Smartphone world domination: It’s the system, stupid

Today Fast Company’s technology newsletter headed “Smartphone wars are over“. Google’s Android os is outnumbering Apple’s iOS. RIM’s blackberry sales are in trouble and MicrosoftNokia has not yet surprised the market, if it ever will. Android and iOS share world domination and between each other a cold war..

My view is that the answer will lie in the system. The ecosystem surroundig and supporting the os’s. Apple off course has this great pyramid system, reaping 30% of all app and in-app sales, plus it’s hardware sales revenue. Google/Android does not quite have a revenue stream that vast and consistent. Different partners share the cake: Samsung, HTC and others. Different partners mean also different software versions on different hardware devices. And eventually different performance and user experience. That being on the product side. Let’s talk about the system now.

Android is a platform where Google’s partners and Android Market providers can make money off (like Apple’s app store). Apple is the sole beneficiary of all sales around the iPhone. But I’m curious to learn about Google’s business model for Android. Will it stay open source (and free)? Today Google also announced that it will make Google maps partly paying for heavy website usage. Android could evolve to a Freemium model, allowing ‘gold partners’ a little more openess to the source code. Will Android evolve to a platform-as-service freemium business model? We’ll be watching.

Also, to keep up with Apple’s innovation, Google and it’s partners need to invest a similar amount of resources (ballpark). Android’s resources will be consumed partly to have it running on different devices. So they have more clutter. And less resources left for innovation. As Seth Godin said: doing 2% less, may well get you 80% less.

Now move to the user end. Android offers users more apps, but most of the new apps are launched on iOS first. Psychologists suggest a freedom of  around 7 choices makes us the happiest. More choice will cause more stress. So, do we need more apps? With this question we go back to the product talk of individual apps: no, we need better apps. Not nicer looking or fully customisable apps. We need no friction apps that help perform tasks better. I love the Apple reminders app in iOS5. Didn’t need to set it up, it just worked with the installed accounts. Tweeking code is for a minority of geeks (important guys, but a minority).

In the end, the user experience will determine the success of the OS/harware combinations. The ecosystem supporting each supplier will allow that supplier to innovate to a certain degree. In my view, Apple has the current advantage. Unless Android can capture more of the business market (like with this cool Blackberry killer app Bizztrust) like Microsoft did with the PC and from there on move into consumer’s homes.

That were my thoughts. What are yours? Please add in the comments.

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