more and more persons on the web. If a person accessed Google services using an Apple, BlackBerry or Windows Phone 7, it benefits Google just as much as if a user accessed the service from an Android.

Smartphone's have gone below Php5,000 in price. Access to communications and information is lower than ever. But as Android succeeds, I suspect Google will be cast in the same light as Microsoft more and more. 

If Apple iOS were to disappear from the world tomorrow, users could migrate to Android, BlackBerry or Windows Phone 7 devices. If Android operating were to disappear from the world tomorrow many users would not be able to migrate to iOS,BlackBerry or Windows Phone 7 devices. They just cost too much.

Fortunately there can be no Wintel in the mobile world as pretty much anyone can license ARM technology, unlike the all but closed x86 licensing.
PC's, smartphones and the Internet have created a whole new world, with communications smudging borders and with cultural divides being eradicated.

Apple, BlackBerry or Windows Phone 7 may still emerge as the dominant phone platform, but only by reaching out to a larger user base. If not, Google Android will probably become the most dominant system.

The smartphone wars are over. The consumer wins.

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