Who Won The Mobile Tech Olympics?

on February 27, 2014
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Business is a combination of war and sport. ~ André Maurois

The Long Summer Of The Microsoft Monopoly Olympics

Computing was pretty simple for the last 15 years: PC plus a browser. Both are splintering now. ~ Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans)

Once upon a time — long, long ago in 2006 — the Personal Computing Olympics used to be oh-so-simple. First off, you weren’t even invited to the games unless you were bosom buddies with Microsoft. And almost everybody who attended got a medal (but Microsoft took home most of the Gold, if you know what I mean). It was the long summer of Microsoft and we thought that it would never end.

Then along came Mobile. Mobile changed the game as radically as if the Olympics had switched from Summer Games to Winter Games. The world of computing was turned on its head and it would never be the same. Oh, Microsoft tried to play in the new Mobile Winter Olympics, but they were ill prepared. Surprisingly in foresight, but unsurprisingly in hindsight, the new Winter games left them cold.

One Olympics, Two Champions

So much for the old Olympics and the former Olympian. Let’s turn our attention to the New Mobile Winter Olympics and the question of who won them. The answer? Well, it depends upon the question you ask.

It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question. ~ Eugene Ionesco

You see, the Tech Olympics — just like the real Olympics — are divided into two very different types of games:

    1) Subjective Games that are judged by a panel of judges — like Ice Dancing and Half-Pipe; or

    2) Objective Games that are determined by clocks, tape measurers and other quantifiable metrics — like Speed Skating, Downhill Slalom and Ski Jumping.

So who won the Tech Olympics — just like who won the real Olympics — depends on how you score the games. Are you judging based on how the market responded or how the press responded or are you judging based upon objective measurements? Two very different ways to measure. Two very different types of winners.

The Subjective Olympics

And the medalists in the Subjective Olympics are:

Gold: The Google and Android twins walked off with the Couples’ Gold Medal. The Judges raved about their mobile acumen and no one else even came close to matching their exquisite market share.

Silver: Samsung came in a very strong second for the Silver Medal. Some argued that they should have won it all, but Samsung was all strength, no subtlety; all power, no grace. Four years ago, no one even expected that Samsung would be at the games, so they should be grateful just to be standing on the (Android) platform.

Bronze: And the Bronze goes to Amazon, of course. True, Amazon did not have a particularly productive Olympics. They over-performed in revenue, but under-performed in profits. But none of that really mattered to the Judges. Amazon’s coach was brilliant, their business model dazzling and their potential awe-inspiring. The Judges awarded the Bronze to Amazon not on merit but because it was clear to them that Amazon was destined for greatness.

Off The Podium: Apple? As if! Pushed off the podium altogether. All sorts of glitzy performances, but they only entered a few, select events, they had the smallest team at the Olympic Village and they could muster only a paltry market share, to boot. On the whole, a most disappointing performance.

Oh, it was true enough that Apple had its fanatical, cult-like following, but Apple’s fan base was oh-so-tiny in comparison to the other contestants and it was full of pretentious baristas and other obnoxious types. Apple simply didn’t fit the Judge’s image of what it takes to make a champion.

The Objective Olympics

The medalists for the Objective Olympics were a different story altogether. Let’s do them in reverse order:

Disqualified of Did Not Finish: Sony, Panasonic, Sharp, BlackBerry, Palm, Dell, and far too many others to list. Some started too soon, some failed to finish, some did both.

Shut Out: Microsoft talked a big game, but they finished with no medals. However, they vowed to win the next Olympics, for whatever that’s worth.

Bronze: The Bronze? No winner. The podium remains empty.

Silver: Samsung of course, with a strong showing. 309 million units, which represented 39.5% of total Android shipments in 2013.

Gold: In a surprise to absolutely no one who was paying any attention and to absolutely everyone who wasn’t — the Gold went to Apple. And it wasn’t even close.

Scoring The Objective Olympics

[pullquote]I like long walks, especially when they are taken by people who annoy me. ~ Fred Allen[/pullquote]

“Apple!” cried the outraged Subjective Olympic judges. “Apple, the winner? And no medal for Google and Android? Impossible. Outrageous. Unheard of! The fix is in!

“Well, you see,” the Objective Judges calmly explained to their irate brethren over and over again, “in the Objective Olympics, we judge things by objective criteria and Apple walked away with them all — save one.

1) Apple gained mobile phone share. ((Gartner: Apple gained mobile phone share as smartphones overtook feature phone sales in 2013))

2) Apple dominated mobile platforms. ((Apple’s control of the app economy stronger than you know;

The Smartphone App Wars Are Over, and Apple Won))

The Smartphone App Wars Are Over and Apple Won” Yep. If you care about have the best/newest. Ben Thompson (@monkbent)

3) Apple dominated profits. Their profits went UP from 78% to 87.4% in 2013. And just to give you an idea of how much Apple dominated, iTunes — which is their “loss leader” — grossed half as much ($17.5B) as all of Google combined. ((Mobile phone market hits ‘the great moderation’;

Including hardware, iTunes grossed about $175b in 2013))

Market share is the right metric for Android’s business model. Revenue is right for iOS’. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. ~ @mtabini ((via ArrAySee @ArrAySee))

4) Apple INCREASED their Enterprise dominance. Apple’s iPad took 91% market share of enterprise devices. iOS took 73% overall. ((Apple’s iPad takes 91.4% share of enterprise tablets; iOS takes 73% share overall

Apple maintains enterprise dominance; Windows Phone lags

iOS Dominates Enterprise Market with 73% of Mobile Device Activations))

5) Apple dominated brand loyalty. iPhone owners have “blind loyalty” and will buy anything Apple makes. 78% of UK iPhone owners ‘couldn’t imagine having a different type of phone now. ((Study: iPhone owners have ‘blind loyalty’ and will buy anything Apple makes

78% of UK iPhone owners ‘couldn’t imagine having a different type of phone now))

Two Different Ways To Judge, Two Different Types Of Olympians

“What, what, what,” sputtered the flustered Subjective Judges. “If the facts favor Apple, then the facts must be Apple Fanbois!”

Yeah, they kinda are.

[pullquote]Android’s increased market share HAS NOT come at any cost to Apple’s iOS[/pullquote]

It’s been apparent for years that Apple was taking the high end of both phones and tablets and that Android was taking almost all of the rest. What HAS NOT been apparent to many is that Android’s increased market share HAS NOT come at any cost to Apple’s iOS. As noted, above, despite Android’s massive increase in market share, Apple’s numbers in platform, profits, Enterprise and customer loyalty all went UP.

Did you hear about the guy that lost his left arm and leg in a car crash? 
He’s all right now.

Did you hear about the company that lost all the profitless market share they weren’t ever competing for? They’re all right now too.

In Olympic terms, Apple didn’t enter the most events, Apple didn’t win the most medals, Apple didn’t win any medals in any event that they didn’t enter, Apple didn’t win any bronze or silver medals, but Apple kept its eyes on the prize and they took home the Gold in every event that they participated in.

Market share is the right metric for Android’s business model. Revenue is right for iOS’s. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. Not that hard. ~ Marco Tabini (@mtabini)

Using market share alone as the one and only measure for who won and who lost the Mobile Tech Olympics borders on the delusional.

[pullquote]Life’s hard. It’s even harder when you’re stupid. ~ John Wayne[/pullquote]

  1. It’s like awarding the Gold Medal to the hockey team that had the most shots instead of the most goals;
  2. It’s like awarding the Gold Medal to the speed skating team that had the most players instead of the fastest time;
  3. It’s like awarding the Gold Medal to the curling team that threw the most stones instead of to the team with the stones closest to the center of the target.

Never underestimate our ability to ignore the obvious. ~ Po Bronson

The Next Olympics

So what happens at the next Olympics? Well, like former president George Bush, I have opinions.

I have opinions of my own, strong opinions, but I don’t always agree with them. ~ George W. Bush

I’ll save my analysis of the future of Blackberry, Apple, Chinese Android, Samsung Android, Nokia Android, Microsoft Windows Phone and Google for next time.

Post-Script: Join me on Twitter @johnkirk.