Those of us who survived and prospered during the great Windows vs. Mac wars of the 1990s, understand the stakes in the mobile devices battles playing out before our eyes.
Here’s how it started. Apple’s iPod was a runaway success, and the company’s diminutive media player garnered about 70-percent of industry market share. Steve Jobs was visionary enough to know that music, movies, TV shows, and applications were heading toward smart phones (which he once described as not being very smart– he was right).
Apple knew that the iPod’s reign might be brief as the technology landscape changed, and started work on the next great thing, which turned out to be the iPhone, which spawned a mobile device revolution, with our favorite Cupertino company leading the way.
As the iPhone’s popularity and sales grew, competing interests seemed to fall into two camps. Those that scoffed at the iPhone and did nothing, included Microsoft, Nokia, and RIM; formerly major players in the smart phone arena.
Google took a different course. Someone at Google, perhaps then CEO Eric Schmidt, who has been accused of stealing the iPhone’s interface, recognized the future, and it wasn’t in Microsoft, RIM, or Nokia devices. It was the iPhone.
So, Google launched Android OS, and in a desperate move to counter Apple’s lead, gave it away to smart phone manufacturers for free. Today, Android OS dominates the smart phone industry in unit sales, but a strange thing has happened which counters Google’s attempts to remain relevant in mobile devices.
Android OS users don’t use their devices as much as Apple iPhone and iPad users. Even Google makes more advertising revenue from Apple devices than Android devices.
But Google was smart enough to know which direction the industry was heading, and moved quickly to compete.
Samsung also recognized Apple’s view of the future, and coupled with manufacturing capability and a free Android OS, latched onto the remaining profits in the industry, now wholly dominated by Apple’s iOS and Android OS.
Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Nokia, RIM, Samsung, and a few others could see the future of mobile devices in Apple’s groundbreaking iPhone. That, they share in common, though only Google and Samsung moved quickly to negate Apple’s lead.
What of Amazon, Nokia, RIM, Motorola, HTC, and others? Too little, too late. Of all the competitors, only Apple reveals sales figures, both units and revenue, of the iPhone and iPad. The others have nothing to brag about, and only Samsung has been able to carve out profits from smart phones and tablets (still estimated to be approximately one third of Apple’s numbers, despite larger unit sales).
Recognizing the future is one thing. Doing something about it is entirely different. Google recognized the iPhone as the future of mobile computing, moved quickly, but has executed poorly (and at great cost). Samsung recognized the iPhone as the future of mobile computing, and moved quickly, and executed well. Which, in retrospect, was easier for Samsung since they merely copied the iPhone and iPad in nearly atom-for-atom detail.
It remains to be seen which players will remain standing in the future.