Why Android Is Winning The Battles But Google Is Losing The War: Part 4

by John Kirk   |   November 15th, 2012


A Pyrrhic victory (/ˈpɪrɪk/) is a victory with such a devastating cost that it carries the implication that another such victory will ultimately lead to defeat. The phrase “Pyrrhic Victory” is named after King Pyrrhus of Epirus, whose army suffered irreplaceable casualties in defeating the Romans at Heraclea in 280 BC and Asculum in 279 BC during the Pyrrhic War. Someone who wins a Pyrrhic victory has been victorious in some way; however, the heavy toll negates any sense of achievement or profit. The term “Pyrrhic victory” is used as an analogy in fields such as business, politics, and sports to describe struggles that end up ruining the victor. ~ via Wikipedia

Series Schedule:

  • Mon: The Battle for the PC
  • Tue: The Battle for Mobile Phones Won
  • Wed: The War for Mobile Phones Lost
  • Thu: The Battle for Tablets
  • Fri: Picking Your Battles Is As Important as Winning Them

4) The Battle For Tablets

If Android’s battle for phones is a Pyrrhic victory, Android’s battle for tablets is a flat-out ignominious defeat.

Android’s Strategic Tablet Blunder

The tablet’s larger screen size demands that developers create apps optimized just for its form factor. This makes tablets a seperate platform all its own. Google’s big mistake in tablets was that they either didn’t recognize or refused to acknowledge that fact.

Google just saw tablets as big phones and acted accordingly. Rather than focusing on the creation of tablet optimized apps, Google encouraged their developers to create one-size-fits-all apps. Developers were encouraged to focus on scalability rather than optimization.

Google made their mind set clear by refusing to even establish a separate tablet-optimized classification for their store. While their nearest competitor highlighted the fact that they had 250,000 tablet optimized apps, Google categorically denied that there was any difference at all between phone and tablet apps. The result has mostly been a lot of Android phone apps awkwardly stretched to fit the larger tablet screen. Even big name apps like Twitter and Rdio looked unwieldy on Android tablets.

As recently as June 2012, when the Nexus 7 was introduced, Google Senior Vice President Andy Rubin reaffirmed that Google was sticking with its strategy of encouraging developers to write a single app for both phones and tablets.

“I don’t think there should be apps specific to a tablet…if someone makes an ICS app it’s going to run on phones and it’s going to run on tablets.” ~ Andy Rubin

Google’s policy was focused on the developer, not the consumer. It allowed developers to create apps that worked on more devices, but it did so at the expense of the user experience.

Andy Rubin went on to admit that he was upset that Android tablets weren’t selling. After looking into the reasons, Rubin declared that Google had discovered the reason for the lack of sales. While hardware really mattered on phones, consumers bought into content ecosystems with tablets. Rubin said that Google had lacked some of the ecosystem pieces that were necessary – such as TV shows, movies, magazines, etc. – to make people want to consume on a tablet.

“I think that was the missing piece,” Rubin said.

Do you hear what Rubin was saying? In his mind – and presumably in the mind of all of Google – the reason that Android tablets weren’t selling was because of a lack of compelling CONTENT. Tablet optimized apps never entered into the proposed “solution” to Android’s tablet woes. The Nexus 7 was all about content delivery since – in their minds – it was content, not apps, that was the missing piece.

Finally Google reversed course. On October 18, 2012, Google published a “tablet app quality checklist” on its Android Developer website and began to seriously urge developers to build tablet-optimized apps.Two and a half-years late and 250,000 iOS tablet optimized apps later, Google finally gets it – tablet optimized apps DO matter.

Or do they get it? Google STILL isn’t asking developers to make separate phone and tablet versios of their apps. And they STILL don’t separate phone apps from tablet apps in their store. And when asked why there still aren’t many tablet-sized apps for Android, Director for Android Partnerships, John Lagerling, said:

But before, I’ll be honest and say, yes, there was a lack of tablet apps that supported bigger screen real estate. But I’ll add that, I know we talked about the Cupertino guys, but obviously people who have smartphones are a huge target for us. If you look globally that’s something we worry more about, not so much about competing with other smartphones, but more about, how can we get more people onto the Internet on mobile phones? And that’s a big deal. That’s why low cost is so important.

Translation: Smartphones are more important to us than tablets and market share is more important to us than anything.

No wonder Android’s tablet efforts continue to languish.

Android Tablet Sales

So how is that one-size-fits-all, let’s-not-optimize-apps-to-the-tablet strategy working out for Android? The results speak for themselves.

At last report, tablets were just 5.38% of Android’s daily activations. And Nexus 7 sales – although constantly referred to as a “success” in the tech media – have been humble, to say the least.

Mark Mahaney, who follows Google for Citi Research … thinks Google sold about a million units of their tablet (that is made by Asus) and that accounts for about $200 million in revenue.

Ben Schachter of McQuarie Securities agrees and estimates that Nexus 7 sales accounted for probably $150 million to $200 million…in… revenue.

Piper Jaffray’s Gene Muster estimates that Google sold between 800,000 to a million units, while Doug Anmuth of JP Morgan says Google sold about 700,000 units of Nexus 7 tablets.

Asustek CFO David Chang told the WSJ that the company was selling—not just shipping—500,000 units a month initially, when the Nexus 7 launched in July. Figures bumped up to 600,000-700,000 in the following months, and in “this latest month,” Google and Asus have sold close to one million units, said Chang.

Let me put those numbers in perspective.

 

  • REVENUES

 

The Nexus 7 may have made as little as 200 million – in revenue, not profit – in an entire quarter. That’s pathetic.

 

  • PROFITS

 

And we know that Google didn’t make any profits from the sales of the Nexus 7 because they told us so.

“When it gets sold through the Play store, there’s no margin,” Rubin said. “It just basically gets (sold) through.”

 

  • UNITS

 

But revenue and profits really don’t matter in a subsidized model. The concept is to get as many units on the market as possible in order to enhance the opportunities to sell content and advertising. So let’s look at the Nexus 7′s sales numbers.

The Nexus 7′s sales are either as high as 1 million units a month or as low as 1 million, 800,000 or 700,000 units a quarter. And the reason we’re relying on estimates is because Google refuses to release actual sales numbers – which is telling all in itself.

By way of contrast, Apple sold a total of 3 million iPad Minis and iPad 4′s in their first three days of availaility. At its current pace, the Nexus 7 would take between 3 months to 3 quarters to even match, let alone exceed, the number of tablets sold by Apple’s first 3 days of sales.

 

  • SUBSIDIZED BUSINESS MODELS THRIVE ON VOLUME

 

Those sales numbers are bad enough, but for a subsidized product, they’re gawdawful. Remember, the Nexus 7 is being given away at cost. Can you imgagine how many more cars or televisions would be sold if they were being sold at cost? The Nexus 7′s should be selling like crazy, not badly trailing competitive offerings that cost $300 more.

This is a give-away-the-razor, sell-the-blade business model. (See my article entitled: “Selling The Amazon Kindle Fire and Google Nexus 7 Is As Silly As Selling Razor Blades To Men Who Love Beards“). Giving away the razor does not guarantee the sale of the blade but NOT giving away the razor DOES guarantee that the blades won’t be sold. Simiarly, volume sales of Nexus tablets do not guarantee that Google will profit from the sale of content and ads but low volume sales DO guarantee that they will not.

 

  • FUTURE SALES

 

Pundits are opining that the Nexus 7′s lower price will make it a hot selling item for the holiday quarter. And I have no doubt that sales will increase. But if Google was having trouble selling the Nexus 7 when its only competition was the 7 inch Kindle Fire and the 10 inch Apple iPad, then why does anyone seriously think it will do significantly better now that it also has to compete with the Apple iPad Mini and the Microsoft Surface?

Android Irony: Tablets Are Where The Ad Revenue Is

The irony in all of this is that tablets are where the ad revenue is. Android has fought and won the battle for phones but phones don’t produce much ad revenue. Meanwhile, Android has ignored tablets and tablets hold the prize that they were so desperately seeking all along. Like a General who is a great tactician but a poor strategist, Android has won all of the battles that they’ve fought, but they’ve fought all of their battles in the wrong places.

 

  • TABLETS ARE MORE VALUABLE

 

Studies have shown that tablet users are the more valuable consumers for advertisers to reach compared with PC and phone users. Tablet users spend 30 percent more time on sites and have 20 percent higher engagement.

“We found it interesting that tablets also had a smaller percentage of users who adopted ‘do not track’ settings compared to PC users,” Mr. Barnette said. “Mobile had the highest percentage of users who adopt do not track at 60 percent.”

 

  • APPLE IS DOMINATING TABLETS

 

And while tablets are dominating mobile revenues, Apple is dominating tablets.

The iPad accounts for between 91% and 98% of web traffic for all tablets. That only leaves 2% to 9% total web traffic for every other type of tablet combined.

And Apple dominates tablet downloads too.

We estimate in the first half of this year the iPad saw over five times more app downloads than all Android tablets combined.”

 

  • TABLETS AD SPENDING OUTWEIGHS SMARTPHONE AD SPENDING

 

And in the absolute kicker, it is anticipated that tablet ad spending will outweigh smartphone ad spending this holiday season.

Think for a moment just how crazy that is. The ads for all the Android, iOS, Windows Phone 7 and every other smartphone combined will be outsold by the ads sold on tablets this holiday season. Wow.

Next

Google has won the battle for the desktop. Android has won the battle for the phone. But Google’s prospects are possibly worse today than they were when they embarked on their Android strategy. Tomorrow we sum it all up and look to the future in the final article of the series entitled:

“Picking Your Battles Is As Important as Winning Them”

John Kirk

John R. Kirk is a recovering attorney. He has also worked as a financial advisor and a business coach. His love affair with computing started with his purchase of the original Mac in 1985. His primary interest is the field of personal computing (which includes phones, tablets, notebooks and desktops) and his primary focus is on long-term business strategies: What makes a company unique; How do those unique qualities aid or inhibit the success of the company; and why don’t (or can’t) other companies adopt the successful attributes of their competitors?
  • Derek Penner

    fyi. Android ‘fragments’ allow one app to smartly support multiple form factors (phones, tablets, big screens). Experiences on each form factor can be drastically different, yet stemming from one individual app.
    I would expect a writer of a tech blog to know this.

    • benbajarin

      What you are speaking of is the universal app philosophy. I’m not sure I’d count scalable bitmap as equal to an app strategy where developers uniquely take advantage of each form factor with specific tweaks to their app.

      If what you say is as robust as it is then we would see more tablet specific apps for Android, which we do not. Windows 8 already has more tablet specific apps than Android.

      Your fragment point also does not address the host of issues with the device landscape SOC world. Which is one of the major issues we hear from developers in terms of applications support.

      • Sudhakar

        Man, try using Android phone apps and games on Android tablets. They simply work great. For example, QuickPic, Angry Birds, etc

        • benbajarin

          Agreed but too bad people want to do more with tablets than play games.

          User satisfaction data my firm is seeing with the mass market consumers on Android tablets is not good. Phones yes, tablets no.

          They grey market for tablets in China is the largest growth section for Android tablets. Any smart person would not consider those devices a benefit to the Android (google) ecosystem due to them only being AOSP Android not using any of Google’s services.

          • http://www.facebook.com/johnnyrodgersmorris John Morris

            How could you work for a firm and yet not be able to write coherently or even spell properly? I admit I am not the best writer or speller, but I don’t claim to work for some firm lol

          • benbajarin

            Your joking me right? I mean you can’t actually be serious.. Read our posting guidelines and advance the conversation or don’t both. You only make yourself look ridiculous with those kind of comments.

            Feel free to do a little research on me if you are going to attack my credibility. This is what adults do.

            I apologize for not having a copy editor look through all my comments. Some people are extremely busy.

      • Derek Penner

        Feel free to assess all Google apps (Currents, Reader, Gmail, Chrome, Calendar, etc.), Evernote, Springpad, Bubbleupnp (and many others) as examples of functionality tailored to various form factors all originating from a single app.

        • benbajarin

          Those again are a handful of examples. There are 100’000s of thousands that are not tablet optimized. This is something the developer can do, my point is they are not doing it in large hoards due to the lack of true penetration of Android tablets beyond 7″.

          • rj

            Isn’t it a tad early to expect “true penetration of Android tablets beyond 7″? Are the Nexus 10 and larger Kindle Fire even shipping?

          • benbajarin

            Yes and no. This particular thread is more about the current state than the future state. So I’d initially be looking at it that way. But there is still quite a bit of uncertainty from the industry side as to the viability of 10″ Google Android tabs. I say Google Android tabs because Amazon’s fork is a separate platform.

            The Nexus 10 could be interesting but as is the case with Google we will never most likely never know exactly how many get sold. Devs we talk to are still taking a conservative approach to the time investment for more dedicated apps.

          • http://twitter.com/M_Gauche James King

            I think the viability of 7″ Android tablets is semantic in nature. I think the 7″ form factor ultimately gained success because it was cheaper to manufacture and sell at cost and tied to pretty high-powered ecosystems, like B&N and Amazon (and, later, Google Play), than due to any inherent advantage in the form factor. I used to be a huge fan of the 7″ form factor but lost interest when I realized how compromised the web browsing experience is compared to larger tablets. People accused Apple of playing word games when it stated that the iPad mini is not a 7″ tablet but that .9 inches makes a world of difference.

          • http://twitter.com/davidchu David Chu

            I think the 7″ form factor is fine. The compromised web experience may be due to a lack of optimization. Once the form factor becomes popular, major websites will test for it. Remember when the iPhone first came out, the web experience was kinda crappy. You had to tap to zoom a lot. It was great because it worked when there weren’t any alternatives, but it was far from optimal.

          • Snake Oil Seller

            The 7″ form factor, which is really 7″ widescreen form factor hasn’t gained much success outside the geek and ‘nice presant’ markets. No one has come up with a good reason to buy a device in that form which is why it is not selling. Price and ecosystem don’t matter when selling crap, no one cares about the great ecosyem of a cow pat and saying it is free wont make a difference. The 7″ are selling against games machines which have better games and tv’s which everyone preferes. Only Amazon are doing any real bussiness but they are selling it as a kindel +, not a cheep iPad.

          • steve_wildstrom

            Kindle Fire 8.9 shipped today.

        • steve_wildstrom

          I’m looking at Evernote on three different devices right now: A third-generation iPad, and Acer Iconia, and an HTC 1X. The Android tablet version is better than the scaled phone app we see so often, but it is nowhere close to the richness of the iPad app with its tabbed interface. I really want to love Android tablets, but they make it painfully hard.

          • Nemesys571

            Really? Evernote just recently updated the iOS app with the new interface. As is tradition, they Android version comes later. Yes, Android has been second-class citizen to developers so far, and probably will continue to be for a while, but please come back after the new version of Evernote for Android is released with the same tabbed UI as iOS and then tell us what’s so horrible about the Android experience, or pick an app which hasn’t just overhauled their UI a few days ago starting with their iOS version.

          • steve_wildstrom

            I picked Evernote as an example because it was the first non-Google app Derek Penner mentions (and also because I use Evernote all the time on multiple devices.0

          • Snake Oil Seller

            So the Android app is crap but please don’t mention that as sometime in the future it may be better!

      • http://www.facebook.com/johnnyrodgersmorris John Morris

        You say that as if it is a bad thing lol I would prefer having access to all 700,000 apps, thank you. No thanks to tablet specific apps as it limits my choice of apps on my tablet. And the 700,000 Android apps are only those in the Play Store. It doesn’t count the thousands that are freely available on the web.

        • benbajarin

          Doesn’t limit your choice on platforms other than Android. If that is your preference than that is perfectly fine. Don’t assume your desires are the same as the mass market.

        • FalKirk

          “I would prefer having access to all 700,000 apps, thank you” – John Morris

          John, iOS tablet users DO have access to all 700,000 apps. They can either use the 250,000 tablet optimized apps or they can user the remaining 450,000 phone apps if they so desire.

        • AdamChew

          Reading your take it said that you are more concerned with what is out there than the usefulness of the apps.

          Usefulness is much more important than what is out there.

  • http://twitter.com/M_Gauche James King

    This series of articles is excellent and I generally enjoy John Kirk’s writing on this site. It’s very insightful and he makes very good points.

    Re: Android’s lack of tablet apps… I’m not certain that is a problem that can EVER actually be fixed. As Kirk pointed out, Android graphics are designed to scale. Because of the variety in screen resolutions of Android tablets, is it even possible to design a tablet-specific app for the platform? Any tablet app designed for Android in theory would end up “broken” at least in some cases because it wouldn’t scale perfectly for every screen. In other words, it’s going to look like crap on SOME screens, so then you don’t have Android apps for tablets, you end up having Android apps for specific tablet MODELS. I’m not 100% certain on this but is it possible that, by using scaling instead of fixed resolutions for Android, Google inadvertently painted itself into a corner?

    By using a limited number of fixed resolutions, Apple avoided this issue. It seems that Apple was very careful in choosing the resolutions it would support and how it would implement display technology on its devices. Android’s scalability may allow OEMs to build tablets in a million different sizes and price points but, because of the app situation, they all have compromised user experiences.

    • http://www.facebook.com/johnnyrodgersmorris John Morris

      Android doesn’t lack tablet apps. Most all 700,000 apps work on tablets. It is Apple who is limited in their selection of apps for their tablets. The fact that you don’t like the way they look is just your opinion and one that I don’t share.

      • http://twitter.com/M_Gauche James King

        What Android has is 700K phone apps that can be used on a tablet with varying degrees of success and user satisfaction. If the UI/UX issues don’t bother you, great. But some people find those things important.

      • Snake Oil Seller

        So which PR company working for Google are you from?

    • Nemesys571

      It is perfectly possible to design a tablet-specific app for the platform. The Android SDK contains a feature called Fragments that allows to activate/deactivate certain features of the app based on the screen real estate. So for instance, you open the Gmail app on a phone and you get a list of email subjects with a drop-down on top where you select folders/labels like Inbox/Draft/Sent, etc. Taping an email on the phone opens the email full-screen. Open the exact same app on a 7” tablet (you can copy the APK from a phone and load it in a tablet to prove it, I’ve done it), and you’ll see an extra panel on the left with all the folders, subjects on the right, bigger panel. You can scroll the list of emails and the left panel stays static, you tap on an email and the folders and subjects panels slide out of view, and the email takes the whole screen. But wait, all this was on portrait orientation… rotate your tablet to landscape and the subjects panel slides into view, because there is more real estate. On a 10” tablet, the subjects are visible on portrait and both folders and subjects panel are visible on landscape. All apps can implement similar screen-real estate driven behavior with minimal effort thanks to the Fragments in the SDK. iOS apps use static (hard-coded) screen coordinates, that’s why you need to compile separate apps for different form factors. Any programmer will tell you that hard-coding screen coordinates is just not a good idea, unless you’re developing for iOS. The rest of the world (Windows, Linux, OS X, Web, etc.), uses relative coordinates and tries to adjusts the best it can to whatever the size of the device the user chose to purchase.

      • http://twitter.com/M_Gauche James King

        Steve Wildstrom already answered this effectively. Apple and oranges.

      • Snake Oil Seller

        The thing is hardly anyone is bothering to design tablet apps for Android which is very telling. Also everyone with a clue will tell you what programers think dosn’t matter, what customers think pays your bills. So if you have to go the extra mile and “hard-code” for your customer, then you do it.

        • Nemesys571

          “So if you have to go the extra mile and “hard-code” for your customer, then you do it”
          Which then contradicts the main “advantage” iOS app designers often tout, which is the fact that you have known, fixed screen sizes and resolutions to target (though now there is iPhone 4S and earlier, iPhone 5, iPads and iPad mini, with varying resolutions between models). Customers demand you go the extra mile make it look pretty in iOS (“hard-coding” screen positions). Customers also demand quality in Android, but in that platform that means responsive design: adapt to the screen, whatever it may be.

          • Snake Oil Seller

            NO, you are just repeating what Google PR retards state. IOS has 3 screen sizes and no more than 2 resulutions per screen but that is not inportant. You are wrong by reality, there are far more developers on IOS and far more developers making money on IOS than Android. these people unlike you care about making a living and paying bills. The fact that they choose IOS tells you all you need to know.

          • steve_wildstrom

            Snake Oil, please watch your language.

  • Sudhakar

    I use so many Android phone apps on my Android tablet. They simply work seamlessly. That is wonderful. For large user interfaces, I agree that tablet has to be considered as a separate form factor. For most of the apps and games, phones apps simply work on tablets greatly! With 4.1, Android offers Fragments, a wonderful enhancement that differentiates phone form factor and tablet form factor., It is only a matter of time that Play Store will be filled with 4.1 apps, thereby same app can easily run on both form factors.

    • http://twitter.com/M_Gauche James King

      Fragments may make reduce the issue with scaling an interface but it won’t eliminate it. Building an Android app is like performing interior design on a room that routinely expands and contracts. At some resolutions, it’ll look great but not all.

      • Nemesys571

        And what’s the problem? I never heard any of my colleagues Windows and Web developers complaining about the literally tens of thousands of screen size / resolution / OS version / browser /browser version combinations that they needed to adjust their apps for. Sure, there will be some devices where the app won’t look perfect, but the developer does the best he can using the best tricks the SDKs provided allow to make the app look good on most devices. This is not an Android thing, it’s the way things are done everywhere, since before Android and iOS. It is nothing new. Only iOS developers bi**h and moan about having to support multiple screen configurations.

        • steve_wildstrom

          This is really muddying the waters. Mac and Windows apps were never (at least until Metro) intended to run full-screen. They had an entirely different design consideration: They had to scale properly when the user enlarged or shrank their window (and some always did this better than others.) But tablet apps run full screen, so the developer has to optimize them for a single display size and there is really nothing (except text zoom) the user can do about it. It’s a toltally different game.

          • http://twitter.com/M_Gauche James King

            Thanks for saying this for me.

    • http://twitter.com/jgpmolloy John Molloy

      Try Flipboard on an iPad then try Flipboard on a Nexus 7. Works seamlessly. Yeah, right.

  • FrillArtist

    From the same writer who fawns over any tech product starting with “i” and constantly fawns over “i” products. He is hardly a source of objectivity. I can’t wait till Google adds a block feature to Google News so I can block this apple shill site for good.

    • benbajarin

      Congrats on only reading one author. There is a different target audience for analysis vs. mass media tech content. Its ok if you are not in the former.

      • http://www.facebook.com/johnnyrodgersmorris John Morris

        He said he only wanted to block one author. This one. Not all authors except one. You work for a firm and can’t read or write or spell. :-/

        • benbajarin

          He actually said site. I have no problem with that, if our content doesn’t appeal to you that is perfectly fine. We have a pretty large industry audience and professional audience who does care. We cater to them. We can’t please everyone and we won’t try to and water down our analysis.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/QNDENNMADVA2WOYWDVB2JMTFSM Chris

      That feature is already available, I used it to block another crapple trumpet, cnet. Login to your account, press the gear labelled button, go to the adjust sources panel, type the name of the site, press the plus button and then move its corresponding slider to the left. You won’t see their stupid headlines again. You can read much more objective news on slashgear, the verge or engadget

      • benbajarin

        We are not a news site. Our goal is analysis, industry related, for key people who need to wrestle with the truth and make strategic decisions. We can’t please everyone and we are ok with that, but we won’t let it water down our analysis in an attempt to.

        If you believe any analysis is flawed or skewed, feel free to chime in and back it up with intelligent thoughts and data.

      • Snake Oil Seller

        Hey chris, you don’t have to read anything here so stop whining.

    • benbajarin

      I’d love to hear you counter the points with sound analysis and data. You can say the author is a shill but without any counter debate, you prove no point.

      • Paul

        He doesn’t have to prove the point, you do it for him.

        • benbajarin

          Fundamentally disagree. I’d love for someone to back up their points. Clearly they have not read everything we have ever written ever. Hence the ignorance. It’s easy to assume bias. Its harder to intelligently back it up with sound insight and analysis.

  • http://www.facebook.com/johnnyrodgersmorris John Morris

    It just seems logical that an app should scale for multiple screen sizes in stead of creating separate apps. Technically, Android has around 700,000 apps that work on tablets and iOS only has 250,000. I understand you don’t like the way they look but that is just your opinion.

    I don’t care if you like it or not, last year Android tablets were at around 20 percent of the market and now at just about 50. You can complain about the app selection all you want as Android dominates yet another market but it really isn’t affecting market share, now is it?

    It’s almost weird watching a few vocal tech writers blab about their favorite operating system as they become the minority in such a small amount of time.

    When iOS is at < 10 percent market share for phones and tablets, then will you admit you were wrong? Or will you continue to say the Android strategy is wrong? So far, I haven't seen a single Android manufacturer go out of business. LG, Samsung, Motorola, Sanyo (Kyocera), etc… in fact I've seen a ton start up that I've never heard of before.

    It's fine to like the operating system that you do…but saying a platform is dying or losing some 'war' is ridiculous when the market share continues to climb and more and more players are able to enter the game as well…and more people have access to technology.

    • http://twitter.com/M_Gauche James King

      What the author is trying to point out is that Android is not being successful for the purpose for which it was developed and released. Android is given away for free so that Google can sell more ads. Developing and maintaining an OS is not cheap. If Google is not recouping its development costs or significantly adding to its bottom line through increased ad revenue, what is the benefit? Samsung makes more money from Android right now than Google. That’s a little preposterous.

      Marketshare isn’t everything. Facebook has 1bil users it’s having a hard time monetizing. The only reason Samsung is making any real money is because its supply chain and vertical integration are far and away better than its competitors and it is flooding the market w/ Android devices at almost every price point in the spectrum. It is choking the life out of other Android OEMs and only HTC is actually profitable. That’s not a recipe for a healthy competitive landscape in the long-term.

      And while scaling apps for multiple screens may be “logical” it is technologically impractical. But I won’t bore you with the specifics.

      • AJK

        “And while scaling apps for multiple screens may be “logical” it is technologically impractical. But I won’t bore you with the specifics.”

        … to me it seems logical and practical. I’m interested in your specifics.

        • http://twitter.com/M_Gauche James King

          Refer to my metaphor re: interior design. An iOS developer designs to an absolute value when it comes to resolutions. S/he knows exactly how much screen real estate with which s/he is dealing plus the advantage of all iOS devices coming from one maker. For that matter, Apple has already done most of the heavy lifting in its iOS SDK. However, Android devices come from a myriad of OEMs and have a far greater diversity of sizes and screen resolutions. Therefore, developers must design their app UIs in relative dimensions. Even assuming that you could nail down a design that will scale so that the UI elements maintain the proper perspective on any screen, individual interface elements my end up skewed or showing visual flaws like blurriness or jagged edges. In that scenario, your design is always an approximation not an absolute.

          Does that mean that it is impossible to create good looking Android tablet apps? No, it just means that it is impossible to guarantee that they will look good on all Android tablets. There are just too many variables.

          • Nemesys571

            Refer to my metaphor: Windows apps (99% PC market, largest installed base of any single OS in history)

          • benbajarin

            I think there are two ways to look at this. The one you are bringing up and the way Apple is doing it. Windows has the closest chance to replicate this, should we believe this way is superior.

            In the old world, it was always one app, for all screen sizes. This is the Windows desktop ecosystem you are bringing up. Hardware screen sizes were never terribly diverse but once you went from a 13″ to a 27″ all you get is the same app scaled up. Very little difference of experiences. This is true today of OS X as well.

            However, I am intrigued by a reality where developers can more intelligently take advantage of screen real estate. I remain unconvinced that the same app, UI, features, etc, should exist on the 4″ screen all the way up to the 50″ screen. I say 50″ because at some point in time in the future developers will get to write apps for the TV in ways they can not today.

            Yet, when I try an app like Tapbots, which I love and wish was on Windows, I see a different experience on my smart phone, than on tablet, than on my desktop OS. Each app uniquely takes advantage of a range of screen sizes.

            I believe this philosophy is superior although fairly new due to the vast array of devices and the multi-screen interaction with software we are in today.

          • ArchivedAnnals

            As you’ve mentioned many times, google isn’t afraid of iteration. If/when TV takes off I’m sure additional elements will be released.

          • http://twitter.com/M_Gauche James King

            Refer to Steve Wildstrom’s response.

      • ArchivedAnnals

        The author is yet to show conclusively that the intent and purpose of android is to make a huge windfall next year. In android google is developing a web-centric mobile platform that will allow google to milk it’s search dominance for additional years.

        I find it funny the opinions that say, hey look, siri, google is dead. Google has its own voice activated search interface, google now, and both products activate a google search for complex queries.

        • Snake Oil Seller

          Interesting, you seem to have made a comment which has nothing to do with the article.

          • ArchivedAnnals

            Android losing the war is about a profits equation for google, hence related…How do you interpret the purpose of the article?

    • FalKirk

      “It just seems logical that an app should scale for multiple screen sizes in stead of creating separate apps.” – John Morris

      Andy Rubin agrees with you. The market does not.

      • rj

        I think the source of confusion is this sentence from the article:

        “Google STILL isn’t asking developers to make separate phone and tablet versios of their apps.”

        That may be true, but Apple has never asked developers to do this either. Apple’s recommended approach is “universal apps”: applications that are sold once, but run on both the phone and the pad, providing a tailored user experience for each. Google recommends the same thing:

        http://developer.android.com/guide/practices/screens_support.html

        • steve_wildstrom

          See my separate post in response. It got too long and complicated to post as a reply.

  • Thin_Cathy

    Google is losing the war?

    I wish I owned such a “losing” company. And its 250 *BILLION* dollar net worth.

    • alexkhan2000

      Ummm… More like $213 billion as of today’s close. Well below half of Apple’s market cap despite AAPL’s recent slump.

  • alexkhan2000

    Judging by some of the comments here, John, your article only validates what you point out: many Android advocates look at a tablet as a blown-up smartphone screen. It doesn’t seem to occur to them that the iPad and its wannabe’s are a completely different form factor. It’s not a smartphone and it’s not a laptop/notebook. It may *seem* like something in between the two but that’s not the case either. The iPad/tablet is its own thing and if some people want to ignore that, well, it’s their own loss.

    Recently, I was going through the security checkpoint at the Incheon International Airport in Korea. As I started putting stuff in the bins, a security personnel member asked me if I had a computer or an iPad (not a “tablet”) in my carry-on backpack. I told him that I had both, in fact. That was a telling statement about the dominance and ubiquity of the iPad. It offers a completely different experience from using a smartphone or the PC/Mac. When I’m on the move, the iPad is the go-to device, not my iPhone or MBA.

    At home, unless my wife has some serious typing to do (which isn’t often), her device of choice for all media consumption is the iPad – not the family iMac or her iPhone. She spends more time on the iPad than any other device. When I’m in the office or in the hotel room on business, the MBA connected to a large monitor or on its own is what I spend the most time on, but other than those instances, I use the iPad more than anything else.

    For what I do on the move, the iPad is much more useful and portable than the MBA. It has effectively replaced the MBA for local trips visiting clients and associates or short 2~3 business trips or vacations. The only time I tote my MBA with me is when I go on long overseas trips to Asia and Europe. Even there, I mainly use the iPad (coupled with a Logitech keyboard cover) for business meetings with suppliers.

    The iPad can’t replace the PC/Mac for certain heavy-duty things (for me, it would be gigantic spreadsheets and a little bit of photo or video editing), but for 95% of what I or the average business travelers do, the iPad does just fine with its portability, 10-hour battery life and, most importantly, rich selection of iPad-specific apps. I can do a lot of things on the iPad that I can’t or don’t want to do on a laptop/notebook. Using the iPad is just a more personal and pleasing experience than a traditional PC.

    Apple understands this; the competitors apparently don’t. If Apple is raking in 70%+ of the profits in the mobile phone industry, you wonder what Apple’s profit share is in the tablet sector. It must be well over 90%. And, now with the iPad mini, Apple is poised to further extend its dominance of the tablet market without fraying into the bottom-feeding profit-less sector that Amazon and Google are playing in with their Kindle Fire and Nexus tablets, respectively. Is it any wonder that Samsung is very quiet on the tablet front these days? Will Samsung try to compete with Amazon’s Kindle Fire? Highly unlikely… Unlike in the phone market, no carrier is going to subsidize the cost of the tablets.

    And, yes, the ads on tablets aren’t as annoying as they are on the phones. I still prefer not having ads show up at all and most of the apps I use are paid apps for that reason. Again, Google (and Amazon as well to a degree) has to sell ad space to the advertisers to make its money through the tablets it sells. Google’s entire existence depends on securing as much Internet real estate as possible with as many eyeballs on it they can garner to sell to the advertisers. Google sells people and their data. It’s too bad for them that people using smartphones and tablets simply don’t want to see ads on these devices.

    • ArchivedAnnals

      You know on many tech websites you could get paid for writing something like this, as long as you could give it a catchy title…

      • alexkhan2000

        Nah, it wouldn’t be fun if it was about writing for pay. I also like to write about music, pro sports, ancient history, cosmology, etc., but tech is the most interesting thing to write about for me. I’m just one of hundreds of millions of people who enjoy Apple products and services. That is all.

  • http://twitter.com/michaelmyang Michael Yang

    Not sure where you are getting your data but Google is generating a lot of ad revenue from all the smartphones running Android when they Google things and click on sponsored links. I think they are generating multiple billions of ad revenue from Android powered smartphones.

    • Snake Oil Seller

      Not making money though, Nokia has good revenue, 2 more years and that revenue will bankcrupt it. Anyone can make revenue by selling below cost.

  • devon_jones

    I keep seeing the tech punditry miss on this. The Android api is totally different then the IOS api. The only point to making your tablet app be a totally different app then your phone app is if you enjoy maintenance headaches. The fragments api makes it easy to build apps that are tuned for tablets that can also be run on phones WITH A DIFFERENT UI. The Android api is just frankly better at handling different screen sizes, and giving the developer the ability to create totally different user experiences on different hardware. Now, I’ll agree that the market could do a better job of making it easy for tablet owners to find apps that have been properly tuned, but this myth that you can only create a good tablet experience if you write a totally different approach needs to die.