India And The Future Of The Smartphone Wars

Perhaps I should have titled this “India Is The Future Of The Smartphone Wars”?

The appointment of the highly capable Satya Nadella to lead Microsoft only partly explains why I am thinking more about India and technology. The other reason is that it increasingly appears that the future of smartphones, and the winners and losers of the global smartphone wars, will be determined in large part by what happens in India. Great news for Google, possibly even for Microsoft and Nokia. Less good for Apple.

Despite the rather remarkable success of Indians in Silicon Valley, many of whom, like Nadella, are now leading tech companies, I still meet far too many analysts who remain disproportionately focused on what’s happening in China, or in Europe, while steadfastly ignoring the speedy, highly iterative tech landscape in the world’s second-largest nation.

Consider the following about India:

  • There are over 1.2 billion people — that’s about 4 USA’s
  • The median age is 25 (China’s median age is 36 and the US is 37)
  • India is the world’s 11th largest economy — and still one of the world’s fastest-growing
  • Annual per capita income is a dismaying $4,000 (by comparison, China’s is $10,000 and in the US it is $53,000)

Populous, young, growing, eager for technology, eager for connectivity, albeit with relatively meager resources to spend. It seems to me that is the perfect mix for disruption. Likely, this disruption centers around what is now our most important tool, the smartphone.

There are already about 150 million total smartphone users in India. Despite that number, and despite the nation’s large population, India is the world’s fastest-growing smartphone market. The giant feature phone market is collapsing.

feature phones to smartphones

According to IDC, 44 million smartphones were sold in India in 2013. Phablets (smartphones between 5-6.99 inches) garnered at least 20% of the Indian smartphone market, though other sources place this number much higher.

Using IDC’s latest data, Samsung is the leading smartphone company in India, with India-based Micromax and Karbonn trailing. (Nokia, a leader in feature phones in India lags, though sales of its Lumia devices have steadily increased and the company now may have a 5% share of the market there.)

India smartphone market

Given the size of the market, and its rapid growth, and the number of new users, current sales rankings may not matter much. As DNA India notes:

Tier one smartphone brands are ignoring the writing on the wall in the world’s fastest growing smartphone market in order to cater to a global market. This could be a dangerous thing to do especially at a time when the market is growing at a rate of over 150 percent and with 85 percent users still using feature phones. (emphasis added)

2014 could prove a watershed year, considering that:

  • 225 million smartphones will be sold in India just in 2014 — compared to 89 million in the US
  • Of these 225 million devices, an amazing 207  million will be to first-time smartphone buyers — the largest proportion of new users to existing users anywhere in the world

More so than the spread of 3G/4G, and the rapid improvements in mobile-optimized services, it is the almost unbelievable low prices of new smartphones that are enabling the rapid jump to smartphones in India:

“The median price of a handset has fallen from 8,250 rupees (Dh490) in 2012 to 7,000 in 2013.”

That’s $115.

In fact, about 2/3 of all smartphones sold in India are priced under $200.

The derisively labelled “race to the bottom” is in truth, connecting India, and the world, and gifting us with unbelievably accessible technology. 

Mozilla is seeking to create a $25 smartphone. Nokia’s X devices are all priced under $150. The new BlackBerry Z3 costs less than $200. This is amazing and laudable. Indeed, marketing firm Jana, has cleverly predicted that 2014 may be the year when a smartphone costs less than a carton of cigarettes. 

The world will never be the same, and what’s happening in India offers us clues to our future.

As the Guardian notes, 2014 is when “the number of mobile internet users in the developing world will overtake those in the developed world.”

new smartphone users

Connectivity is flowering in abundance. Equivalent access to everyone and to nearly every data resource will very soon be in the hands of the old and very young, male and female, rich and poor. This may be a first in human history.

We can’t know how this will change us, or change the world. But I suspect that watching what happens in India, and it’s happening so very fast, will provide us with many clues.

Predictions

Sorry. This market is too big, and moving much too fast for me to offer any reliable predictions. That doesn’t prevent me from sharing my thoughts, of course.

Apple

Meh.

Right now, Apple simply has nothing much to offer India. Offering the iPhone 4 for over $200 as they are again, when there are so many other amazing, new smartphones available for far less seems to me almost certain to fail. In fact, I think marketing very old devices against clearly superior ones, at the same price, only harms Apple’s brand. They shouldn’t even bother.

For example, India’s own Lava offers the following Android device for around the same price as the iPhone 4, but here’s what you get:

A sleek, sexy product running on stock Jelly Bean 4.2.1 with a magnesium alloy body, a 4.7-inch HD display, a MediaTek MT6589 chipset, 1GB of RAM, an 8MP camera in the back, a 3MP camera in the front, a panel that includes Sharp’s OGS solution, and Gorilla Glass from Corning.

Or, you can get a Moto G. Even the new Nokia X devices are all available for much less — and they carry the beloved Nokia brand name, look great, and include multiple popular Microsoft services.

In addition, India loves phablets — which pose a direct threat to iPads. Thus, even sales of iPad are hemmed in. Apple probably won’t have anything to offer India for years, in fact.

Will this harm the bottom line of the world’s largest tech giant?

Not so much, and certainly not in the near term. As long as Apple can peel off the world’s top 10% of buyers, they’ll be fine. It is a shame, however, that Apple and the world’s biggest democracy have so little a connection.

That said, Apple can certainly learn from the India market. For example, Indian handset makers are known for their ability to rapidly iterate, offer a host of new products, new models, all with the latest, most affordable hardware, and all at breakneck speed. Apple offers a minor iPhone upgrade about once a year, and a major upgrade about every 2 years. This has to change for success in the developing world — and it may already be underway. As the Wall Street Journal recently discovered, Apple is “hiring hundreds of new engineers and supply-chain managers in China and Taiwan as it attempts to speed up product development and launch a wider range of devices.”

Google

Android is the most popular (smartphone) OS in the world. This is especially true for India, where Google Android may make up 90% of the market. Google should do all it can to continue India’s love of Google Android.

Consider that nearly a third of “Android” smartphones shipped worldwide — that’s now over 70 million devices per quarter — come without Google apps and services installed. Blame, or thank, China, and don’t expect this to change soon. Chinese handset makers, Chinese app stores, Chinese web companies, and the Chinese government itself have little reason to embrace Google or to embed the company’s apps and services into their finished product. If Apple should ignore India for now, as I suggest, Google should similarly ignore China, which will continue to be unfriendly to the company, and instead embrace India.

Google should ensure that its very best tech, its latest services, its most amazingly affordable visions for computing devices all flourish in India, where value and accessibility are paramount. Efforts such as Project Ara, where Google hopes to offer a DIY smartphone for $50, should be heavily promoted and tended to in India, China’s manufacturing prowess notwithstanding.

Nokia

The widely mocked Nokia move to incorporate Android in its new Nokia X line could prove a rather bold, canny move. A feature phone stalwart in India, Nokia has to make an aggressive move to retain relevance in the country’s rapidly shifting phone market. Given the country’s speedy, almost wholesale adoption of Android, this may simply not be possible if Nokia remains fully wedded to Windows Phone.

Nokia’s new X phones will operate on Android, which is everywhere in India. However, they will carry the Nokia brand, retain the familiar Nokia design, keep the look and feel of Windows Phone Metro — and just might renew the company’s smartphone fortunes, all while potentially bringing millions more into the world of Microsoft services.

As Ben Bajarin states:

[Nokia X] is going to help Microsoft acquire customers at the low-end where all the growth is going to come from for the next few years. Every ecosystem needs entry points. Microsoft has a chance to acquire new customers getting their first smartphone and bringing them into the Microsoft ecosystem with a Microsoft ID.

Should the Nokia strategy fail, it’s hard to envision any other OS that is not Android finding any appreciable success in India, no matter the cost.

Where this might be wrong, although I think it unlikely, is if Chinese manufacturers such as the aggressively capable Xiaomi, successfully push out the top Indian mobile phone vendors (e.g. Lava, Karbonn), and thus effectively force them to offer something unique — Windows Phone, even Firefox OS, for example.

Understand, however, that India’s homegrown phone makers are formidable. I do not expect China’s own manufacturers, even such capable ones, to crush India’s leading vendors.

Not all aspects of India’s smartphone market will have a direct parallel elsewhere. The popularity of phablets may never be matched in the US and Europe. Features such as dual SIM are irrelevant in many parts of the world. Nonetheless, the smartphone skirmishes that take place in India will reverberate far beyond its borders. Analysts should pay more attention to this market and its users.

Who Won The Mobile Tech Olympics?

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.

How Is It Possible That Google Is So Bad At What It Should Be Great At?

Mark Zuckerberg cooly plunked down $19 large last week for a SMS-like app that most Americans had never used, probably never will. The move was labelled bold, brilliant, strategic. Zuckerberg branded a badass, a visionary, the next Steve Jobs. I suspect had Zuckerberg offered, say, a mere $5 billion, the echo chamber would have suggested he foolishly overpaid.

One particularly interesting aspect about Facebook’s WhatsApp acquisition, beyond the fact that it generates roughly 0.001 the revenues of Apple’s iTunes group, is that it’s ad-free, unlike seemingly everything else in our expansive digital world. Which begs the question: how will Facebook ever make back that $19 billion?

A better question: how has Google already made so many billions from advertising? Or, better still: who are all these people making Google so much money by clicking on Google ads?

Maybe WhatsApp and Zuckerberg are ahead of the curve. After all, do you ever click on an ad? Ever? Do you know anyone who does? Haven’t you long since trained your mind, your eyes, to not even see the ads? Don’t you count down the seconds until you can SKIP AD on YouTube?

An interstitial takes control of your screen and you immediately click it shut. For those ads that make you watch before you can access your desired content, you sheepishly, guiltily, countdown a second or two, hoping the site owner can make a penny, then click again to get to the actual site. It’s only after shutting down your computer do you realize there were pop-under ads, which you hastily close. You open several tabs in your browser, then frantically search for the one tab where some automatic ad is playing, annoying you to no end.

It’s worse than spam.

This is how we fund the Internet? Still? Perhaps WhatsApp, should it ever come close to returning its investment, will lead us toward some grand new method of funding our digital lives.

Even if Google ads are better than every other ad network — a debatable position — the fact is that almost every single Google-based ad is of zero relevance to my life, an assault on my eyes and ears, a clear barrier to what I actually want. Yet the company continues to generate billions in profits off this digital flotsam.

How?

Is it you? Who are the people still viewing these ads? Who are clicking on these ads? And how is it even remotely possible that after 15 years of gathering every scrap of information about everything I do online, plus many of my activities off-line, that Google ads are still so wildly untargeted to every single thing about me?

I buy a plane ticket to Atlanta, say, and for the following week after that I’m shown offers for plane tickets to Atlanta. They’re worse than the colleague who discovers you just bought a car and tells you he could have got you a deal.

I fly to Atlanta, dine out, meet colleagues, conduct business, take in a few sights, return home. Go online. Where I’m then inundated with display ads, served by Google, for things to do in Atlanta. This lasts for days, at least.

While writing this article — fact — I was blasted with Google ads advertising Google ads.

What more of ourselves — our personal information, our likes, our shares, our time, our attention, our eyes, our ears — can we give so that Google et al finally get digital advertising to be merely remotely useful to us? Google knows us, our location, our friendships, our searches. They know our intent, allegedly, yet ad after ad after interminable ad is rarely anything more than digital trash.

Last week — true story — I searched for an app that might help me find and pay for parking in San Francisco, for that day only. Gmail now insists on showing me ads for “parking deals.” This all seems rather inexcusable. All that money, all those brains, all those machines, a billion smartphones, a billion plus web users, and nearing the mid-point of the second decade of the 21st century and Google advertising doesn’t understand that I needed that parking spot last week despite my explicit intent.

How can a company worth over $400 billion, that inspires so much awe and fear not only in Silicon Valley but in China, Europe and beyond, be so bad at what it should be great at?

To be fair, when I go to Google.com to search for a very specific item, the topper most ad and the first five or so non-ad results are usually, though not always, sufficient for my needs. As for Gmail and YouTube, ads there are so consistently irrelevant as to be comical — some sort of meta-joke the Google singularity squad are playing at our expense, I imagine.

Maybe getting advertising right is like finding the cure for cancer. The more money we spend, the more time and resources we devote, the more we realize just how far away we are from the end goal.

I haven’t seen much of an improvement in ads now that most of America and a good portion of the world has migrated to smartphones. These devices know where we are. They know what we are doing, what we are searching for, what we are seeking on a map, what we are texting our friends, where we are checking in to — yet I am at a loss to recall even a single instance when a tiny Google-served ad at the bottom of my smartphone screen was even remotely worthy of clicking on.

What is Google doing with all our information?

Forget for just this moment any privacy implications surrounding what Google does and instead think of this: someone else, a complete stranger, has full access to your photo library, your entire search history, your movements and locations throughout the day, everyday, a record of all your app purchases, book downloads, pirated television programs. Don’t you think they would have a near-100% better idea of what you’re interested in than Google does?

Almost never right but at scale has magically made Google king of the Internet.

When I search on Google Maps on my desktop — the smartphone screen is too small for this — and when using a generic term, such as pizza, that ad, to be fair, is typically semi-relevant, though has yet to ever be my first choice. That’s the very best I can say about Google’s ads.

Nonetheless, in 2013, Google had an astounding $60 billion in revenues and a profit of just under $13 billion. They had a per-employee profit of $270,000.

I have no answers for this.

I do my best to stay abreast of high-tech, including, grudgingly so, ad tech. Not just pop-ups, pop-unders, banner ads, etc., but the actual technologies and platforms powering these. There is contextual advertising, native advertising, search ads, mobile search advertising, platforms that enable spot-buys in near real-time, technologies that seek to integrate our interests, our location, our friendships across all our screens, all in the hopes of offering better, higher-margin ads. I follow how Google is aggressively pushing Google+ to ensure that all the various services of theirs we use, Gmail and search, maps and more, can all be linked back to us, individually. That Google is making less per ad on mobile than on desktop is a topic I’ve become quite familiar with. I read that Yahoo is trying desperately to re-take control over its search and advertising functions.

But the big question remains: how is it these all work so very badly?

Somebody, anybody, please disrupt this industry.

Is this why Larry Page is spending so much money on Nest, on robots, driverless cars, Internet balloons, fiber and so much more — he knows the whole web advertising ecosphere is ultimately doomed? It can never be right enough, timely enough, personal enough to make any appreciable difference in our lives? Unfair? Ask yourself: Did anyone really believe even for a moment that digital advertising would be so bad come 2014?

Despite my keen awareness of the breadth and scale of the global Internet I am simply amazed each and every quarter to re-discover that so many people around the world are clicking on ads. Yet Google’s earning statement confirm just this. Google even continues to lead the industry in limiting ad fraud. The company recently purchased Spider.io, a start-up that seeks to limit fraudulent clicks. Per Google:

Advertising helps fund the digital world we love today — inspiring videos, informative websites, entertaining apps and services that connect us with friends around the world. But this vibrant ecosystem only flourishes if marketers can buy media online with the confidence that their ads are reaching real people.

Sounds well and good, but such acquisitions mostly only fuel my suspicions that digital advertising is a convoluted, confusing and inexplicable mess, the web equivalent of America’s healthcare system. Probably why at times, and despite how super-rich Google has become, I confess I think of digital ads as a con, a grift pulled not just on content creators, but on us users as well. We are bombarded with ads, companies base their business plan upon ad revenue dreams, ads litter nearly every public website on the planet, and yet in almost every single case and for nearly everyone I know they are a nuisance, an eyesore, almost always irrelevant, rarely of value, and quite possibly a calculated means of ensuring no other business models can thrive on the web.

Information wants to be monetized. Ads are middling succor. Funding the Internet went down the wrong path many years ago and we attempt to right it now simply by throwing in still more ads. Our shared loss.

Perhaps I should say nothing. Fact is, thanks to those billions of clicks and the billions of ad dollars they generate, we now have YouTube, the best search ever, free and accessible maps, a mobile operating system ready to power the world, even Gmail is probably still the best email service for most people. Nonetheless, I can’t help but take note that this is the year 2014 and we are still buried in meaningless, useless, annoying advertising and it doesn’t seem like it’s getting better, despite everything Google, Yahoo, Facebook and others have tried.  Perhaps our best minds, our brightest engineers, should focus their talents elsewhere. 

The Death Of iPhone. The Death Of Android. The Rebirth Of Facebook.

Well, that was a heckuva week.

Google sells Motorola for billions less than they paid for it. Apple sells millions fewer iPhones than nearly everyone expected, then directs guidance lower. Facebook becomes a mobile first company, for real this time. Amazon investors prove they don’t quite have unlimited patience. Yahoo remains last decade’s news. Microsoft probably has a new CEO, one with zero connection to Nokia. Oh, and they now make better commercials than Apple.

Anything else?

What we learned from last week’s machinations is that everything we think we know about the smartphone wars is completely, utterly false — or  worse, meaningless. Barely a fortnight ago, on this very site, I told you: “The smartphone wars are not over.” Nothing has been settled, least not the future. After last week’s fun-bumpy-tweet-filled ride, does anyone still dispute this?

Know this: The current market for smartphones, and all they are subsuming, transforming, re-making, inspiring — which is in fact all of the things — is itself under threat, betrayed by its own relentless innovation and rapid success. Yet, far too many analysts and bloggers stubbornly cling to the fiction that somehow, smartphones can alter every market they touch while continuing on a merry upward slope unscathed by their own destructive deeds.

The most basic assumptions about this market are nothing more than faith-based analyst alchemy.

Time now to kill the dominant fictions in the smartphone wars.

The Death of iPhone

Fiction: Apple owns the high-end of the smartphone market.   

If you are making assumptions re iPhone (or Android) sales growth based on an imaginary perceived share of a market that is already on the cusp of disrupting itself, then you are making faith-based decisions. It’s that simple.

As I wrote months before last week’s earnings announcement, if Steve Jobs was alive he would never approve the iPhone 5c. The 5c is a rare self-inflicted wound, the elevation of profits over values. Only, that is not the cause of Apple’s weakness in their iPhone business. The trouble is the smartphone market itself, which I am beginning to suspect does not actually exist. Bear with me.

The persistent belief among analysts that  as much as 90% of the current mobile phone market (nearly 5 billion users) will transition to smartphones is a religious ideal, nothing more. Repeat after me: There is no total addressable market (TAM) for smartphones. The very concept is a fiction. Indeed, we may already be within months of Peak iPhone, a year or two from Peak Smartphone. For billions of people, voice, robust SMS/MMS services, and perhaps some form of digital identity is more than they will ever need. What can Apple provide them? Even at, say, $300, nearly everyone on this planet cannot afford and will never need an iPhone.

It gets worse.

I carry my smartphone with me all the time and use it for far more than I can list here. For the majority of that time, however, I don’t actually need a “smartphone”. What I really need is something like a credit card-sized piece of glass that supports rare but necessary voice calling, possibly video calling, can display a virtual keyboard for texting, and includes a mag-stripe (and/or chip) for payments. Create this and the smartphone market is gone, reduced to the equivalent of the dusty home desktop PC. Given the rapidity of innovation in this market, I should reasonably expect to have my (truly) smart card by no later than mid 2016. No iPhone necessary — in barely two years.

Tim Cook must know this. This is likely one reason why Apple stockpiles so much cash. When you’re dependent upon a single product line, iPhone, for about 60% of your revenue, and that market may vanish in a few years, then your focus necessarily shifts to maximizing profits of that product line and funneling those profits into entirely new offerings.

Apple doesn’t release many new products. I suspect that is about to change in a very big way. Expect to see several new products and product lines from the company over the next year alone. Some designed for nothing more than padding iPhone margins. Others, desperately in search of that next big thing.

The Death of Android

Fiction: Android is unassailable

Google cut itself free from the anchor that was Motorola. They strong-armed Samsung into more closely following the sanctioned Google Android playbook. Wise moves.

I sense fear.

Yes, Android dominates smartphone market share. Look closer. What many call ‘Google-free’ Android, AOSP, now garners a solid second place — and is growing at a rate much faster than ‘real’ Android.

smartphone OS

AOSP is the “open-source software stack for a wide array of mobile devices with different form factors.” It can power Amazon’s Kindle line, or smartphones made for use in China, for example, where Google search, map, Play and other services are not terribly popular and not welcome by the government.

Does this matter?

Absolutely. Google no doubt believes that AOSP is a necessary sacrifice. It’s availability ensures the rapid spread of the  “Android” template and prevents iPhone or Windows Phone, for example, from garnering another new user. It seeds the future for ‘real’ Android — and it is hoped, heavy usage of those most profitable Google services. Except, this is false.

The fact is, the rapid, global embrace of smartphones has altered the entire value proposition of web search and web services — Google’s bread and butter. AOSP may presently be little more than Android without the Google, but it could ultimately become a fully-fledged ecosystem alternative in its own right, one that directly competes against Google on everything that matters to them, and not just in China, but in Japan, South Korea, Brazil, USA, everywhere.

Thus, while I suspect last week’s moves by Google signal the company’s preparations to launch an assault on the Chinese market, it may already be too late. The world’s biggest market for data and smartphones can do just fine without Google. Which means: everyone can.

It gets worse.

Extremely popular mobile services may now have a vested interest in supporting AOSP’s growth. Popular social messaging apps such as Line, WeChat or WhatsApp no doubt noticed that Google made its Hangouts service the default messaging app for Android Kitkat. They won’t sit still for such bullying. What’s to stop them from integrating their service and AOSP and offering a low-end smartphone in the developing world?

In the short-term, perhaps none of this happens. In fact, I expect Google to best Apple as the world’s most valuable tech company, possibly within a few weeks. Save the celebrations. Google’s value arises strictly from it’s ability to capture more of our habits, more of our actions, and monetize them across a near-endless supply of strangers and brands. What we are learning, however, is that despite the rapid spread of Android in all its forms, there are effective alternatives to Google services across every smartphone platform — even its own. Little wonder, then, that Google is moving quickly into moonshots, driverless cars, the connected home, consumer hardware, health and more. Such moves are driven by fear, even if they are shrouded in boilerplate Silicon Valley boasting.

The Rebirth of Facebook

Fiction: Unbundling Will Kill Facebook

Like that persistent meme that teens are abandoning Facebook, the idea that Facebook is being unbundled to death — via messaging apps, social picture apps, Christian dating sites and the like — is simply false. Facebook is benefitting from the unbundling trend.

In fact, after badly stumbling on mobile, after the laughable dung heap that was Facebook Home, the brief marriage to HTML5, and the spats with Apple and Google, Facebook is doing better than ever. More than half its revenues now comes via mobile — no smartphone OS necessary.

This is in large part because the company is embracing the unbundling strategy, shrewdly leveraging its billion users and their extant Facebook identity and eagerness to share everything. That some people want to share only some aspects of their lives with only some others at some times and places, via text or image or video, is fine — every 1 and every 0 feeds the growing Facebook engine.

Let a thousand apps bloom. Facebook will be there.

Barely a year ago, analysts were convinced Facebook was doomed given its utter dependence upon iOS and Android. Now, a case can be made that smartphones, once thought as the device to bring the developing world into the global sphere of the Internet, is already on the cusp of being disrupted. In this new world, it is Facebook (and our Facebook ID) that will connect us all to one another.

The Dogs of War

What I think last week’s official numbers and clever machinations reveal is that the “smartphone” market, which most still believe is a pitched battle between iOS profit share and Android market share, is, in fact, merely the initial wave in a coming tsunami, one that will deliver highly personal, nearly ubiquitous and ever-engaging computing and connectivity to all who want it and nearly all who do not, and in forms we have yet to imagine. Hardware profits and OS marketshare, be damned.

The smartphone itself may be no more than a fleeting, ten-year-blip in computing history. There will be no 30th anniversary for the iPhone. Android will betray its maker. Owning your own smartphone ecosystem does not matter. Everything is in flux. My verse is the destruction of everything — and the great tech companies of our day happily, foolishly oblige.

As Jim Morrison said, “no one here gets out alive.”

Is Yahoo Even Worth Trying To Save?

Is there any reason to save Yahoo? I say no. 

What does Yahoo do? What is Yahoo for? What is Yahoo great at? What is Yahoo even good at? 

Yahoo does not have the best technology, nor the best content. Yahoo does not have the best users, nor the most. Yahoo is close to irrelevant on mobile — the future of computing — and has flubbed every effort to be social.

Yahoo is the Detroit of web properties. Once big, once thriving, it helped create a future it can never be part of. It’s only hope, in my view, is to whither away, quickly, so maybe a few worthy pieces can find life in the wild.

While the tech blogosphere was in a tizzy last week, some outraged, most envious over the firing and massive golden parachute that Yahoo’s Henrique de Castro received, they missed the larger story: de Castro was not the “dead man walking.”  Yahoo is the dead man walking. Gleeful rubbernecking by industry watchers won’t change the company’s fortunes.

Outraged that Yahoo dropped so much on an executive who failed at his job? Surprised that Yahoo paid so much for Tumblr? The desperate always pay too much. de Castro and Tumblr’s David Karp are, I suspect, only the first of many scavengers who will feast on Yahoo’s bones.  Indeed, there may be no better purpose for this company, sadly, than for the fortunate pleasure of a few lucky ones to fatten themselves up as they tear apart the company’s bloated flesh, devouring its cash and resources till all is gone. This makes Marissa Mayer’s reputed strategy of buying talent — at premium prices — tragically comical in its utter wrongness. Throwing good money atop bad, in tech, especially, is always a waste.

I am surprised, frankly, that this isn’t the prevailing view. Industry website TechCrunch recently stated:

Yahoo is a company remade. Under the guidance of Mayer, it has refocused its product vision, purchased talent at a rapid rate, and expanded its native content efforts.

Vision? Talent? Native content? For whom? Can you recall the last time you used Yahoo? Your colleagues? Spouse? Children? Parents? Is Yahoo where you would recommend anyone go to for breaking news, tech news, weather, apps, cloud services — for anything other than your sister wanting to check her horoscope?

Pop quiz!

What do you think of the person with a @yahoo.com email address?

Second question: do you know anyone who uses their Yahoo ID for any external site, app, or service?

Think of computing, the cloud, the web, apps, smartphones, tablets, PCs. You spend hours with these every single day. They are your work, your play, your means of connecting. You don’t want to be without them, not under any circumstance. Probably none of this activity, however, involves Yahoo. Yahoo is AOL without the dial tone.

Yet, despite this, Yahoo ($YHOO) has more than doubled in the past year.

$YHOO

Do not be fooled. This run-up is almost entirely due to Yahoo’s rather fortuitous stake in Alibaba (and Yahoo Japan). Yahoo’s present valuation is about $40 billion. Analysts estimate that Yahoo’s stake in Alibaba is worth about $36 billion, maybe more. Meaning, Yahoo as the world understands it is worth $4 billion.

Think of that. Yahoo mail, weather, finance…Flickr, Katie Couric, fantasy sports, David Pogue, display advertising…and every other Yahoo service and property — oh, and Tumblr — is worth no more than one SnapChat, and less than half a Dropbox. To spend any of the Alibaba largesse to re-remake or re-rebuild Yahoo is a vainglorious waste.

Yahoo is of such irrelevance, I am still not sure I should even write this column.

It’s not just that the various parts of Yahoo are so meaningless to so many, it’s that their sum is worth so much less. The fact is that everything Yahoo once did at least well and everything it has promised to do going forward is done far better by one or more capable companies. For free. Yahoo has been unbundled to death. It will never get put back together again.

Why choose Yahoo over Facebook, Twitter, Skype. Android? Google Search, Maps, Now? iOS. Siri. Pandora. YouTube. LinkedIn. Roku. Netflix. Foursqare. Yelp. Those digital stickers. Huffington Post. The list of what Yahoo should have been and now can never be is frightfully long.

The company doesn’t even have the benefit of control over its destiny. It is run by techies yet dependent upon the vagaries and cold calculus of Madison Avenue. It gets worse. Last month, Yahoo was forced to reveal its rather shocking reliance upon Microsoft:

Yahoo has revealed in a US Securities & Exchange Commission filing that nearly one-third of its revenue last quarter — 31% — came from its search deal with Microsoft, according to a Bloomberg report. That’s far higher than the “more than 10%” figure Yahoo previously acknowledged.

It gets still worse. Per Bloomberg: “Yahoo’s share of the U.S. digital-advertising market is estimated to shrink to 5 percent in 2015 from 5.8 percent last year, while Google and Facebook both may expand their shares, to 42 percent and 9 percent next year respectively.”

Their irrelevance is accelerating.

Yahoo’s mission is focused, perhaps laudable:

Yahoo is focused on making the world’s daily habits inspiring and entertaining – whether you’re searching the web, emailing friends, sharing photos with family, or simply checking the weather, sports scores or stock quotes.

Except, this simply is not realistic given Yahoo’s limited mobile-social-local strengths. Shut it down, sell it off. Once the Titanic has hit the iceberg, all that remains is to ensure as many get to safety as possible. 

Last week, Mayer emailed employees regarding the firing of Mr. de Castro. Her very first line:

The beginning of a new year always provides time for reflection.

Reflection is not necessary. Yahoo’s time has come.

Understand. I absolutely do not wish ill of anyone associated with Yahoo, certainly not the 12,000+ presently employed by the company. A native Detroiter, I witnessed first-hand what happens to people, to communities, when companies go under. In this instance, however, I believe Yahoo cannot be resuscitated. The longer the delay, the more the vultures will tear at the flesh, till even the very few parts worth saving are no more.

The Smartphone Wars Pivot And I Jump To Windows Phone

The smartphone wars are over. Apple won.

They are not the only winner, of course, just the biggest. I confess I do not fully appreciate the many moving parts of a Korean chaebol, nor understand Korean accounting practices. Such caveats notwithstanding, Samsung also emerged victorious.

Given that there now exists about a billion persons who use Google services everyday, several times a day, their most personal information monetized by the company’s anonymous servers in steady bursts, clearly Google also won, even if it has yet to show up in their earnings reports.

The losers include Sony, Panasonic, Sharp, BlackBerry, Palm, Dell, and far too many others to list here.

Except, our story doesn’t end there. The world keeps spinning. The market keeps growing, smartphones continue to invade new industries, apps are becoming more robust, software ever smaller, the power and scale of the cloud keeps expanding — and competition never stops.

One Shot One Opportunity Is False

HP — remember them — is set to release a low-end smartphone for emerging markets. Don’t scoff. The vast majority of the world still does not own the equivalent of the very device you refuse to give up for even a day. While Samsung continues to lead all smartphone makers, the company’s operating profit fell notably in the fourth quarter, likely due to reduced margins on its high-end smartphones. Apple, meanwhile, saw its global smartphone share drop to a shockingly low 12.1%. That’s not 12.1% of global mobile phone sales but of “smartphone” sales. I never expected it to be so meager.

Yet, new opportunities abound.

Apple’s iPhone is steadily invading corporate IT. With each job and every task smartphones strip away from traditional PCs, their inherent value increases.

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Cars are another new battleground. That constant stream of real-time data, entertainment and connectivity we now demand fill every moment of our lives will not be halted simply because we get inside a car. This is a big deal. Around 80 million new cars and trucks are sold every year.

Last summer, Apple announced iOS in the Car, its effort to integrate iOS  apps and services with newer automobiles. I have exceedingly low expectations. Apple makes its money from hardware sales, iPhone hardware in particular. iOS in the Car still requires users to have an iPhone which they must then plug into the vehicle to gain the full benefits of Siri, Maps, iTunes and other content. This is much too limiting.

Google’s recently announced Open Automotive Alliance — still primarily vapor — has a far greater upside as it is free from such device constraints. The automotive market may force Apple to re-think its hardware-only focus very soon. After all, Apple hardware, at least while we are driving, is effectively irrelevant.

The situation is much different in wearables, where I contend Apple has a decided advantage. If we are ever going to wear computing devices en masse — be they wristbands, eyewear or clothing — they will have to be far more than merely functional. They must look good. They must synch effortlessly with our smartphones and other computers. They must be intuitive to operate. We will want to try them on without sales pressure. Advantage: Apple.

Sports and wellness, the Internet of Things, and the extrication of content from copyright, which will allow us to control, share and interact with content at all times and from any place, will similarly spin the smartphone market into numerous overlapping paths, merging with, tearing down and creating industry after industry.

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Then there are the giant emerging markets. China, of course, but also India, which has long embraced Sony and Samsung. In my admittedly limited experience, Southeast Asia has long revealed a love of physical keyboards and robust messaging services — offering a potential return to life for BlackBerry.

As the many combatants prepare for these coming new wars, let us rejoice in the fact that we can now can go to practically any mall, any carrier’s store, any electronics retailer anywhere in the world, and purchase an extraordinarily powerful, highly functional and reasonably intuitive connected mobile computer for relatively little money. Which is exactly what I did recently. I was quite surprised by what happened.

I chose Windows Phone.

Though I have used smartphones built for nearly every single platform from all around the world, my go-to device for the past 5 years has been iPhone. No longer.

These are my reasons why — and they remind us that even where the smartphone wars are settled, they are never truly settled.

I Like Big Displays And I Cannot Lie

Nokia-Lumia-1520I now primarily use the Nokia Lumia 1520. It’s huge. I love it. Surfing the web, reading a book, racing cars (gaming), watching movies, scanning my photos; all are so much more delightful on the gorgeous and very big Lumia 1520 display than on the iPhone.

I dislike the iPhone 5(c/s) screen dimensions. I find it much too narrow. The dimensions of the iPhone 5 series, in my view, reveal the limits placed upon Apple by its highly successful app ecosystem. Yes, apps should be optimized for specific screen sizes and Apple is the clear leader in apps, both in terms of quantity and quality. Unfortunately, this results in a display with dimensions that I find to be both limiting and, frankly, unattractive.

I have found no device that is as beautiful as the colorful and unapologetically polycarbonite Lumia phones.

Build Quality

The Lumia looks great, yes, but it also feels great. In fact, Nokia devices have long been known for their build quality and durability. This is not to suggest that Apple’s newest iPhone is poorly constructed. Rather, they feel flimsy. iPhone 5s, in particular, feels much too light, like your grandmother’s jewelry.

Navigation

The combination of Nokia Maps (Here Maps), which includes traffic data, search, and downloadable maps, plus Here Transit for public transportation data has proven more helpful to me than Apple’s alternative. Google Maps with Waze, not fully available on Windows Phone, may prove more useful to most. However, I simply don’t want to provide Google with still more of my personal data.

Accessories

Most iPhone accessories are priced well above my pay grade. Not so with Windows Phone. I recently purchased a car charger for my Windows Phone at a gas station — for less than $10. The low price was due, of course, to Windows Phone’s use of the micro USB standard. Similarly, I lost my Jambox charger. Luckily, it also uses micro USB so I simply swap with my phone charger. Standards make life easier.

smart_hero_mba_11_2xiOS 7

I love what I think Apple is trying to do with iOS 7. The problem is, they haven’t done it yet. The emphasis on data presentation, plus improved integration across select apps and functions is a laudable achievement. It’s just that the damn thing freezes and crashes much too frequently.

Live Tiles

Live Tiles are often — but not always — preferable to static app icons. Tiles can display current weather, show me how many calories I have consumed for the day, display my favorite photos. Tiles that merely twinkle and flash and convey no useful information, however, are admittedly a time-sucking distraction.

The Fine Print

I am a Mac user. This means that with Windows Phone I no longer have apps that effortlessly synch across iPhone and Mac. This is just one of the sacrifices I’ve had to accept by choosing Windows Phone.

Because of copyright restrictions, I no longer have full, unfettered access to all the songs and videos I’ve purchased over the years through iTunes.

There are far fewer apps and most apps are of lesser quality on Windows Phone.

Maddeningly, the very latest Windows Phone keyboard remains determinedly stuck in 2011. The keyboard is cumbersome and stupid, rarely correcting my obvious typos.

As much as I dislike the iPhone 5 design, it adheres to what should be a cardinal rule for smartphones, despite everything I have said about big, beautiful displays: for every smartphone, it should be possible for every action to be performed with just one hand.

Games? There are great games on Windows Phone. Microsoft also appears intent on offering a gaming experience that truly integrates phone and Xbox console. Then there’s that bigger display. However, there are far more games for all types of gamers available on iPhone.

Mobile Safari and Mobile Explorer are equivalent. FaceTime and Skype are not, however, with Skype more a global and business telephony service and FaceTime the world’s most accessible video chat service.

Nokia offers highly granular camera controls that are sorely lacking on iPhone. My Lumia takes much better pictures at night. However, iPhone 5(c/s) takes great pictures and is faster to operate.

Email is simpler to use and to set-up on Windows Phone.

The Windows Phone equivalent of Siri is of absolutely no use. As I am at a loss to recall a single instance when I have found Siri useful, this probably doesn’t matter.

Winners & Winners

Clearly, whichever device and whichever platform you choose requires trade-offs. I expect this to become even more pronounced as the smartphone wars morph, move into entirely new arenas, enable new devices, like wearables, reinvigorate old device, like automobiles — and steadily connect more and more billions of people across the world.

For millions of people every month, and for nearly all of us at least once every year or two, an opportunity presents itself to embrace a new or different platform. This is a good thing as it keeps the combatants ever vigilant, always striving to improve.

The smartphone wars are not over. Rather, the first smartphone war has ended.

Android is Eating the World

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 8.32.21 AM

Benedict Evans has a must read slide deck from his mobile is eating the world presentation. I’m going to piggyback on his title a little and tackle the narrative that Android is eating the world. It is the narrative that is hard to escape and it would be a significant point if it was a unified version of Android which was eating the world. However, when you take a step back, and view Android in the big picture, you learn it is in fact an extremely fragmented Android which is eating the world.

I’m fond of saying that Android in its purest form is not a platform. It is a technology which enables companies to create platforms. Samsung is using Android to create a platform. Amazon has used Android to create a platform. Nearly every major OEM in China is using Android to create a platform. ((There are 100 different app stores in China based on Android. 20 of them are the major players and each has its own billing and certification process)) And Google is using Android to create a Google specific platform. ((Consumer behavior, by way of app download trends and purchasing vary greatly by each app store)) All of these companies and more are taking Android to create their own platform and their own ecosystems. There is no single unified Android codebase which is dominating the world. There is no single Android app store, there is no single Android ecosystem. What does exist is a vast array of different platforms and different ecosystem running this underlying kernel called Android.

Where I think the confusion in the Android is eating the world narrative exists is the line of thinking that Google = Android. That every bit of the Android is winning narrative is a narrative that benefits Google. This view represents a clear mis-understanding of Android and what it is and why it exists.

The Role of the Android Platform

There is only one company in the market right now that does not need platform assistance from a third party. That is Apple. Every other hardware company needs a third party to provide them with software to run on their hardware. Microsoft has been this company for most of the computing era. Google, with Android, has provided the Microsoft alternative to the mobile world. Hardware OEMs need this third party software support because they need a company to provide a platform and standards support for a wide variety of technologies.

However between the two, Android offers to hardware OEMs what Microsoft does not, the ability to differentiate. Ship Windows or Windows Phone and your product from a software standpoint is no different from your competitors. Which means your basis to compete is extremely limited to form and price. Android, on the other hand, allows hardware companies to take the platform which Google is supporting with standards and driver support and customize it in a way to offer some level of visual and feature differentiation at a software level. Microsoft is providing a standardized unified platform. Google is providing a standardized platform to create other platforms / ecosystems. These solutions are very different and enable entirely different ecosystems.

The Multiple Android Markets

I wrote a few weeks ago about how Android is enabling appliance electronics to get more intelligent. In this regard, Android is very similar to embedded Linux. Android is likely poised to power refrigerators, thermostats, coffee pots, robots, you name it. Android as a platform in this regard is very interesting. But again this the embedded version of Android not the one that powers smartphones, tablets, TVs, etc. That is a very different Android. This version of Android is the most interesting to me.

The other Android market is the one for products like smartphones and tablets. This market is the one that garners the most attention. Yet when you look at Android’s smartphone and tablet market share you see that the bulk of it is made up from devices that are considered in the mid-low range of price points. Android’s share of premium handsets is very small, less than 15% globally. The vast majority of Android’s market share rise over the past few quarters has come from the low-end or devices costing wholesale less than $250. ((Creative Strategies, Inc estimates.))

The same is true in tablets where last quarter Android white box tablets costing less than $100 made up just over 30% of device shipments. ((IDC estimates.))

Looking at the share of devices at certain price points, and what OS they run, it is clear that Android owns the low-end and Apple owns the high-end. In many emerging markets there will be a battle for the mid-range between Apple and Android OEMs. Looking at Android in this light highlights its importance. Had Google not released Android what platform would have risen to serve the low-end? Android is in fact helping develop, developing parts of the world. From a technology standpoint, Android’s role in helping to develop emerging markets is in fact a good thing.

So while is true that Android is eating the world, it is doing so in a very non-unified way outside of driver and standards support. This adds to the level of complexity to any analysis about Android. Android is eating the world but what is interesting is that not only Google owns Android. Android is owned by all and benefit all in entirely different ways.

When you take a step back you realize that we have never had anything quite like Android before. While we may make assumptions about what Google may do with their version of Android, we can’t make the same assumptions with what other hardware companies will do with their version of Android. To keep enabling this multiplicity of Android ecosystems all Google simply has to do is keep up with driver and standards support. Perhaps this was the point of Android all along.

What remains unclear is how Google can benefit, which may not be the point or even necessary, from the landscape Android is enabling. They have all but given up in China. iOS devices are worth more to them in every major developed market. They would of course love to see this change but there is no evidence to suggest otherwise. So Android dominants the low-end of the tablet and smartphone market and commodity connected electronics. Time will tell in what ways this benefits Google. But as I mentioned, it may not the point of Android or even necessary for Google.

Google does not equal Android. You understand this when you can see the forest in the trees.

Truth And Lies Of Silicon Valley

It’s a privilege to write here, and a joy to focus on the long-term trends in technology, the rise and fall of companies and leaders, and the impact this region has upon not only America, but the entire world. I suspect Silicon Valley’s output will come to equal the impact of Detroit, my hometown, which effectively created the middle class, ensured the Allied victory in World War 2, and fundamentally altered how and where people live.

Silicon Valley is also a region that rivals Hollywood and Washington for talking about itself. It frequently displays the worst elements of both pack mentality and herd mentality, and aggressively covers up its failings, including a truly dismaying inequality in wealth and an almost gleeful ageism, all while insisting it knows best for California, the United States, for industry, for government, and for the world.

I now live here. These are my personal, unvarnished observations on Silicon Valley.

Almost all of the work in tech is done by companies and by people which tech bloggers pay scant attention to or worse, openly mock.

Patent lawsuits have about the best margins of any product or service in Silicon Valley. Consider that Apple recently won $290 million in a suit against Samsung. All told, Steve Jobs’ thermonuclear war has resulted in nearly a billion dollars in jury awards. If Apple only ultimately collects less than a third, $300 million, for example, that’s still about a 10X or greater return, no matter how they account for legal fees.

Does Coca Cola even make 10X on its syrup?

Computing is the new oil. The Silicon Valley “ecosystem” integrates smart people, start-ups, venture capital, and a cozy relationship between universities and for-profit corporations, has them all working at light speed and with almost zero consideration of the long-term or the existing order of things. It absolutely can be replicated in many parts of the world. This comes with a caveat, however. This area has optimized on this proven model while focused almost exclusively on computing (hardware, software, standards, apps, data, cloud, social media). Unless the copycats focus their efforts on computing-related activities, their returns will never be like what we have here. Note the very limited impact of Silicon Valley’s biotech efforts thirty years in.

Never, ever believe anyone that says Silicon Valley and Washington, DC do not mix. Washington, DC has the power, Silicon Valley has the money. The courtship is in full swing, and it’s far more than simply Washington leaders searching for big campaign contributions and re-election algorithms. Consider that under President Obama, the annual deficit alone is larger than the total value of Apple, the Valley’s biggest, richest company. Follow the money. Silicon Valley and Washington are the new Wall Street and Washington.

I always assume that any start-up whose value is based upon artificial limits is doomed. For example, Snapchat. The company is optimized for mobile, social media and the visual web. That’s almost a can’t miss. Yet, it is riding atop a temporal distortion, a gimmick whereby owners of digital content and services create artificial limits. In Snapchat’s case, the artificial limit is time (e.g. your picture or ad will vanish in 5,4,3,2,1). We all know this is not true. You may remember the briefly popular, and much-blogged-about Mailbox app, which created a sign-up list, despite the near-infinite scalability of such digital services. It may pay off in the short-term, but if you can’t cash out in the short-term, I suspect you will get burned.

There are real limits and there are made-up limits. If the limit is made-up, I don’t invest.

Speaking of investing, anyone using Snapchat for (illegal) insider trading may wish to re-consider their actions.

Almost everything you do online, and almost every time you carry your smartphone with you outside, is a far greater security risk than leaving your home WiFI open. Stop refusing to share. Stop handing over all your private data so easily.

Most people I meet here are very smart and work very hard. This is critical to their success — and to the region. Bonus: most that I meet are good people.

I have been around the world and all about this great country. Nowhere in the US is there a more socially inclusive environment than Silicon Valley — nor a more politically intolerant one. You will be branded if you are a Republican, a conservative.  Just so you know.

Connections matter above all else. Except, brainpower. If your brainpower sits atop the 0.1%, you will do exceedingly well. If  at the 1%, you will still do great. Nonetheless, and though I can’t say how many people at Apple have actual “humanities” degrees, I can assure you that you better have an engineering degree, science degree, and/or economics degree if you want a good job. It’s not about humanities or the social sciences out here.

Too many here are focused on creating the future or disrupting the current order, and not at all on preserving what is best. This is too bad. Think of all the great stuff we’ve been able to re-capture almost without trying. For example, thanks to iPhone, Yelp and Foursquare, I never again have to eat at fast food joints or franchise restaurants. Now, no matter where I am, I can find a great, local, mom-and-pop eatery. Similarly, classical music in the US, effectively dead on radio, is now readily available, for free, on Pandora and iTunes. I suspect the region is missing a giant opportunity is overlooking things to preserve.

We spend more on apps than on software.

I know of no one here who spends more on television than on connectivity. Internet, WiFi, smartphone and tablet connectivity wildly crush cable television, DVD rentals and the like. And yet, the new cool is to tell the world you’re going to stop reading email, stop tweeting, maybe go off-grid for a week or two. In my experience, no one who tells you this is ever telling you the truth. To be disconnected in Silicon Valley, even for a moment, is to be without air.

In physical space, absolutely no one ever mocks anyone for their choice in smartphone or computer.

Perhaps because there are so many smart, competitive, reasonably well-off people here, but attractiveness and fitness command a premium.

The rest of the world will know soon enough: the best source for breaking news is Twitter. The best links to the best analysis of current events is via Twitter.

In Silicon Valley, the cloud is your real hard drive and your physical hard drive is just a backup, likely to crash.

The last thing we see at night and the first thing we see in the morning is our smartphone.

We get our music recommendations come from iTunes and YouTube.

Design is hard. Really hard. BMW has been making cars for about 100 years. The new 750i is ugly. If BMW still can’t get car design exactly right, 100 years on, it’s probably no wonder that so much hardware, so much software, so many apps, nearly every UI design is so poor. Still, bad design is an obvious failing, with Silicon Valley a leader.

In my time here, I’ve witnessed radically more communications failures and personal angst based on people with obviously different Myers-Briggs assessments than on whether the person was black or white, male or female, for example.

There are so many people out here, so many cars, so little space. Yet barring a literal seismic catastrophe, I believe this area is on a growth trajectory that will continue for at least another generation or two.

Google’s Strategy with the Moto G and KitKat

I’m observing several interesting things from Google’s moves as of late. The first has to do with the recently launched Motorola G, premium spec smartphone at low-end prices. The Moto G has a $179 price point. This price range is a significant part of global smartphone sales in developing markets. See the slide below which shows the most recent snapshot of the global smartphone vendor market share.

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Notice who is missing from this chart? Motorola. From meetings I have had with their teams it was made clear to me that Motorola wants to push to be a more global brand playing in more global regions than they are today. The release of the Moto G is a step in this direction. The handset fits the spec and price range that should make it attractive in the markets they choose to go after. Adding dual sim for India and Brazil makes them a potential competitor for Samsung, Nokia and other regional brands competing at the non-premium price points.

While I think the price is interesting, Motorola will be going up against local brands in markets like India and it will be interesting to see if they can compete with the more established local brands. Brazil, Russia, and other parts of Europe are likely targets as well.

The key for Motorola will be marketing. Right now their brand is not strong globally at a handset level and if they are serious about becoming a global player developing regionally relevant solutions, they need to build their brand in those areas.

KitKat

Several things have happened with KitKat that I have observed and found interesting. First, the UI seems to be a departure from the more geek centered focus and feel that prior stock versions of Android had. This happens to be one of the things I liked most about stock Android and Nexus devices. KitKat seems to be a OS transition from appealing to geeks to appealing to a more mainstream audience.

Second, it is much more deeply integrated with Google services. Each stock version of Android was always positioned as the best of Google but KitKat takes it to a new level. This is incredibly important. Google’s stock Android solutions get installed on the majority of mid-low range smartphones and tablets. Most vendors just take the generic AOSP, load it on their hardware and go to market. Only a few vendors actually change or ‘skin’ their Android devices with custom software work before they go to market. Samsung, HTC, and Xiaomi being the notable ones. For most other vendors stock Android is what gets shipped. This is why over the past 6 month’s Jelly Bean (version 4.1x-4.3) is now used on nearly half of all devices that have been shipped over the same time frame. Many new devices going to market run the latest OS. We don’t see this in the US but it is true in emerging markets.

For this reason, I feel Google is trying to get a handle on Android’s fragmentation as it specifically relates to their services. As I, and several other analysts have pointed out, Google’s services are practically nonexistent in many emerging markets where locals favor local services over Google’s. This is anything from email, social services, messaging apps, and more. My read with KitKat is that Google understands Android’s growth in the low-mid range is where the volume is and they have yet to capitalize on that market from a Google services standpoint. Android had for the most part been hi-jacked by the low-end and adding no value to their ecosystem. I believe KitKat is a step in the direction to address that.

Smartphones Are Transforming Retail Not With Technology But With Messy Humanity

I believe a profound transformation in retail is now underway, one set to equal the changes in buying and selling formed during the modern industrial age. Only, it’s not what you think.

It started with Apple, which launched the smartphone wars. With smartphone in hand, we can now assess competitor price, global availability, level of service, and overall quality of any product anywhere on the globe, even while browsing inside a small store on the very edge of the farthest reaches of our planet.

For today’s retailers, it gets worse.

Amazon has constructed a platform that enables it to sell virtually any item at a lesser price than any competitor anywhere, with all necessary adjustments on price and availability made in real-time.

With Google, we can know everything around us and can locate exactly what we want, whether down the street or on another continent. There are no boundaries, no safe places.

With social media, we are always in contact with family, friends, followers and all manner of experts. Meaning, we need never pay more than the absolute best price available. We never need to choose the wrong product for our unique needs — nor be persuaded by crafty or misleading sales entreaties.

Thanks to smartphone payments apps we have our requisite coupons and loyalty points always at the ready. We can also now instantly send (digital) cash to another person’s mobile device, bypassing all manner of legal and non-legal intermediaries.

Retail — the entire shopping, buying, paying, servicing, researching, promoting ecosystem — is being de-constructed by smartphones, social media, location data and the cloud, with power flowing outward to every potential buyer.

This is only the beginning.

[pullquote]Values equal profits.[/pullquote]

The more profound change, and one that industry analysts seem utterly blind to, is that the very same technologies which enable shoppers to receive the best price, the best service, the best value, will similarly guarantee that their money itself generates maximum impact.

For every $100 you spend, would you prefer that most of it, if possible, stayed within your community? If you could choose between having your next $100 go to retailers that support your child’s school, your neighborhood, your political and social views versus to a faceless corporation of undetermined origin and values, would you? I suspect the answer is a resounding yes and I believe our technologies are rapidly leading us toward this new reality.

When able to easily determine and demand the very best price and the very best product, what comes next is to make sure we spend our (limited) dollars in a manner that fosters and extends our political, social and community goals to optimum levels. Retailers will have to adjust to this new world. Their new reality is thus:

Values equal profits.

We can now get anything, anytime, anywhere and at the very best price available. How then to choose? Simple. We choose Brand X and Retailer Y because the product’s origin, its composition, the people who make it, those who sell it, those who service it, all support a world and a future that most closely aligns with our own.

Seen in this light, smartphones and the mobile web are not merely upending retail and relationships, fostering new services and business models, they are transforming the very notion of retail. No longer will it be about profits first. Rather, values first, then profits.

We can already see the beginnings of this change, of course. Fair trade coffee, handmade crafts, and restaurants that emphasize “local” as much as the food itself. These are merely brief flashes of what’s to come. I predict that within a decade, maybe less, values will be a primary driver behind most consumer sales in the developed world.

Note: I do not mean “values” as practiced in the traditional (20th century) marketing sense. Apple, for example, does a masterful job promoting their values — aspiration, liberation, creation. These are, however, feel-good values designed to please everyone. This will no longer be sufficient. In a world when we can easily find equivalents and get them at the absolute best price, values will become the prime differentiator. No doubt, the values of some retailers will be highly offensive to many. This will not slow this new reality down.

Indeed, with so much information readily available, it may soon no longer even be  possible to make a purchase decision without knowing the values of a product or the political leanings of its sellers. With instant price comparisons, location-aware search, real-time data streams, constant connectivity to friends, family, followers, spiritual advisors, political leaders and product experts, the act of purchasing based on values becomes not just possible but commonplace, probably even expected. In the near future, you don’t merely check in to a place to tell your friends where you are, you check in to make a declaration of who you are — and you can do so with every purchase.

Retail will become less about profit and more about a larger social purpose. To promote particular religious or social views, gun rights, a greener planet, transgender equality, Christian fundamentalist practices, polygamy, animal welfare; the options are as expansive as humanity itself.

Yes, it can get messy. It will get messy. Humanity is messy. Despite such messiness, I believe this trend is inevitable — and ultimately far more liberating. I also expect this new reality, in fits and starts, to be absolutely embraced. Very soon we will have a difficult time comprehending 20th century retail.

We have spent our whole lives focused on price, quality and convenience. We won that war. Anything, anywhere, at anytime and at the best price is now the base level expectation. Deeply personal, values-based shopping comes next, enabled, ironically so, by mass market computing technologies and globe-spanning social media platforms.

We are only now entering a era where we can search and find shops that match our values for whatever we want. We are only now able to instantly declare our purchases to all our friends and followers, telling them and the entire world in semi-permanent digital ink who we are and what we believe in with the very money we spend.

Values will drive sales. Values will drive profits. Values cannot be matched by Amazon, Google or any global conglomerate.

Image courtesy of The Guardian 

The Simple Shocking Failures of Microsoft Google Facebook Apple And Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley companies love to remind us they are on a mission to change the world. Perhaps, although I confess I’m slightly suspicious given their obvious relentless pursuit of funding, acquisitions, getting acquired, going public, and generating piles of cash.

And because so many things they offer us — things that really ought to work, every time, anytime, no questions asked — fail so miserably. This list, it seems, is endless.

Email gets a pass. Siri is so thoroughly ineffectual and so utterly counter to its advertising that I’m not even going to include it here. Wouldn’t be fair. Same with the industry’s tragic dependence upon advertising, which now litters nearly every real, physical, virtual and digital space any of us might occupy. But there’s far more than these, of course. My smartphone ought to know how I feel, right this moment. After all, what contains more data on me, about me, historical and present, than my smartphone? Know how I feel and play a song to match my mood, for example. That would be awesome. Only, that’s asking for too much, I suspect. I mean, has Apple’s “genius” service ever worked for anyone, ever? I’ve received better music and movie recommendations from my mother — and she neither listens to music nor watches movies.

There may be unknowable failures, of course. Perhaps with Google and Amazon giving us so much for free in return for using their service, we are creating a future America that believes everything should be offered at no price, or that profit is unnecessary to sustain a business, or that we are all entitled to something, anything, without ever paying for it. That’s a potential massive dependency failure. Only, I am merely concerned with the obvious failures. Those instances where some lone wolf at each of these companies should not have even had to point it out because it ought to have been so obvious to everyone involved.

Why is it that practically every single smartphone ever built can’t seem to recognize that the WiFi it is connected to isn’t actually connected to the Internet — so switch over to cellular, already! In a world where I can tweet from a jet 30,000 feet above the ground, this should not ever happen.

Any site that demands I first log-in using Facebook is a failure — and an affront to decency. Imagine any physical retail store doing the same.  Similarly, any site that allows us to log-in using our Facebook credentials should not ever receive more than confirmation of our identity. Our location, contacts, friendships and long history on Facebook should not ever be handed over without our explicit and ongoing consent.

Too often, Instagram videos fail to play on my iPhone. On my Mac, Twitter Vine videos fail more often than they work. I’ve stopped clicking on Vine links, in fact.

Printing from an iPhone or iPad is a joke.

Windows 8 — and I promise you, I am no Microsoft hater — is so inexplicably, almost painfully user-unfriendly that, and I am serious here, every other thing Microsoft has done right, and every other thing they have achieved, and despite all their money, and ignoring the ascendency of iOS and Android and the rise of iPad in the workplace, the breadth and scale of of the Windows 8 OS failure is such that it could literally take down the entire company.  Microsoft could absolutely afford to be years behind in the smartphone wars and could absolutely drop billions and billions more on online services and go through a succession of just terrible post-Ballmer CEOs and could be outright hostile to the consumer market — if such a thing exists — and  they could still dominate the enterprise for at least another generation. Except…Windows 8 is so shockingly hard to use, so determinedly strategy over function that I now believe it’s a very real possibility that Bing will be worth more than Windows before this decade is out. I say this absolutely as someone who wants this great American company to thrive — and as someone who fully believes that Microsoft’s singular UI strategy and flat “live tiles” design is still the right one. As someone who cares, I cannot emphasize this enough: fix it.

It’s a failure for my hometown that Amazon somehow gets away with selling billions of dollars of goods without charging its customers sales tax.

It’s a failure that I can’t have my “smartphone” ignore every single call that does not include the number and person (or business) calling.

Has Eddie Cue every actually used iMessages? Or Maps?

When Jony Ive flies from San Francisco to London, at what point does his iPhone batter fail him? For me, it’s much too soon.

In return for a never-ending wave of our most personal information, Google promises us instant, usable search results. Yet when I enter “Brian S Hall” I am instantly offered 286 million results. That is a stupid failure.

That the entire tech sector has done next to nothing to make it so we don’t all have to pay near-criminal prices to HP and Canon for printer ink is a massive failure.

Similarly, it remains far too hard to move the pictures from my smartphone onto my computer(s) and to the cloud, and back again, and share them with exactly who I want. Probably every single user on the planet wants this, deserves this, and still can’t have it. Fail.

How is all this possible? Is it because for too many of the indicted companies, they believe that historic marketshare is an excuse? Or that free equals just good enough? Or that they will eventually get to it? Yet Google thinks I might get inside their driverless car?

With all the data Google collects on us — who we are, where we go, what we search, what we buy, going back forever — how is it that the only predictive service they can offer is Google Now? Which is little more than the weather and local bus schedule.

Why does Facebook insist on curating my newsfeed despite my repeated requests to give me everything, most recent to least, in order, every single time? If Mark Zuckerberg can’t trust me with that gushing flow of information, perhaps I shouldn’t trust him with the drip drip drip of my personal data.

It’s the second decade of the twenty-first century and far too much that comes out of Silicon Valley is broken. This makes me suspect everything they say and do. Yes, obviously, I want world peace, an end to hunger, longevity, joy and prosperity. But until the industry can get the tiny features of our most popular technological products actually working properly, those will have to wait.

The Very Googley Motorola X

I’ve spent the last week with the Motorola (a Google Company) X. As many who read my columns will know, I prefer iOS to Android and I make that clear. However, when it comes to Android devices I like the stock–Nexus–Android devices the best. Which means, I knew I would like the Motorola X when I first heard about it. However, my desire to experience the device was not because it is running stock Android. It was because I wanted to see if Motorola, the Google company, added any unique differentiators with the software. And they did.

Better Than Stock

What surprised me was that the version of Android on the Motorola X and their new Droid lineup is BETTER than stock Android. It looks and feels exactly like stock Android, but the additions the Motorola software team (I mean members of the ex-Android team) added are very good and feel like features that would come with stock Android on flagship Nexus devices. Yet that is not the case, they are coming on Motorola devices and no one else’s. Not even Nexus devices. At least I am assuming they are not. Time will tell if these great features make it back to the stock Android kernel. But I doubt it.

I kept saying to myself that many of the key new software features felt very Googley. In fact the whole device just felt very Googley. Which is a good thing. Unless you are a competing Android OEM.

So what features make me say this? There are a few. The first is called Motorola Assist. Motorola has had some of these features at a basic level before. But they have now all gotten much more Googley. Take a look at the screen shot below.

motoassist

That is the screen for the Motorola Assist feature. It looks very Googley. There are many design similarities to Google Now which is a feature of the latest stock Android build. The features of Motorola assist are also pretty slick.

First, if enabled, when driving it will know you are driving and when a call or text message comes in it will alert you via a voice prompt and allow you to answer a call, deny a call and respond with text message, or offer to read you the text message that arrived. Very nice hands free feature while driving with some good contextual automation built in.

The other that was quite nice and worked much better than I thought was the avoid interruptions during meetings feature. When this feature is enabled the service will be aware of your calendar appointments and auto send text responses to anyone in listed in favorites and let them know you are busy and will get back to them. It also keeps your phone silent of all notifications during this time. My wife LOVED this feature since I tried it by blocking off time when we went to dinner on my calendar and our time remained interruption free. This is similar to the iOS Do Not Disturb feature but is automated based on your calendar appointments.

Information at a Tap

The other addition I liked was Active Display. On the stock Android devices, I am a fan of the lock screen widgets. I use this primarily for email. So I can quickly see if I have important messages that I need to respond to without unlocking the phone. Motorola has added some smarts at the hardware and software layers to add to this feature. The home screen on the Moto X will pulse off an on when you have a notification waiting for you. You can simply tap on the icon and get at a glance any recent emails, text message, or missed calls and then choose to ignore or swipe to unlock the device and respond. This is information at a tap rather than a glance but is very nicely done.

Screen Shot 2013-08-29 at 5.52.26 PM

The key to this is that Motorola specifically added some hardware and software features to make use of a low-power processor just dedicated to this feature. This way to look at these notifications on the home screen you can do it without waking the CPU or the whole screen. Since the information is just in black and white the screen and touch features can be used with just the additional low-power core.

The other thing the low-power core can do is look for movement of the device allowing me to just pull it out of my pocket and the screen is already on showing me the time and any notifications without me having to press a button. Very useful feature.

Always Listening and Touch-less Control

The last feature I will dive into is the always listening feature. Also using the low-power core is a feature where the device is always listening for the key word “OK Google Now.” When you say this phrase you can then automate any number of features. You can tell it to call someone, text someone, schedule a meeting, set an alarm, etc. You can do many of the same things you can do with Google Now on many stock Android devices as well as Siri. The difference is that you can initiate the whole process with your voice without having to press a button.

This is the feature that is of extreme interest to me. I’ve always wrestled with the question of what we can do with our devices when they can hear us. Meaning that we can interact with our devices without having to initiate the function physically but rather verbally. We are just scratching the surface in this thinking and when we can train our computers to understand us better and provide fully automated value for functions hands free via voice, I think we will be in some interesting territory.

Measuring Success

From my view as an analyst, I think about how we should measure success for Motorola with this product. We could focus on the hardware which is very good. Motorola has made the most usable 4.7″ screen for one hand operation I have used yet. Or we could focus on the customization trend. Which I think is very interesting and a compelling differentiator for the Moto X. We could also focus on their efforts to make this device locally. I applaud their efforts to build this device in the US and again feel that will have a certain appeal.

For me, however, the way I’ll measure success for Motorola is not in how many devices they sell this quarter or next. Or what market share they gain or don’t gain. For me I will measure success if these devices help establish credibility again for Motorola as a hardware company and specifically a smart phone brand. Brand is everything in my opinion. Motorola had a good one and they are an American success story. I sincerely hope they can re-establish themselves as an innovator, thought leader, and a credible brand. From what I have experienced wit the Moto X, I think they are on the right track.

Other Things I Liked Worth Mentioning

  1. Battery life was better than average. Motorola touts 24 hours and although I never tested that claim, I routinely used my phone from 6:30am and plugged it in around 10:30pm and the battery level never went below 30%
  2. Motorola Connect was a nifty feature where by installing a Chrome plug-in you could reply to text messages on the PC as well as choose to ignore a call and respond with a text message all on the PC through the browser plug in. Very clever Google.

Customer Acquisition and the Entry Level iPhone

From an industry and market standpoint, a lower-cost iPhone certainly has the potential to shake up the market. In what ways we can only speculate but there are a few points about an entry level iPhone that are worth discussing.

The Cost to Acquire a Customer

This is basically how I view any product Apple prices below a premium price point. Any move Apple makes to go downstream is a strategic move to acquire customers who seek value but not at premium price points and get them into Apple’s ecosystem.

If Apple was just a hardware company and that is all, then it would make sense to have a discussion about how fast they can go downstream in order to compete globally. But Apple is not JUST a hardware company. They are a hardware + software + services company and each part plays a critical part to the whole experience.

To analyze Apple correctly we need to understand how the hardware plays into the software which plays into the services. Therefore we look at an entry level iPhone as a way to acquire new customers Apple finds valuable. I make this point specifically because I don’t believe a customer who just wants a “cheap” product is the kind of customer Apple wants or one that adds any value to a computing ecosystem. I say this because these customers don’t spend much if anything in app stores. These customers just want the cheapest data plans possible. These customers are unlikely to spend money on additional services, etc. [pullquote]The fallacy those who think price is all that matters fall into is believing that all consumers value the same thing.[/pullquote]

This is why Apple will never compete with anyone in a race to the bottom. Those customers are simply not valuable in the grand scheme of things and arguably not worth competing for. And luckily those who just want cheap are only a percentage of the overall consumer segment. The fallacy those who think price is all that matters fall into is believing that all consumers value the same thing. It is incorrect to believe that its hard to compete with free. It is easy, all you do is create a better product, experience, or solution, and market it to those who will value it.

So the philosophy of an entry level iPhone pricing is as such: the lowest price Apple believes is necessary to capture the type of entry level consumer who is still valuable to their ecosystem.

Horace Deidu, posted on his site Asymco in May, that iTunes customers spend at a rate of $40 per year as an average. Certainly in some cases, like mine, people spend more than $40 per year, and certainly in some cases people spend less. A person who just wants cheap would not spend nearly as much if anything in Apple’s ecosystem. But the key point for Apple and an entry level priced iPhone is how low does it need to be to still acquire a customer who will spend money and add value to the ecosystem. Apple could take a margin hit in order to acquire said customer and still make up that margin hit on the hardware and then some over the lifetime value of that customer. This is why the services (iTunes, iCloud, and future services) are so important to Apple’s long term strategy.

Redefining Engagement

Some additional necessary thinking was shared by Benedict Evans today with is post Defending iOS with Cheaper iPhone. Lots of good thoughts in this post as usual from Ben but one in particular is worth fleshing out.

“If total Android engagement moves decisively above iOS, the fact that iOS will remain big will be beside the point – it will move from first to first-equal and then perhaps second place on the roadmap. And given the sales trajectories, that could start to happen in 2014. If you have 5-6x the users and a quarter of the engagement, you’re still a more attractive market.”

This is a very interesting point and worthy of thinking and discussion. Engagement is an important metric but we must first back up and ask whether all engagement is equal? For example are even the most “engaged” people on iOS and Android doing the same things? In some cases, like in working professionals or premium customers, the answer may be yes but I’m sure there are also many cases where the answer is no. The other challenge with using the engagement statistics most promote publicly is that they all exclude important metrics. For example we don’t know how much extra time iPhone (or iOS) consumers spend on the device browsing the App store or shopping for music. The same is true on Android. This would be some key stats that would shed more light on engagement and said users value to an ecosystem. ((of course, engagement on tablets is so disproportionate on iOS vs. Android. And on this point, it may never be equal.))

If we just measure engagement by things like talking on the phone, texting, browsing the web, doing email, playing games, etc., then on the surface we can make an observation that at some point this these will be equal by sheer volume of Android. Simply because these are common tasks. What needs to be added additionally for a holistic ecosystem analysis is how much time is spent additionally where things (and all regions) may not be equal.

Regardless, even if the level of engagement does become equal taking Android 5-6x (or more) the customers to reach the same engagement, both platforms will remain and will be a focus for developers.

Lastly…

This is a point I have not seen made yet that I think is very interesting. As much as Apple will benefit from getting new customers with an entry level iPhone that benefits their ecosystem so will Google. We know Google makes more on iOS than Android and interestingly an entry level iPhone will likely help Google’s bottom line as well. When you dig through the numbers on how profitable iOS is to Google’s search revenue, Google may be the biggest cheer leader for a lower-cost iPhone.

The questions around this are interesting. If a lower-cost iPhone does shake up the market in Apple’s favor globally would Google put even more emphasis on iOS? Would Apple even let them? Will Apple do more strategically with Siri to usurp search or other value from Google?

Services are a critical part of the end game for many industry players. Google was always fascinating to me because they are a services company first who worked their way backwards into software, and now hardware with Motorola. Apple came from it the other direction starting with hardware and software and now investing heavily in services.

Strategically, so much is going on in the market that will define the next decade or more of computing.

“Android Dominance” Is An Oxymoron

Alarm Bells Should Be Ringing At Apple: It’s Getting Absolutely Creamed By Android, Which Now Controls ~80% Of The Smartphone Market ~ Jay Yarrow, Business Insider

No, it’s not.

Definition of an oxymoron:

A figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction

Fact #1: No version of Android dominates mobile OS market share.

“Android Dominance” is an oxymoron. No single “slice” of the Android “pie” is equal to the 93% of iOS users who have upgraded to iOS 6. iOS 6 is the world’s most popular mobile operating system.

iOS_Android_fragmentation-640x281
Source

Fact #2: Historically, iOS customers have been quick to update to the latest OS version. ((iOS 6 Adoption At Just Over One Week: 60% For iPhone And 41% For iPad | TechCrunch))

Fact #3: Apple’s iOS users have even more reasons to rapidly upgrade to iOS 7.

iOS_7_UpdatesiOS_7_Only

A recent developer survey revealed that 95% of developers are updating their apps for iOS 7.

More importantly, 48% of those developers intend to make their updated apps work only on iOS 7.

With so many new and updated apps working only on iOS 7, iOS users are going be strongly motivated to upgrade to iOS 7 as soon as possible.

Fact #4: OS Versions matter.

Apple, arguably, has higher-quality apps because developers still focus on iOS first. The reason they focus on the App Store is that it generates more revenue than Google’s Android store, and users are more engaged. However, there’s no reason to believe this will continue. ~ Jay Yarrow, Business Insider

[pullquote]People who look only at overall OS numbers without taking OS versions into account are missing the “trees” for the “forrest”[/pullquote]

Yes, there is.

Pundits, like Jay, can’t seem to understand why Android leads in market share but iOS leads in usage, engagement, developers, income and everything else that makes a platform strong. ((Why The iPhone's Usage Advantage Over Android Remains So Important. The latest evidence confirms it: iPhone users are far more engaged with their devices than are Android users.)) ((Why Google’s Android is Losing the Battle to Apple’s iOS)) ((Apple iPhone users use their devices 55% more than Android users)) (("Both in apps and overall smartphone usage, iPhone owners rank higher than owners of Android handsets. After surveying both U.S. and European smartphone owners, researchers not only found owners of the Apple device more frequently use apps, but conduct more tasks suitable to smartphones, such as browsing the Internet. This despite Android’s advantage both in number of handsets out there and in sales. The dichotomy just reinforces our Android in a Drawer theory, which says many owners of the Google-powered devices see their handsets as just a spiffier version of dumb feature phones, ignoring most of what makes smartphones smart.")) ((Apple’s iOS continues to dominate with nearly 60% Web usage share vs. Android’s 26%)) ((Apple Continues To Dominate Mobile Video Viewing, With 60% Occurring On iOS Vs. 32% On Android)) (("Sandvine says that the iPad accounts for more home traffic than any other device, at more than 10 percent; and it says that if you added up all of Apple’s devices (iPads, iPhones, Macs, etc.), the company ends up with more than 45 percent of home broadband usage.")) ((Why FRONTLINE Isn’t Doing Android — Yet)) ((BBC – we have an Android development team that is almost 3 times the size of the iOS team)) ((Why there aren’t more Android tablet apps, by the numbers)) ((Android’s consumer strength hasn’t translated to enterprise, where Apple still dominates)) ((Apple rules the skies with 84% in-flight share vs. Android’s 16%)) ((Apple’s iPhone may have kept 400K customers from leaving T-Mobile)) ((screen-shot-2013-07-23-at-10-21-49-amSource)) ((Google shares were down as much as 5% in after-hour trading following a report of second-quarter net income of $3.23 billion compared with $2.79 billion a year ago. The overall revenue figure came in at $14.1 billion. The main reason for Google’s perceived weakness: less-than-spectacular mobile ad sales.)) ((app-revenue-q12013 Source))

Let me help you out. There is no paradox. The latest version of Android does NOT lead the latest version of iOS in market share. People who look only at overall OS numbers without taking OS versions into account are reversing the traditional proverb – but still making the same proverbial mistake – by missing the “trees” for the “forrest.”

Fact #5: Android hardware and software is split into many, many pieces.

  • 11,868 Distinct Android devices seen this year
  • 3,997 Distinct Android devices seen last year 
  • 8 Android versions still in use
  • 37.9% Android users on Jelly Bean

“And by the way, this is the most ideal state of Android. It only includes a version of android which talk to the Google play store so it doesn’t include things like Kindles and Nooks.” ~ Tim Cook, WWDC (113:30)

android-fragmentation-3

Android, for all its popularity, remains a messy, fragmented, less-than-ideal experience for a normal consumer. ~ Jay Yarrow, Business Insider

Ah! And finally we get to the crux of the matter.

Fact #6: It is iOS 6 – not any single version of Android – that is the most dominant and monolithic mobile OS in the world.

“iOS 6 Dominance” is not an oxymoron – it’s a fact. And it is iOS 7 that promises to extend the dominance of Apple’s mobile platform into the foreseeable future.

It’s impossible to look at the landscape today and believe that developers will still be iPhone-focused in five years unless Apple does something drastic to change its competitive position. ~ Jay Yarrow, Business Insider

I sorta hafta to disagree. And reality hasta disagree too. It’s not only “possible” to believe that developers will still be iOS-focused (notice how Jay conveniently ignored iPod Touches and iPads in his OS comparison?), it’s probable too.

You don’t agree? You’re an oxymoron who says that only total OS numbers, not OS versions, really matter? Sorry, I can’t hear you. The facts are shouting you down.

Google, Motorola, and the Future of Android

To hear both Sundar Pinchai, head of Android and Chrome at Google, and Dennis Woodside, CEO of Motorola Mobility, tell it, Motorola is just another Android OEM despite being a wholly owned Google subsidiary. This may be technically true at the moment, but it cannot be true for the long run. And just what Google does with Motorola has huge implications for the future of Android.

Business realities alone say the current arrangement cannot last. Motorola is a hole of at least $10 billion (purchase price plus cumulative losses, less the gain from the sale of the set top box business) in Google’s balance sheet. Although there was speculation at the time of the acquisition that Google was really after Moto’s patents, the standards-essential patents ase subject to fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory licensing worth much less than many believed. Sooner or later, Moto has to start paying its way.

Woodside himself suggested, perhaps without intending to, that the relationship has to change during an appearance at the D11 conference a couple of weeks ago. Competitors, he noted, are earning 50% margins on smartphones. ((Of course, the only profitable competitors are Apple and Samsung.)) “We don’t necessarily have the same constraints,” he said. “One of the areas that is open for Motorola is building high-quality low-cost devices. The price of a feature phone now is about $30 0n a worldwide basis. The price of a smartphone is about $650. That’s not going to persist.”

The difficulty is that Apple and Samsung, by virtue of their enormous volumes and tightly controlled supply chains, are already the low-cost producers. Motorola is not going to beat them on the cost side. So to underprice them, as Woodside is threatening to do, will require sacrificing gross margins, perhaps selling phones at a unit loss. For a business unit already losing money by the bucket, that would seem to be a suicidal course.

Unless, of course, someone is prepared to subsidize this raid on the business models of Apple and Samsung. And that someone would have to be Google, which certainly has the deep pockets needed for this fight. Taking on Apple, while difficult, doesn’t pose huge problems for Google. Over the past few years, the relationship of the companies has deteriorated from best buddies to frenemies to all-out competitors.

Samsung is a very different matter. The Korean giant is second only to Google itself in importance in the Android ecosystem. It is by far the largest seller of Android handsets, from the iPhone-challenging Galaxy S 4 to low-cost units for emerging markets. And it has to be watching the Google-Motorola relationship with an extremely wary eye.

For now, Google and Samsung are co-dependent. That fact is what lies behind Google’s much trumpeted arms-length relationship with Motorola. But the relationship will be severely tested if Motorola goes at the heart of Samsung’s Android business model. (Microsoft’s OEM partners were very unhappy when it went into hardware competition with the surface and surface Pro, but at least it did not try to undercut their pricing. And, for better or worse, poor Surface sales have largely spared it fallout from entering the competition.)

Samsung has options if it comes to view Google as a competitor in a way that makes the current Android arrangements untenable. It could fork Android, going forward with its own flavor of the operating system and its own services, home-grown or developed in partnership with other players,  in place of Google’s. It could accelerate the development of Tizen, the Linux-based mobile operating system it has sponsored along with Intel. Or, far less likely, it could  move to Windows Phone (unlikely, I believe, because while this might be the easiest course to execute, the fact that it is trading one gorilla dance partner for another will make it unattractive.)

The defection of Samsung from Android would put tremendous strain on Samsung, Google, and the Android world. Software has never been Samsung’s long suit. It can afford to buy a lot of talent, but changing a hardware company’s culture to support the software effort required is very difficult. Android would become largely a Google/Motorola business. The viability of all the profitless Android phone makers is dubious, let along their ability to provide leadership.

If all these hypothetical strategies succeed, we could see a very different phone market: Apple would continue to be Apple, mostly riding above the fray. Samsung  would be slugging it out with Googlerola. And Microsoft and BlackBerry would be trying to squeeze out some gains from the confusion.

 

Siri’s Bing Moment

There were many interesting nuggets that came out of WWDC 2013. For our insiders, I plan to share the few that I don’t think are getting enough attention but yet are more significant than I believe people realize. But perhaps the most awkward part of the keynote was when Apple announced that the new and updated version of Siri will run on Microsoft’s Bing search engine.

This move is clearly one that is up for interpretation. I’m sure many will speculate that this move is nothing more than Apple doing what they can to eliminate any dependencies for Google on core services. Or that Apple does not want to give Google any more valuable data than they already have.

We have opined and written much on our thoughts that Apple clearly wants to usurp the search experience from Google. Siri is a way that this is happening as it functions as an interface layer, which Apple controls, for a search paradigm. Realistically, for a Siri user, it is irrelevant which search engine it uses so long as the data is accurate.

So I decided to put Bing to the test. Microsoft has a challenge called Bing It On in which they challenge you to submit five search queries then vote on a side-by-screen results screen on which you thought was most relevant to you. You don’t know which engine you are choosing, you simply pick the side that you think presented the best results. So I decided to try this as an experiment.

Here are the search queries I used.

– How to identify a queen bee cell
– How to play bluegrass guitar
– Schedule for Wimbledon 2013
– Omelet recipe ideas
– Grammar resources

The way in which I decided which side-by-side screen shot won was by how close to the top the most relevant answer was to the reason behind my search. Interestingly Bing won 4 out of 5 times. The only query Google won was the Wimbledon schedule.

I was actually surprised at this and it has inspired me to try and change my default search engine from all my devices from Google to Bing as a longer term experiment.

As I pointed out before, Siri running Bing may be up for interpretation in terms of Apple’s intentions. However, what matters is that the results are relevant and actionable.

The last thing I want to point out, and I plan to flesh this out more in the future, is that I will not be surprised if we see Apple and Microsoft become closer partners on things in the future. It appears they both now believe they have a common enemy in Google. ((I’m not sure Apple believed this until the last few years)) What’s more, is that in my opinion Google’s enemy is not Apple but it is Microsoft. I firmly believe that Google prefers Apple in the world but wants to eliminate Microsoft from the face of the planet.

Microsoft knows this and I believe will find ways to strategically partner with Apple in this fight. One could be brining Office to iPad only and never to Android. Bing is just the first of many strategic moves I think Apple and Microsoft will take to make sure the Google dictatorship does not rule the world.

Google Glass and Segway: Early Adopter Lore

In 2001, the Segway hit the market. VCs like Kleiner Perkins’ John Doerr fawned all over it pre- launch. Even Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos were enthralled when they saw it. To its inventor, Dean Kamen, it represented the next breakthrough in personal transportation. His boldest claim came when he predicted in Time magazine that the Segway “will be to the car what the car was to the horse and buggy.”

Kamen is a true renaissance man and when he speaks, it is best to listen. He has had the ear of at least two presidents and is highly respected in the medical field for his invention of the all-terrain electric wheel chair. Perhaps he is best known for inventing the insulin pump.

I had the privilege of sitting next to Kamen at an event at the San Jose Tech Museum just before the Segway came out. I was already aware of his accomplishments and I was (and still am) in awe of him. Regis McKenna, the legendary PR vet who handled PR for Apple and Steve Jobs until the mid-1990s, was also sitting with us. I clearly remember how McKenna, who is a type 1 diabetic and had used an insulin pump since it came on the market, took this opportunity to thank Kamen for creating this medical wonder and to explain how it affected his life. It was a very touching moment and, in turn, Kamen graciously thanked McKenna for his kind remarks. At that moment it really hit home that technology was not just something that I work with but rather something that has the potential of improving lives.

The Segway, however, had a lot of problems from the start. To begin, it cost more than $3,000 and had a short battery life. There was also serious pushback as local communities banned it on sidewalks, malls, some streets. Many people were not pleased to share the roads and aisles with Segway riders. In 2009, Time magazine named it one of the 10 biggest tech failures of the last decade.

Although the Segway was a bust at the consumer level, it has been embraced by vertical markets such as police departments, private security in malls and entertainment parks, and tour companies. This isn’t surprising given that most new technologies are often flushed out in vertical markets before ever getting cheap enough to find broader consumer demand (if they ever do).

Now that Google Glass has come onto the scene, I see some similarities between it and the Segway. The rhetoric, for one, is parallel. Google CEO Larry Page talks like it will be the next big thing to revolutionize the world. After spending two weeks with the glasses, noted technology blogger Robert Scoble wrote, “I will never live a day of my life from now on without it (or a competitor). It’s that significant.” My company will be getting a pair of the glasses to test in the next month and perhaps we will have the same reaction.
There’s certainly a lot of hype, but Google Glass isn’t even commercially available yet and pushback has already started. People worry about invasion of privacy and distracted drivers. It’s being barred in movie theaters, casinos, strip clubs, and bars and a recently introduced bill could ban the use of the device while driving.

I have no doubt that early adopters will shell out the $1,500 at first but some of my tech friends express concerns. How will they look in public while wearing them? Will others think they aren’t engaged in conversation, but rather searching for things? I compare it to wearing a Bluetooth headset; when speaking to a person, I take it off lest they think that I am not listening to them but instead to something coming through the headset.

Tech You Can Wear

It will be very interesting to see how the first generation of users will evaluate its worth given that only 8,000 testers will receive them. These early testers, however, should give us a good sense of whether these glasses have staying power. I suspect they might conclude that Google Glass is not really ready for consumer primetime.
Like the Segway, it will likely get the most attention from vertical markets where its real value can be exploited even at its high price, which is not aimed at consumers anyway. It must drop to around $300 before it gains any traction in the mass market. Even then, there will probably be a steep learning curve in functionality and social norms before it is accepted for everyday use.

I may be wrong about the Segway comparison since they are clearly two very different technologies. Still, I can’t help but see the likenesses between them. I fear that once the novelty wears off, unless there is a killer app, Google Glass could lose steam and potentially go the way of the Segway.
On a personal note, I strongly believe in the potential of wearable devices, regardless of the reception of Google Glass. It will go down in history as one of the products that helped define wearable computing. Wearable devices give us a digital sixth sense and we are just scratching the surface of how they can provide enhanced information that will impact all aspects of our personal and professional lives in the future.

Google’s Android Activations Are A Lot Less Cash Cow And A Lot More Bull. And That’s OK.

Author’s note: Many of the commentators aren’t even reading the article but, instead, are basing their comments on the article’s title alone. Let me throw one final analogy into the mix in the hopes of clarifying my position:

Apple is in the dairy business and Android is selling meat. Apple has the cream (pun intended) of the milk-producing cows but Android has far more cows that produce far less milk, but far more meat. Both are winning because they are selling different things, but pundits think that Android has won simply because they have more cows.

Apple has the profits. Android has the market share. And they’re both doing great.

Now back to the original article…

“My belief, though, is that what Google is winning with Android is a booby prize — overwhelming majority share of the unprofitable segment of the market.” – John Gruber

The Platform Business Model

“A computing platform includes a hardware architecture and a software framework…where the combination allows software to run. … A platform might be simply defined as a place to launch software. ~ Wikipedia

The advantage of a platform business model is that once the platform is established, others do much of the work to make the platform valuable. It’s like setting up a marketplace ((I never understood why Google changed their store’s name from Google Marketplace to Google Play. I thought that “Marketplace” was the ideal name. Oh well.)). Once it’s set up, the vendors do most of the work. The platform provider benefits either by taking rents or by taking a commission from each sale or by using their access to the customers gathered by the marketplace in order to sell some complementary product or service of their own.

The Mostly Misunderstood Network Effect

“In economics and business, a network effect…is the effect that one user of a good or service has on the value of that product to other people. When network effect is present, the value of a product or service is dependent on the number of others using it (emphasis added).

The classic example is the telephone. The more people own telephones, the more valuable the telephone is to each owner. This creates a positive externality because a user may purchase a telephone without intending to create value for other users, but does so in any case.” ~ Wikipedia

This is key, so please forgive me for repeating it:

“…a user may purchase a telephone without intending to create value for other users, but does so in any case.”

In other words, every user adds to the value of a phone network – even if they have no intention of doing so – JUST BY BEING ON THE NETWORK.

It is this understanding (or misunderstanding) of the network effect that makes so many mobile computer industry observers confident that:

— Market share alone creates the network effect;
— Android has market share; therefore
— Developers, profits and all the other benefits associated with the network effect MUST necessarily follow where Android’s market share leads.

Screen Shot 2013-05-23 at 10.15.59 PM

Source: Benedict Evans, On Market Share

The high priests of market share contend that since Android HAS won the battle for market share, the network effect makes it inevitable that Android WILL win the war for mobile phones.

Derek Brown, ReadWrite:

In the world of technology platforms, ubiquity matters (a lot) when developers, manufacturers, etc., are considering future products/solutions.

Google Chairman, Eric Schmidt:

“Ultimately, application vendors are driven by volume, and volume is favored by the open approach Google is taking…. ((“(M)y prediction is that six months from now you’ll say (that Android apps are beating iOS versions to market…)” ~ December 7, 2011))

Matt Asay, ReadWrite

Over time, those developers are going to move to where the market share is. They have to.

John Gruber, The church of market share:

It’s an article of faith in the Church of Market Share that Android is nearing a tipping point where its market share lead will inevitably turn into a developer share lead, too.

So is it true? With Android holding such a commanding market share lead, do developers, and then users, and then profits, and then, ultimately, all smartphone users – including iPhone users – have to convert to Android?

No, of course not. Here’s why.

Phone Networks Are Not The Same As Computer Networks

— In a phone network, the value is in the phone owner.
— In a mobile computing network, the value is in the app, not the mobile phone owner.

— In a phone network, the more phone owners there are – the more people you could call and be called by – the more powerful the network effect and the more valuable the phone network becomes.
— In a mobile computing network, the more developers there are – the more apps available for consumption – the more powerful the network effect and the more valuable the computing network becomes.

— In a phone network, there is no difference between a phone owner and a phone user – they are one and the same.
— In a mobile computing network, there is a HUGE difference between the mobile phone owner and the mobile user.

— In a phone network, the phone owner begins contributing to the platform the moment they buy the phone.
— In a mobile computing network, the mobile phone owner doesn’t begin contributing to the platform until they voluntarily decide to participate, either by buying apps or content, consuming advertising or contributing data.

— In a phone network, the phone owner’s mere PRESENCE makes the phone network more valuable.
— In a mobile computing network, you don”t measure the value of a mobile phone owner by their mere presence, you measure their value by their PARTICIPATION.

Presence, without participation, adds no value to a mobile computing network.

It is fairly easy to simply add up all of the mobile phone sales and activations for a particular operating system. It is also fairly meaningless. The trick is to discern how much those mobile phone owners are participating and the value that their participation brings to the network.

Most mobile computing industry observers are measuring the wrong thing, the wrong way:

It’s not about counting the customers. It’s about having the customers that count.

Android can count more customers than iOS can, but they don’t count for much. The ranks of Apple’s iOS owners are filled with credit card carrying cash cows. As a result, Apple’s platform profits are udderly enormous. The ranks of Google’s Android activations are a lot less cash cow and a lot more Bull. ((Being a bad customer is not at all the same thing as being a bad person. I, myself, am a great Crispy Creme Donuts customer but a very poor customer for exercise equipment. That doesn’t make me a bad person, just a bad customer.))

It’s hard to milk a Bull. Dangerous too.

How Do You REALLY Measure The Success Of A Platform Business Model?

You measure the success of a platform in three ways:

1) The health of the platform – is it self-sustaining?
2) The wealth of a platform – the amount of net profits acquired from the platform.
3) The stealth of a platform – does it serve an ulterior purpose?

The Health Of A Platform

By any meaningful standard, Apple’s iOS platform is robust, healthy and rapidly growing.

morgan-130604-3

Take a look at the two pie charts, below. From Q1:10 to Q4:12, Apple’s share of the smartphone market grew from 16% to 22%. But during the same span of time, the pie itself QUADRUPLED from 55 million units to 219 million units!

slide-42-638

Source: KPCB, Internet Trends

Further, “smartphone share” is not even the right way to measure the market that Apple is competing in. The more relevant market is the “mobile phone market”, not the “smartphone market”.

“… there is no such thing as a ‘smartphone market’. Or rather, talking about the ‘smartphone market’ is like talking about the ‘3G’ market or the ‘colour screen phone’ market: you’re picking out a sub-segment that is going to grow to take over the whole market. And ignoring the growth.

The whole mobile phone market is converting to smart. Apple is taking the high end and Android is taking the rest. Both are growing very fast, and Android is growing faster. But what matters is phone share, not smartphone share. ~ Benedict Evans

Screen Shot 2013-05-23 at 10.42.20 PM

Source: Benedict Evans, On market share

Finally, the “mobile phone market” is still not inclusive enough. When we’re comparing operating systems, we need to compare ALL of the devices in the operating system, whether they be MP3s, phones or tablets.

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Source: “Apple Q2 2013 hardware sales: By the numbers

“Cumulatively, Apple has sold almost 375 million iPods, over 356 million iPhones, and nearly 140.5 million iPads since the respective products were first released. In 23 quarters, Apple has sold almost as many iPhones as it has sold iPods over 46 quarters, and sales of the smartphone are likely to overtake the aging media player during this quarter if the respective sales trajectories hold true. Put that another way: the iPhone has sold twice as fast as the iPod did.” – Apple Q2 2013 hardware sales: By the numbers

I would only add that the iPad has been selling THREE times as fast as the iPhone did.

When one looks at the WHOLE market for iOS vs. the WHOLE market for competing operating systems, the metrics supporting the health of Apple’s iOS platform are so overwhelming and so voluminous that it was difficult for me to even find a suitable method for properly displaying them. Ultimately, I resorted to simply sorting them alphabetically, by category, in the extensive appendix, below. I dare you to read the associated links in the appendix and then tell me that the iOS platform is anything but healthy. No, wait…”I triple dog dare you.”

If the purpose of a platform is to be self-sustaining, then Apple’s iOS platform is as successful as it gets.

Open Trade-Offs

Android is no slouch ((By which I mean it is one of the greatest computer operating systems ever.)) as a platform either, but Android is based on an “open” philosophy. Open is not inherently good or bad, it is a tradeoff. It has many advantages but it has many disadvantages too. The same open policies that make it easier for Android to gain market share are also the same open policies that make it inherently harder for Android to maintain a strong platform.

— An open policy towards carriers encourages rapid dissemination of devices but it also permits the carriers to take unwanted liberties with Android’s core services and allows them to shirk their responsibilities with regard to operating system updates.
— An open policy towards manufacturers allows for rapid hardware iteration but it also creates rapid hardware fragmentation.
— An open policy towards the sales of applications leads to a wide variety of apps but it also leads to a wide variety of piracy, cloning and malware too.
— An open policy towards the operating system allows for rapid feature iteration but it also allows competitors to split off a confusing variety of competing operating systems and App Stores too.

The BBC Trust:

…a couple of … logical reasons why developers dealing with limited time and budget would opt for Apple’s mobile OS:

— Engagement is higher on Apple devices
— Android is fragmented
— Android development is complex and expensive

The Wealth Of A Platform

Google is profiting from their Android platform via advertising, app and content revenue. However, as I pointed out in “4 Mobile Business Models, 4 Ways To Keep Score“, none of these revenue streams add up to very much.

Google could also be benefitting from their Android platform via the gathering of mobile computing data. This is the big “get out of jail free card” that Android advocates play whenever it is pointed out that Google is not directly profiting from Android. “The data alone”, they protest “is invaluable.” Hmm. Unless you can draw a direct line from the data being gathered to the profits being made – and you can’t – data, in lieu of profits, seems like a very poor consolation prize, indeed.

Apple too is profiting from their iOS platform via advertising, app and content revenue. However, that revenue – a few billion dollars – barely registers on their books. The vast majority of Apple’s iOS revenue is generated from the platform’s related hardware sales. (See: “Android’s Market Share Is Literally A Joke“.)

The Stealth Of A Platform

I have stated that you measure the success of a platform by its health and its wealth. I am, however, keenly aware of a third way to measure the success of a platform – an exception to the rule that is so large that it might swallow the rule altogether.

What if Google had an ulterior motive in Android? What if Android was actually a stealth weapon designed, not as a profit making engine but, as an engine of destruction aimed at Google’s mobile phone competitors?

If the purpose of Google’s Android platform was a defensive action designed to destroy Google’s adversaries and ensure that Google’s advertising and services would run on every meaningful mobile platform, then I will grant you – based on the evisceration of Palm, webOS, Windows Mobile, Windows Phone 8, Nokia’s Symbian, MeeGo, Blackberry and Linux – that Android may well be one of the most successful computing platforms of our time or of all time. ((However, that is not the end of the story for Android but, perhaps, only the end of the beginning of the story. As Android splits into different self-serving streams – like the Amazon Fire and the various Chinese Android variants – will Google’s Android ultimately be seen as having successfully salted the lands of its enemies while simultaneously sowing the seeds of its own destruction?

“We often give our enemies the means for our own destruction.” ~ Aesop))

screen-shot-2013-06-01-at-7-03-48-am

Source: “Apple 2.0, Which is more valuable to Apple, its market share or its brand?

Apple Is Like DisneyWorld And Android Is Like A Chain Of Amusement Parks

Apple is playing the “give away the rides for free once you’re in the park, but charge for admission to the park” game. The purchase of Apple’s hardware is the golden ticket ((A Willie Wonka reference? Really? How many metaphors can this author mix together?)) that gives one entrée to their park. Google is playing the “give away the rides for free to attract customers to the park but make it up in revenues generated from the sale of ads and concessions” game.

Apple’s platform model is stronger – for now – because they get their money up front, at the point of admission to their walled garden. ((As an aside, DisneyWorld has much lower “market share” (total people in attendance) than do the tens of thousands of existing worldwide amusement parks, but does anyone ever claim that DisneyWorld is “niche” or “vulnerable”?)) Google’s platform model is weaker – for now – because it requires people to voluntarily buy the concessions and consume the advertising, and – for now – a lot of Android patrons are choosing not to buy and to just go along for the free ride.

Neither Android nor iOS is going away. Both platforms have different inherent strengths and weaknesses and instead of fruitlessly trying to decide which operating system is going to win EVERYWHERE, we should be focusing our efforts on determining WHERE, specifically, each OS is likely to win.

— Android will take the low end of the market.
— iOS will take the high end.

— Android will continue to grow like a weed.
— iOS will continue to grow like a well tended farm.

— Android will continue selling a mind-numbing array of diverse products.
— iOS will continue selling three year old iPhones as if they were new, because iOS’ value is found primarily in the platform, not in the device itself.

— Android will continue to rapidly iterate their hardware and their operating system.
— iOS will continue to relentlessly integrate their hardware with their software and their platform ecosystem.

— Android will appeal to third-world nations, emerging markets, tech aficionados who admire the virtues of “open”, those who require more options, those who require more diversity, and the cost conscious.

— iOS will appeal to more established nations, maturing markets, non-technical users who admire the virtues of easy and intuitive, those who require more security, those who require more consistency, those who require more integration, the quality conscious, and those who fear Google’s ad-supported business model.

— iOS will appeal to Enterprise, businesses, governments, institutions, organizations, and other entities that require more structure, security and control. ((As one who lived through the Windows v. Mac wars, the irony of Apple’s iOS becoming the favored operating system of the Enterprise is not lost on me.))

Where Do We Go From Here?

Am I criticizing Google or Android? No, I am NOT. Android has some fantastic hardware, a rapidly iterating operating system and a brilliant and innovative company backing it. It’s a clear success story.

What I’m criticizing is the nature of the debate. Market share is not only not the best way to measure success, absent context, it is one of the worst. [pullquote]Just because Android has a winning platform does not mean that Apple doesn’t have a winning platform too. And vice versa.[/pullquote]

It would be a monumental mistake to underestimate the strength of the Android Platform – but it would also be a colossal mistake to underestimate the power of Apple’s iOS too. The truth is that iOS and Android are the two great operating systems of our time and it looks like they’re both going to remain great for quite some time to come. One platform rules market share and one platform rules profit share and – in a rapidly growing market (see graphic, below) – there’s plenty of room for both business models to survive and thrive.

slide-41-638-1

Source: KPCB, Internet Trends

And The Gold Goes To…

3d small people - rewarding of winners— In mobile hardware manufacturing, Apple is the clear cut winner with Samsung coming in a strong second.

— In mobile advertising, Google is the big fish in a small, but growing, pond.

— In content sales, it’s difficult to judge, since the competitors are actually playing very different games. If you judge by revenue (and I don’t), the winner is Amazon. But if you judge by profit, you’ve got to give the nod to Apple…for now.

— In mobile platform? It’s much easier to say who has lost and that would be anyone not named “Apple” or “Google”. But so far as “winning” goes, Apple is already “winning” the only gold that matters to them (profit$) and Google’s Android has already “won” Google a seat at the mobile advertising table, which is the only gold that matters to them. They both sound like champions to me. But then, of course…

…the games are still far from over.

Read Part One of John’s column entitled: Android’s Market Share Is Literally A Joke

Read Part Two of John’s column entitled: 4 Mobile Business Models, 4 Ways to Keep Score.

APPENDIX

Adoption: iOS 6.1.2 is the Most Popular Version of iOS Less than One Week Following Launch
Adoption: Apple’s iOS 6 now accounts for 83% of all iOS-based traffic in North America
Adoption: The Orphans of Android
Adoption: “An OS that is 2 years and 2 months old controls over 45 percent of the Android ecosystem. An OS that is 1 year and 4 months old controls another 30 percent. 75 percent of the entire Android ecosystem is still on the non-current versions of the OS. It’s 2013.”
Advertising: Why 75 cents of every dollar spent on mobile advertising is spent on iPhone and iPad
Advertising: Apple’s iOS Mobile Ad Metrics Dominates Android
Advertising: iOS leads Android in mobile ad revenue
Advertising: iPad Still Dominates Tablet Ads
Advertising: iPhone Still Ranks Far Above Samsung Galaxy Line In Mobile Ads, Says Velti
Apps: Where’s Twitter Music For Android? Why Today’s Tech Companies Are Still Going iOS First
Apps: Walt Mossberg: How Apple Gets All the Good Apps
Apps: The Data Doesn’t Lie: iOS Apps Are Better Than Android
Apps: Why Android Takes Forever to Get Cool Apps
Apps: Games: Why Game Creators Prefer iPhone to Android
Apps: Games: Game developers still not sold on Android
zdnet-good-technology-mobile-report-q1-2013-620x389
Business: “Apple’s iOS still dominated the enterprise mobile circuit with 75 percent of total device activations last quarter.”
Business: Google Android’s enterprise problem
Business: Study Says iOS Still Trumps Android at Work
Business: Fortune 500 Companies Moving to iPad Hits 94%
Business: Apple’s iOS continues to dominate the mobile enterprise
Business: Apple may have sold up to 4 million iPhones to businesses in Q4
Business: “Gartner: By 2014, Apple will be as accepted by enterprise IT as Microsoft is today”
Business: Forrester Report Says Apple Will Sell $39 Billion In Macs and iPads To Businesses Over Next 2 Years
Business: Bad news for Android: enterprise share dropped in Q4
Business: More Data Showing iOS, Especially The iPhone, Still Killing It In The Enterprise, At Android’s Expense
Business: Over 80% of organizations plan to support iPhones and iPads
Business: Apps: Why companies are still deploying iOS apps first
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Source: “Who’s Winning, iOS or Android? All the Numbers, All in One Place
Commerce: FAB.COM: More Than A Third Of Our Visits Are Now Mobile–And 95% Of Those Are iPhones And iPads
Consumption: Data: Study finds iPhone owners to be more data hungry than Android users
Consumption: Video: NPD Group: iTunes owns the internet video market
Consumption: Video: Apple Continues To Dominate Mobile Video Viewing, With 60% Occurring On iOS Vs. 32% On Android
Consumption: Video: Apple users watch 2X more video than Android users
Consumption: Video: Watching a Video on Your Phone? You’re Probably Using an iPhone, Not an Android.
Demographics: Android Owners Aren’t Real Smartphone Owners
Demographics: Age: Sorry, Samsung, iPhone Is Not Your Mother’s Smartphone
Demographics: Age: 48% of U.S. teens own an iPhone. 62% plan to buy one.
Demographics: Age: Nearly Half of Surveyed U.S. Teens Using iPhones, Over One-Third Using iPads
Demographics: Age: Greater percentage of Generation Y own iPhones than any other age group
Developers: Android fragmentation predicted to squeeze out independent developers
Developers: Apple And Google’s App Stores Now Neck And Neck – Except On The Metric That Matters Most To Developers
Engagement: Why Aren’t Android Users Actually Using Their Handsets?
Engagement: Validating the Android engagement paradox
Engagement: iPhone users found to spend more time on their handsets
Forks: Google’s penetration of Android
Forks: Google Shuts Down Its Shopping Service in China
Fragmentation: Fragmented Android drives big dev to Apple
Fragmentation: Google engineers: We’re trying to fix Android fragmentation
Loyalty: Survey Suggests, Loyalty, Upgrade Frequency, Says Raymond James
Loyalty: Survey shows iPhone loyalty still beating out Android
Loyalty: Apple Has The Most Devoted And Loyal Computer Users [Report]
Loyalty: Survey: Apple to Eclipse Android by 2016
Loyalty: Android’s Leaky Bucket: Loyalty Gives Apple the Edge Over Time
Malware: Mobile malware exploding, but only for Android
Malware: Malware On Mobile Grew 163% In 2012, Infecting Around 32.8M Android Devices
Malware: 99.9% Of New Mobile Malware Targets Android Phones
Malware: Spam: Nearly 60K Low-Quality Apps Booted From Google Play Store In February, Points To Increased Spam-Fighting
Reliability: Apple’s iPhone tops smartphone reliability ratings by wide margin
Retail: Apple retail revenues per visitor reach new record
Retention: The iPhone’s Greatest Weapon: Retention
Retention: Android’s Leaky Bucket
morgan-130604-1-1
Source: Apple’s 500M user accounts second only to Facebook, viewed as key driver of future growth
Revenue: Canalys: Apple dominates with 74% of worldwide mobile app revenue
Revenue: Apple: App Store Now Makes Over $1 Billion In Profits Per Year
Revenue: iOS App Store accounts for nearly 75% of mobile app download revenue
Satisfaction: iPhone dominates in customer satisfaction
Satisfaction: iPad tops in satisfaction among tablet owners
Satisfaction: J.D. Power: Apple iPad ranks highest in tablet customer satisfaction for second consecutive time
Satisfaction: J.D. Power: Apple ranks highest in smartphone customer satisfaction for 9th consecutive time
screen-shot-2013-04-28-at-6-34-19-am
Source
Security: ACLU to FTC: Mobile carriers fail to provide good Android security
Shopping: Online: Apple’s iPad dominates online shopping traffic & revenue generation
Store: iTunes: NPD: Apple’s iTunes accounts for 67% of TV downloads, 65% of movies
Support: Apple tops Consumer Reports survey on PC tech support
Trade-In: Study finds Apple’s iPhone retains more value than top Galaxy models
Trade-In: Galaxy S4 announcement spurs trade-ins of other Samsung phones, not iPhones
Updates: Why Android Updates Are So Slow
Usage: You Spend a Lot of Time With Your Mobile Device at Home — Even More if It’s an iPad
Usage: Apple’s iPad expands lead in tablet use at the expense of Amazon, Android, Microsoft Surface
Usage: Apple devices dominate in-flight Wi-Fi usage
Usage: Apple iPad continues domination with over 80% usage share in U.S. and Canada
Usage: Apple rules the skies with 84% in-flight share vs. Android’s 16%
Usage: Apple’s iOS continues to dominate with nearly 60% Web usage share vs. Android’s 26%
Usage: Apple’s iOS ups massive lead over Android in U.S. Web traffic with 69% share in April
Usage: Apple iPad dominates website traffic tablet share
Usage: Apple iPhone users use their devices 55% more than Android users
Usage: Safari jumps to 61 percent of mobile browser share
Usage: Android might own 75% of the smartphone market but all the action is still on the iPhone
Usage: Why The iPhone’s Usage Advantage Over Android Remains So Important
Usage: 5 Apples for every Android on Gogo Inflight Wi-Fi networks
Usage: Apple’s growing dominance of the mobile Web
Usage: Android’s Web share slipped in May, despite 10 million Galaxy S4s
Usage: iPhone owners are on their phones 53% more than Android users
Usage: The Android Conundrum: People Buy More Phones And Do Less With Them
Usage: Apple Is Destroying Android In Mobile Web Usage–Which Begs Key Question: Who Uses Android?
Usage: Apple Is Destroying Android In Mobile Web Usage–Which Begs Key Question: Who Uses Android?
Usage: Is It Time To Conclude That Android Gadgets Are Bought By People Who Don’t Actually Do Anything With Them?
Usage: Apple Continues Its Mobile-Browser Domination
Usage: Apple’s iPad Dominates Tablet Web Usage with 82% Share.
Usage: Android users: More of them than fanbois, but they don’t use the web
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Vertical Markets: Doctors Are Choosing iPad Tablets Over Other Devices, Survey Says
Vertical Markets: Hospital Calculates The ROI Of An iPad At 9 Days
Vertical Markets: Why Android is losing in aviation
Vertical Markets: As medicine goes digital, Apple’s iPad is top choice among doctors

4 Mobile Business Models, 4 Ways To Keep Score

The hundred meter dash, archery, weightlifting and the long jump are four very different Olympic sports with four very different methods of keeping score. The hundred meter dash is scored on speed. Archery is scored on accuracy. Weightlifting is scored on strength. The long jump is scored on distance. You don’t judge the participants in the hundred yard dash by how much weight they can lift. That would be the wrong way to measure them.

“…looking at ‘smartphone share’ or ‘profit share’ or ‘platform share’ all tell you something about the industry, but all three metrics mislead you if you try to treat them as a way to see who’s ‘winning’, because ‘winning’ means different things for Apple, Samsung or Google. After all, Google may well still make more money from searches on iOS than it does from searches on Android.” ~ Ben Evans, On market share

Hardware manufacturing, advertising, “razors-and-blades” content sales, and platforms are four very different business models and they have four very different methods of keeping score too.

You don’t take the metrics used to measure one business model and apply them to another business model. That would be the wrong way to measure them.

Each business model demands its own specific forms of scoring. The goal should be to devise, discover, or discern a form of measurement that properly and accurately reflects how a business is performing in the business model in which it is participating.

Biathlons, Triathlons and Decathlons are all unusual Olympic events in that they group together several disparate sports and then determine an overall winner. Think of Apple, Google, Samsung, and Amazon as Olympic teams that compete with one another in the four interrelated mobile business models – hardware manufacturing, advertising, “razors-and-blades” content sales, and platforms – a sort of Quadrathlon. Each team has its strengths and its weaknesses, each team wants to win the events that they’re best at and maximize their score in the other events in order to win the overall Quadrathlon.

Let the games begin!

Hardware Manufacturing

Last week I tried to explain how using only market share to analyze mobile hardware manufacturing was not only the wrong way to keep score of that business model but that it was actually obscuring the real score.

“The truth is that focusing on market share as the primary metric is the only way to paint the iPhone as anything other than a roaring success.” ~ John Gruber

I suggested an alternative measurement known as the “Fair share profit analysis,” in order to generate some perspective but, truth be told, the only real way to accurately “score” who’s winning in hardware manufacturing is with net hardware profits. When it comes to selling mobile hardware, do Apple, Samsung, HTC, Motorola, etc. really care what their market share is? No they do not. That’s the top line, a means to an end. The only thing that matters when they are selling mobile hardware is profit. That’s the bottom line, the end for which the means were made. Market share is all well and good but only if it brings home the profits. Keep your eyes on the prize – and profits are the prize.

So who’s winning the medals in the olympic sport of mobile hardware manufacturing?
genuity
Source: “Who’s Winning, iOS or Android? All the Numbers, All in One Place

Awards Ceremony: Apple walks away with the Gold (both figuratively and almost literally), Samsung takes the Silver and no one else even medals. The Bronze podium stands empty.

Advertising

The only proper way to score advertising is net advertising profits retained. Market share and platform may be used to garner advertising revenue but they are only the means and they should never be confused with profit, which is the end.

Today, there are three great truths in mobile advertising:

1) Google is killing it in mobile advertising.
2) Google is killing it in mobile advertising…but mobile advertising is still relatively small; and
3) The vast majority of Google’s mobile advertising revenue is generated on the iOS platform, not the Android platform.

1) Google is killing it in mobile advertising.

Google dominates the mobile search market with 93% of US mobile search advertising dollars, according to eMarketer. Facebook is at No. 2.

2) Mobile advertising is still relatively small.

The mobile ad market alone stood at roughly $4.1 billion at the end of last year, up from $1.5 billion at the end of 2011. Google, currently has more than half the mobile ads market with annual revenues of around $2.2 billion.

Just to keep things in perspective, mobile ad revenue only accounted for 9% of all online ad revenue last year, although the percentage of mobile ads vis-a-vis other online ads is rapidly growing. And mobile ad revenues paled in comparison with mobile hardware sales. While it took an entire year for ALL mobile ad revenue to reach $4.1 billion, Apple alone, and in 90 days, and in what many considered a down quarter, brought in revenues of approximately $31.4 billion just from iPhone and iPad sales.

3) Google is making its advertising money on iOS, not Android

“(I)t’s Android’s large market share that is the winner for Google. The more Android devices being used, the more Google services with Google ads are being used.” – Virtual Pants

Actually, not so very much. Most of Google’s advertising dollars are generated by iOS’s relatively smaller market share, not by Android’s massive market share.

MoPub-Ad-Spend-Share-Jan-Feb-March

Source: MoPub

Take a good hard look at the chart, above. The iPhone ad spend doubles the ad spend share of ALL of Android. The iPad almost matches ALL of Android BY ITSELF. And even the lowly iPod has one-quarter of the ad spend that ALL of Android does. Market share is all that matters? I don’t think so. That’s like arguing that acreage is all that matters in real estate. The size of the lot does matter in real estate but location, location, location matters more, more, more. And market share does matter in mobile advertising but it is the location of the market share that matters even more.

Apple’s iOS Mobile Ad Metrics Dominates Android

Why 75 cents of every dollar spent on mobile advertising is spent on iPhone and iPad

iOS leads Android in mobile ad revenue

Apple’s iPad dominates online shopping traffic & revenue generation

iOS Still Top Platform For Monetising Mobile Ads, Opera’s Q1 Study Finds, iPhone Also Beating Android For Generating Ad Traffic

iPad Still Dominates Tablet Ads With iPad Mini Gaining, Velti Finds

“My belief, though, is that what Google is winning with Android is a booby prize — overwhelming majority share of the unprofitable segment of the market.” – John Gruber

When it comes to ad revenues and profits, we shouldn’t be counting Android as a single entity anyway. Ad revenues don’t help Android, the platform. They help specific digital stores. Ads going to Amazon, Google, and the various stores in China and elsewhere need to be broken out separately, not lumped together.

Awards Ceremony: Google wins the Gold and they win it going away. But they receive their Gold medal standing on the Apple iOS platform, not the Android platform.

Silver and Bronze? I’ll let you decide if it’s Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft’s Bing or someone else. They’re all so far back that it doesn’t much matter now anyway. That may change over time but we’ll have to wait and see how this market develops.

“Razors-And-Blades” Content Sales

“(T)he razor and blades business model, is a business model wherein one item is sold at a low price (or given away for free) in order to increase sales of a complementary good, such as supplies…” ~ Wikipedia

The “razors-and-blades” business model is tricky to score.

— Hardware revenues and profits mean NOTHING in the “razors-and-blades” model. In fact, it’s not unusual to LOSE money from hardware (razor) sales.

— Market share means both nothing and everything in the “razors-and-blades” model. It means nothing because it doesn’t actually generate any profits but it means everything because it is a prerequisite to generating profits. In fact, the only reason you’re giving away your hardware in the first place is to acquire massive market share which, in turn, will hopefully lead to massive profits.

— Ultimately, the only way to measure the success of the “razors-and-blades” model is on the net profits generated by the sale of the complementary goods (razors). In mobile, the complementary goods are content such as music, video, books, etc. and apps. Amazon also has the added advantage of being able to sell everything from their sprawling retail catalog.

As I tried to explain in my tersely titled article: “Selling The Amazon Kindle Fire and Google Nexus 7 Is As Silly As Selling Razor Blades To Men Who Love Beards“, the “razors-and-blades” model makes no sense in this market space. At least it makes no sense to me. In the “razors-and-blades” model, the complementary sales – whether it be blades for razors, or ink for inkjet printers or games for gaming consoles – must be proprietary and must command a premium price. That’s the whole point. Give away the razor, make it back – and more – by selling the blades at a premium.

If you’re selling content, you want to be platform agnostic so that you can sell as much content as possible. This, in my opinion, should be Amazon’s strategy.

If you’re giving away hardware in order to sell content, then you want that content to be tied to your hardware product so that you can monopolize the sale of the complementary product and command a premium price.

In the mobile space, the complementary sales ARE NOT proprietary, they ARE subject to competition and they DO NOT command a premium price. Amazon and Google don’t sell content that is any different or superior to that being sold by Apple and other content providers and their content isn’t being sold at a premium. In fact, Amazon often sells their merchandise at a DISCOUNT which – in the “razors-and-blades” business model – is completely bat-manure crazy. ((Then again, we all know that Jeff Bezos is crazy like a fox.))

So who’s winning in the “razors-and-blades” business model? Why, surprisingly, it’s Apple and it’s Apple in a runaway.

Google Play now at 90% of iOS app store downloads; iOS still holds a 2.6X revenue lead

Despite growing competition from other tablets, Apple’s iPad still accounts for a whopping 89.28 percent of e-commerce website traffic, and also rakes in more money on a per-user basis than any other platform. ~ Monetate

Distimo reports that iOS App Store revenues were 430% larger than Android during 2012. ~ Apple F2Q13 Earnings Call

“…iTunes inclusive of Apple’s own Software generates as much as 15% operating margin on gross revenues. That’s over $2 billion a year.” ~ Asymco, So long, break-even

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Source: Canalys

Apple sells their content, not in order to make money but, in order to make their hardware more attractive so that they can sell ever more hardware and make ever more profits. With regard to tablets, Apple is playing the OPPOSITE game that the Amazon Fire and the Google Nexus are playing. While Amazon and Google subsidize their tablets (razors) in order to make money on the sale of their content (blades), Apple should be subsidizing the sale of their content (blades) in order to make money on the sale of their hardware (razors). But that’s not how Apple rolls. Instead, Apple sells their hardware at a premium AND they sell their content at a premium. That’s not supposed to happen but that’s just how good the Apple ecosystem is.

It’s like a walk-on winning the Olympic marathon while everyone else is stuck in the starting blocks.

You can say that it’s elitist or arrogant to argue that iOS users are better customers than Android users. But you can also say that it’s the truth. ~ John Gruber, Church of market share

One last thing. If Amazon and Google have an incentive to sell discounted hardware and premium content and Apple has an incentive to sell premium hardware and discounted content, one of those business models is going to fail and it’s going to fail hard. Since Apple is, so far, successfully selling premium hardware AND premium content, I’ll let you be the judge of how this is going to play out.

Awards Ceremony: I’m tempted to award all three medals to Apple just for having the sheer audacity to win a game that they didn’t even enter. But I guess Apple will have to console themselves with just winning the Gold.

And the Amazon Fire and the Google Nexus tablets? Disqualified for not understanding the rules of the game that they were playing.

Remember, Amazon and Google sell their hardware at cost. They don’t make a penny off those sales and they might even be taking a loss.

Market share? Yes, they have taken some minor market share…in a market where they are GIVING AWAY THEIR MERCHANDISE. And market share is not how you score in the “razors-and-blades” game. While the press and the pundits fawn over the market share of the Amazon Fire and the Google Nexus, what they’re entirely missing is that in the “razors-and-blades” business model, market share should be a GIVEN. I mean, honestly, if you can’t obtain overwhelming market share when you’re giving away your product at cost, then you should be ashamed, embarrassed, abashed, chagrined, humiliated and mortified ’cause you’re doing something terribly, terribly wrong.

You win the “razors-and-blades” game by scoring the most content profits. All those Amazon Fire and Google Nexus market share numbers that the analysts are always going gaga over? Meaningless. They should be removed from the count. They’re probably not hurting the sales of the other available tablets and they’re not helping the bottom lines of their makers either. There is zero proof that Amazon and Google’s hardware giveaways have led to increased retail sales which, after all, in the “razors-and-blades” model, IS the point.

And if you’re going to prophesy that market share alone gives Google data that will someday, somehow, be worth something to someone, then you need to go back and re-read how the “razor-and-blades” business model is scored.

What we desperately need in analyzing mobile computing is far more attention paid to profits and far less attention paid to prophets.

Next Time

Next time I will finish with the “mother” of all business models – platforms – and do the medal count.

Google’s Android Activations Are A Lot Less Cash Cow And A Lot More Bull. And That’s OK.

Read Part One of John’s column entitled: Android’s Market Share Is Literally A Joke

Read Part Three of John’s column entitled: Google’s Android Activations Are A Lot Less Cash Cow And A Lot More Bull. And That’s OK.

The author would like to gratefully acknowledge the contributions of Ben Bajarin and Steve Wildstrom. All the great ideas, that you agree with, were theirs. All the bad ideas, that you disagree with, were mine.

Platform Wars: Some Things Will Never Change

Regular readers of Tech.pinions will know that John Kirk’s column last week on Android’s market share being a joke, went massively viral. As I watched the stats of real-time visitors and new hourly spikes of traffic I was truly amazed. Many of you may not know but for about a year and a half I was on the executive team of one of the popular tech and gadget blogs. In my time there I never saw anything do what John’s column did in terms of global attention.

With the wide-spread circulation of John’s 2400 word analysis came a slew of comments. Over 560 and counting to be precise. Many of our regular readers jumped in and what ensued was a pretty healthy dialogue for the most part. But in the course of the large comment thread, I think we saw every major anti-Apple argument come out. ((I hope to do a summary of the major points from each side and provide key thoughts on each of them)) Which leads me to my point. In regard to these platform wars, some things will never change.

Ultimately, humans are tribal beings. We have a strong urge to associate and affiliate with a tribe. This is perhaps most strongly demonstrated at any major sporting event. We praise the home team but boo the opposing team and all their players. We have a strong desire to win and be on the winning team. So it shouldn’t surprise us when a polarizing situation presents itself that we see tribal behavior.

It doesn’t matter how rational of a conversation we try to have about understanding the complexities of business, like market share statistics for example. Or that business is made up of a complex web of market forces that when isolated do not tell the whole story around the health or viability of a product, company, or market.

So many points in this platform war discussion are based on flawed assumptions that everyone values the same thing. That people are pragmatic, and rational beings. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Humans are diverse and that diversity is reflected in the diversity of products and solutions that exist in the markets we study. It is this profound market diversity that many don’t understand.

So this discussion will continue and we will all try to have an informed dialogue on the complexities of business but some things will never change. Humans are tribal beings. If only we could recognize that there are situations where for one tribe to win the other does not have to lose. If only.

Why Google is Not the New Microsoft

My history with the PC industry is very long. I got to work on the original IBM PC with Don Estridge’s team in Boca Raton and saw up close and personal how the PC industry developed and how the value creation for the industry came about. I also got to work on early marketing programs for the Mac as well as programs for Compaq, Dell, HP, Toshiba, DEC, and many others as the PC market was hatched and eventually became an almost trillion dollar industry. Perhaps the most interesting fact from the early days of the PC is that IBM created their PC from off the shelf parts and never even considered developing a proprietary design at first. By using an open approach to the PC architecture it did not take long before others created IBM PC clones and took IBM on soon after the IBM PC hit the market in 1981.

Most industry folks know that when IBM sought out an OS for their PC, they first visited Gary Kildall and his company Digital Research Inc. as they were interested in his CPM OS. But when they arrived, Gary was not there and more or less snubbed them and they instead went to see Bill Gates and as they say, the rest is history. I did many Computer Chronicle shows with Kildall and he refuted the idea that he intentionally snubbed them; regardless, the end result was that IBM ended up using MS-DOS and it became the heart of their and many PC Clone’s operating system for almost a decade.

Over the years Microsoft has become an industry behemoth and has gotten into many different businesses to help extend their Windows franchise. But from the beginning, Microsoft did have one important goal and focus. It was to give PC OEMs an OS and actually help them make money with their PCs. Microsoft licensed MS DOS and then Windows to PC makers and continued to refine it and upgrade it along the way. The PC vendors could then create hardware optimized for these operating systems and add value through hardware and software add-ons. With each new version of Windows, Microsoft helped their PC partners grow their business and as people upgraded from one version of the OS to the others, many people along the value chain were greatly enriched. Besides PC companies making money, VARs, retailers and value added service providers all benefited from an ecosystem in which they could build new designs and services around Windows and keep all of that money for themselves.

When it comes to money and value creation for their partners, Google’s goals are very different and this is what really sets them apart from Microsoft.

A One Sided Relationship

While they too have an OS that companies can license, the real goal of their licensed OS is to bring users of these devices into direct contact with Google’s ads and services. Google says they really want their partners to be successful and while that is probably true, what they really mean is that if partners are successful in distributing their OS, than Google can reap the majority of the financial benefits. Sources tell me that a company like Samsung, who is literally their largest partner and almost single handily making Android successful, gets only a 10% commission on any of Googles ads or services they bring to Google. That same 10% commission applies to a giant like Samsung as well as any other companies distributing Android on their smartphones and tablets, except for Amazon and Barnes and Noble. In these two cases, Amazon and Barnes and Noble have forked Android for their own uses and can keep all proceeds from products and services sold through their devices. This works because they have an ecosystem of books, music, apps, and services that are their own and don’t need Google’s content to be successful. But most of Androids partners, such as Samsung, HTC and others, must rely on Google for music, video and apps and must pay this very large tax to Google if they want to use Android.

This is not to say that Microsoft’s OS licensee fee is not a tax in its own right. However, once that fee is paid, Microsoft gets no extra revenue from their partners regardless of what they sell in way of their hardware and services. And even if they tap into Microsoft’s ecosystem of apps or services, I understand their revenue cut to their partners is much more than Google gives their partners. This is why there have been rumors that Samsung has not been happy with Google since they do all of the hard work in creating a device, optimizing Android’s OS and delivering a value added UI to it as well as managing the channels and pay to make their own ads. Yet Google treats their cut of the profits the same as a small player that sells a much lower volume of devices than Samsung does with their products. No wonder analysts are looking closely at Samsung’s recent decision to fold their own mobile OS called Bada into Tizen and suspect that if Samsung wants to control their own destiny and keep more of the app, ads and services for themselves, that they might move more and more to Tizen as their mobile OS of choice.

While many rag on Microsoft as being a 900 pound gorilla lording their wares over their partners with a heavy hand, they at least let their partners make and keep as much profit as they can from any products and services they offer their customers. Not so Google. They too are a 900 pound gorilla but in their case these vendors are just a front end distribution medium for putting Google’s ads and services before their customers and ultimately reap the lions share of most of the profits made at the expense of their partners. And in this sense, the difference between Microsoft and Google is glaring indeed.

Android’s Market Share Is Literally A Joke

This is the first of three articles looking at how we measure – and mis-measure – who is “winning” in the mobile sector. Article one focuses on market share and was inspired by an article written by Bill Shamblin, entitled: “Chasing Smartphone Market Share Is A Chump’s Game.” Article two will focus on the proper way to measure or “score” mobile hardware manufacturing, mobile advertising and the “razors-and-blades” content models. Article three will focus on the role that market share plays in the network effect and will examine the proper way to measure or “score” how well a platform is doing.

The Joke

Have you heard this one?

Two farmers bought a truckload of watermelons, paying five dollars apiece for them. Then they drove to the market and sold all their watermelons for four dollars each. After counting their money at the end of the day, they realized that they’d ended up with less money than they’d started with.

“See!” said the one farmer to the other. “I told you we shoulda got a bigger truck.”

Or how about this one?

Android is winning because they got a bigger truck.

The Joke Is On Us

Both “jokes” are based upon the old saw that one can lose money on every sale but make it up in volume. Unfortunately, the joke is on us because this is exactly the kind of nonsensical analysis that is being doled out by tech pundits and lapped up by the press and investors. You think I’m exaggerating? Take a gander at some of these recent tech headlines:

Android is crushing Apple and Microsoft in the mobile device market
Android looks like it’s winning
CHART OF THE DAY: The iPhone’s Market Share Is Dead In The Water
Despite its upmarket history, Apple needs to compete on price
Gartner: Apple falls below 20% in smartphone market share
Harvard Liquidates Apple Stake After IPhone Sales Lose Steam
How Apple Is Losing Mobile
IDC: Apple’s share of worldwide tablet market drops under 40%
iPhone growth stalls as Android continues to nip away at Apple’s market share
iPhone Market Share Stuck At 18%
Nearly 75% Of All Smartphones Sold In Q1 Were Android
Sharp to seek Samsung edge for survival as Apple sales lose steam
Why Android Is Winning The Tablet Wars

I could link to a dozen more headlines just like them. These headlines – or their underlying articles – all have two things in common:

1) They contend that Android is winning and Apple’s iPhone is in deep, deep trouble; and
2) They point to market share as the sole or primary basis for their conclusion.

TechCrunch sums up the thoughts of many this way:

“The latest numbers are in: Android is on top, followed by iOS in a distant second. There is no denying Android’s dominance anymore. There is no way even the most rabid Apple fanboy can deny that iOS is in second place now. Android is winning.”

ReadWrite takes it one, final step further, stating:

“The Mobile Battle Is Over – And Google Won.”

In other words, pundits think that Android has won because they “have a bigger truck” (i.e. more market share) – regardless of how much – or how little – profit Android manufacturers make. Android, the pundits opine without a hint of irony, is not making much, if any, money but that’s okay because they’re making it up in volume.

But is that really how market share works? Can you tell how well a company or an operating system is doing solely by measuring its market share?

No, of course not.

Quiz #1: Market Share Alone

Question: Company A has 25% market share. Company Z has 75% market share. Which company is doing better?

Answer: With market share alone, there’s simply no way to know or tell. Company A might be bringing in all the profits and company Z might be going bankrupt.

The Wrong Way To Calculate Who’s Winning

(T)he primary problem with using market share as a measure of business health is it provides no insight into the profitability of the product being sold. ~ Bill Shamblin

Scoring by market share alone and ignoring profit is like saying that a baseball team won because it had more hits when the other team scored more runs. Scoring by market share alone and ignoring profit is like saying that a football team won because it gained more yards when the other team scored more points. Scoring by market share alone and ignoring profit is like saying that a hockey team won because it had more shots on goal when the other team had more goals.

Market share without context is not only useless, it is worse than useless because it is likely to be misinterpreted.

First, market share without context assumes that each percentage of market share is equal to another – that every Android activation is equal to an iOS sale. Nothing could be further from the truth. You can’t simply total up market share and determine a winner any more than you could count up coins or poker chips without knowing the underlying value of those coins or chips. A penny does not have the same value as a quarter and only a small child would rather have more coins than fewer coins but more money.

Second, market share without context implies that market share is a zero sum game – that market share gains for one always result in a loss to another. But in a rapidly growing market, a company can actually LOSE market share yet have both positive unit sales and profit growth. Not growing as fast as another company is not nearly the same as “losing”, especially if the growth is coming in a more desirable portion of the market.

For example, despite a decline in Q1 market share, iPhone sales actually increased based on year over year comparisons. (iPhone sales were not declining,they were growing slower than the overall market.)

The same was true of tablet sales. Last quarter, Apple LOST tablet market share, but because the entire market was rapidly growing, they GREW unit sales by 65%.

tablets-q1-2013

Source: Apple 2.0, “Pie charts of the day: Tablet sales grew 140% year over year”

The “Fair-Share” Way To Calculate Who’s “Winning”

What matters is not only market share and not only profit share but the ratio between them. This is called Fair share profit analysis. Fair Share Profit Analysis contends that 1 point of market share should deliver 1 or more points of profit share.

Less than a 1-to-1 ratio of profit share to market share demonstrates that a company is buying market share; that the company has not been able to differentiate its product in the market and is likely competing primarily on price.

More than a 1-to-1 ratio of profit share to market share demonstrates a company’s ability to differentiate its products, provide more value than its competitors, command higher prices, charge a premium and enjoy pricing power.

Quiz #2: Market Share or Profit Share

Question: Company A has 25% market share and 75% profit share. Company Z has 75% market share and 25% profit share. Which company is doing better?

Answer: If you said anything other than company A, then you are dumber than a doorknob. Any intelligent person would take company A’s profit share over that of company Z’s market share.

No one would be confused if Apple had 50 percent market share and 50 percent of the profits. But apparently it’s very confusing to some that Apple has only 5 percent of the market share and well over 50 percent of the profits. ~ John Gruber, The church of market share

Imagine, for example, that Apple were a hamburger chain who made more money than McDonalds, Burger King, and Wendys combined, but only sold 5% of the total hamburgers. Would anyone seriously contend that Apple was “losing” the hamburger wars?

Apparently so. For example, take this analysis from Matt Asay of ReadWrite (please!):

For those who say market share doesn’t matter, that Apple still commands most of the industry’s tablet profits, they clearly haven’t been paying attention to the smartphone market.

It turns out it’s a really big deal to maintain market share, and not simply profits. Profit share follows market share.

Profit share follows market share? Are you kidding me? Show me a business sector where profits have a 1-to-1 correlation with market share and I’ll show you the exception that proves the rule. The reason market share doesn’t necessarily correlate to profit share is because profits are made up of both market share and margins. And market share alone tells us nothing about margins, therefore market share and profit share are almost always going to be unbalanced.

screen-shot-2013-04-16-at-4-16-4.16.46-pm

Source: Asymco, Escaping PCs

Take, for example, the Apple Mac. As the pie chart above demonstrates, the Mac has 45% profit share with only 8% of the market share. That means that Apple pulls in an awesome 5.63% of the sector’s profits for each and every 1% of its market share.

Profit share always follows market share? Not hardly.

The truth is, anyone can get market share if they want it badly enough. All they need to do is sell their product at cost, give it away for free or, better yet, subsidize (pay their customers) to take the product off their hands. This is called “buying” market share, but it always comes at the cost of profits.

Pricing to gain market share simply for the sake of market share is a chump’s game. ~ Bill Shamblin

The problem is, you can “cheat” and buy market share, but you can’t do the reverse and “cheat” to buy profits. You have to EARN profits. Buying market share is a downhill race to the bottom but gaining profits is an tortuous uphill climb and it can only be made if the manufacturer is able to produce highly valued and differentiated products. The company that buys market share must inevitably go out of business or reverse its course and fight its way back up to profitability. The company with the value and the profits, on the other hand, has the advantage of holding the high ground and can choose to take market share at will.

Quiz #3: Less Market Share Can Be Better Than More

Question: Company A has 25% market share and 50% profit share. Company Z has 75% market share and 50% profit share. Which company is doing better?

Answer: Anyone with any business sense would say company A.

Company A is commanding 3 times the price of Company Z. The formula is 50% profit share divided by 25% market share (50/25 = 2). This means that for every one percent of market share, company A has two percent of the profit share. Company Z’s position is reversed. For every one percent of market share, they command only 0.5% profit share (50/75 = 0.66). Company Z would have to work three times as hard and sell 3 times as much product just to match the profits of a single sale by company A.

Grading The Contestants

Android accounts for approximately 70% of global smartphone shipments and 29% of global profits. This means that the average Android manufacturer creates just .41% of profit for each point of market share (0.29/0.70 = .414). In other words, the average Android manufacturer needs to capture 2.4 points of market share just to increase their market profit by 1%.

Such a low fair share profit index may indicate that Android manufacturers are:

— Having difficulty differentiating their product;
— Sacrificing profits in order to buy market share (the “race to the bottom”);
— Unable to reach economies of scale in the manufacturing process.

(Profit data, source: Canaccord, Market share, source: IDC)

Samsung is doing far, far better than the average Android manufacturer. Samsung’s 2013 Q1 market share was 33% and its profit share was 43%. This means that Samsung reels in 1.3% of the profits for every 1% of the market share it owns (0.43/0.33 = 1.30). Samsung, unlike all other Android manufacturers, is earning, rather than “buying”, market share.

(Profit data, source: Canaccord, Market share, source: IDC)

Apple’s iPhone 2013 Q1 market share was 18% with 57% profit share. This means that Apple’s iPhone took in a lavish 3.12% ((0.57/0.18) of all profits for each 1% percent of market share it controls.

If Android manufacturers needed to sell 2.4 phones just to gain 1% profit share, they would need to sell a staggering 7.5 units just to match the profits that Apple garnered from the sale of a single iPhone.

As Daniel Eran Dilger puts it:

“… Apple could simply have blown through much of its $13.1 billion quarterly profit to “beat” Samsung in market share, rather than allowing Samsung to do that while earning $4.8 billion less than Apple.”

Further, in 2012 Q1, Apple held 23% market share and 74% profit share. This means that each 1% of market share was equal to 3.22% (0.74/0.23) of the sector’s profit share. Apple’s market share to profit share ratio remains almost identical, which means that Apple has maintained its pricing power. Not only that, by focusing on just a few smartphone models, Apple has become the low-cost manufacturer in smartphones as well.

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Source: Ben Evans, Mobile is eating the world

Take a good hard look at the chart, above, then go back and re-read the headlines I listed at the start of this article. What each and every one of those headlines is contending is that Android is winning and Apple is losing because Apple doesn’t control the green portion of the chart, above.

I mean, honest to goodness, take a look at the total units sold compared to the paltry profits obtained from those green sales. Who in their right mind would even WANT that market share?

Price Elasticity

What we’re really talking about here is the economic concept of price elasticity. “Price elasticity” seems to be way beyond the pay grade of most pundits and analysts who follow the mobile sector, but what it essentially means is that when the price of something goes down, sales almost always go up, but the rate of that sales increase depends upon the price elasticity of the product. In other words, dropping prices may increase sales but the increased sales may result in disproportionately larger or smaller profits.

Unless we truly understand the price elasticity of the iPhone, we really shouldn’t be calling for Apple to drop its iPhone prices.

Summation

It isn’t what we don’t know that gives us trouble, it’s what we know that ain’t so. – Will Rogers

Not only do the high priests of market share have it wrong, they have it exactly backwards. The company with the lower market share and the higher profits has all of the leverage. The goal is to INCREASE, not decrease, the ratio of profits to market share. Increasing market share at the cost of profits is a recipe for disaster, not a formula for success.

Apple may or may not do well in the future but right now, and contrary to popular belief, they are winning the smartphone wars and winning them handily.

RATIO OF PROFITS TO MARKET SHARE
3.12% Apple
1.30% Samsung
0.41% All Android

Not only is market share not the best way to evaluate the relative positions of competitors but, without context, it is one of the worst. Assuming that market share will always bring you success is like assuming that a bigger truck will always bring you bigger profits. It’s literally a joke.

Next

Next, I’ll talk about how market share affects hardware manufacturing, advertising and the “razors-and-blades” content models. The series will conclude with a discussion of platforms and the network effect.

Read Part Two of John’s column entitled: 4 Mobile Business Models, 4 Ways to Keep Score.

Read Part Three of John’s column entitled: Google’s Android Activations Are A Lot Less Cash Cow And A Lot More Bull. And That’s OK.

Google’s Android And The Path Not Taken

Yesterday, Google held its I/O keynote address. Ben Thompson of “stratēchery” has written an excellent article entitled: THE ANDROID DETOUR. I highly encourage you to take the time to read it. I’m going to re-state and build upon his thoughts here.

1) In 2007, Apple introduced the iPhone. Google’s then CEO, Eric Schmidt was a member of Apple’s board and an honored guest at the iPhone presentation. It appeared that all was right with the worlds of Apple and Google – Apple was going to do its hardware thing and Google was going to do its services thing and a new era of mutually beneficial cooperation was about to begin.

2) In 2008, Google introduced Android – a direct competitor to Apple’s iOS – and the Apple/Google alliance quickly began to unravel. Schmidt soon left Apple’s board, Steve Jobs later vowed to go “thermonuclear” on Android and the Apple/Google alliance was over almost before it had begun.

3) It’s clear that pre-iPhone, Google was initially aiming Android as a Blackberry and Microsoft Mobile competitor, but as soon as the iPhone appeared on the scene, Google’s Android focus dramatically shifted. Assuming that competing with Apple was the right strategy, Google should be given all the credit in the world for pivoting as rapidly as they did from their original plan to creating a legitimate iPhone competitor.

4) As an aside, I also give Microsoft lots of credit too. When the iPhone initially appeared, Microsoft didn’t foresee the danger it posed. But soon afterwards, they not only recognized the danger but they acted and acted decisively. They took the radical step of abandoning Windows Mobile altogether and initiating their new Windows Phone 7 platform. It was a bold move, but as history as shown, it was one year too late. Windows Phone 7 (now 8) has never gotten any traction and it languishes in third place, just above the rapidly fading Blackberry OS.

5) I think I could make a pretty compelling case that Google should never have made Android a competitor to Apple’s iOS. By doing so, they destroyed a promising alliance and, perhaps, took a long, long, detour down a path that they never should have taken. But that’s all moot now. We’ll never know how that alternative reality would have played out, so there’s little point debating it.

6) What can’t be debated is the effect that Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android have had on the incumbent smartphone competitors. Palm and WebOS were wiped out. Blackberry was devastated. Nokia was humbled. Microsoft Windows was abandoned and replaced by Windows Phone 7.

Pundits often frame the smartphone/tablet wars as a battle between Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, but in reality, those two operating systems – with Apple descending from above and Android rising from the below, crushed the existing smartphone competitors between them.

comscore-q1-2013

There is little proof that Android has ever made any significant income for Google, but if the destruction of their enemies was Google’s aim, then there is no doubting that the Android strategy was eminently successful.

7) Google’s I/O keynote barely even mentioned Android or any kind of hardware at all. If there was a common theme, it was about service unification between Chrome and Android.

Instead of an updated Nexus 7 tablet or a new Chromebook model, Google spent three hours during Wednesday’s keynote to discuss services and feature upgrades for both Chrome and Android.

If I could describe #io13 in one word it would be “unification”. Same features, services, UI and experiences on Chrome and Android. ~ Kevin C. Tofel

I think that Ben Thompson is spot on with this analysis:

“Services are where Google excels, and it’s where they make their money. It’s why they make the most popular iOS apps, even as their own OS competes for phone market share.

Apple, on the other hand, makes money on hardware. It’s why their services and apps only appear on their own devices; for Apple, services and apps are differentiators, not money-makers.”

“Apple invests in software, apps, and services to the extent necessary to preserve the profit they gain from hardware. To serve another platform would be actively detrimental to their bottom line. Google, on the other hand, spreads their services to as many places as possible – every platform they serve increases their addressable market.”

8) The battle for mobile is over. Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android reign as a duopoly and Microsoft and Blackberry hang on by the skin of their teeth. Google is free to put its web services on Android and iOS and to ignore the Blackberry and Windows 8 operating systems. Android has ensured that Google’s services are freely accessible on the only two operating systems that matter. The Android strategy was a success although, perhaps, at great cost. Google’s I/O keynote is living proof that Google is now re-focusing on their original mission of dominating web services.

Re-thinking Winners and Losers In Tech

There are narratives that circle the technology industry that are wearing out their welcome. The primary one, and the one where I wish more intelligent heads would prevail, is the narrative that there can only be one winner in this industry. Namely that for Google’s ecosystem to win, means that all the others must fail. Or that for Microsoft’s ecosystem to win it means that Apple’s and Google’s needs to lose. And of course that for Apple to win, Google and Microsoft need to lose.

As far as I can tell these narratives are rooted not only a limited view of the technology industy’s history but also a very short-sighted one. It seems as though since Microsoft’s Windows platform dominated much of computing for several decades, that it must mean that it is inevitable that this domination repeat itself. It seems the expectation from many is that we are simply waiting to see which platform wins. More specifically, which platform will dominate computing market share the way Microsoft did in the past. Let me explain why this is not going to happen.

Big Consumer Markets

The reason I say the one platform to rule them all narrative is deeply flawed is because when Microsoft dominated computing, the market was very small from a global standpoint. The market for PCs was so very small compared to the market for smartphones for example. Small markets favor fewer players who typically dominate the segment.

The global consumer market for technology is massive. Massive global consumer markets can sustain many players, competing for segments of markets, and all making money. Look at how many automobile companies the global consumer market can sustain. Look at how many clothing companies, types of aspirin, types of cereal, etc., the market can sustain. Believing that for Google to win Apple has to lose–or vice-versa–is like believing that for Pepsi to win Coca-Cola has to lose, for Burger King to win McDonald’s has to lose, or for BMW to win Mercedes-Benz has to lose. We all know how silly that sounds and that is the point.

Interestingly, even though a few major conglomerates own many of the underlying products that make up the variety I mention, its success often transcends the product, or company, itself but is wrapped into a larger experience. This larger experience is bound to something central which is key to that companies sustainability in the global consumer market–their brand.

Brands Rule the World

When you look at the global consumer market, you simply will not find a company succeeding and competing on the basis of a product who does not have a strong brand. A strong brand stands out. It is recognizable. It leads to continually high customer satisfaction, loyalty and trust. A strong brand continually re-creates an enjoyable and memorable experience for its customers.

When a company builds a brand that the global consumer market considers valuable, it puts itself in lasting position. Nike, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Coke and Pepsi, McDonald’s, etc., are not in danger of going out of business any time soon. To predict their demise, is as ridiculous as predicting the demise of the strong global consumer brands in the technology industry.

A strong brand is not just sustainable it is also versatile. Brands compete well in the markets they play but a strong brand also allows a company the ability to compete in new markets with new products. A strong brand is one of the strongest, most defensible assets any company has. It is one of the foundational things that often gets overlooked in many analysis.

Its time to re-think winners and losers in the technology industry. Its time to take a more holistic look at who is well positioned to still exist in 20-30-50 or even 100 years. A strong brand today means a strong brand tomorrow. Products come and go, but brands can stand the test of time.

Are Google Apps On iOS A Trojan Horse Or A Concession to Apple’s Dominance?

Grin And Bear It

Aside from Google Maps and Google Now, many users would sooner tap on Gmail, Google Chrome, and Google Drive than the apps Apple would much rather you use, and the result is completely antithetical to Apple’s insistence of a controlled ecosystem and specific apps within a walled garden.

Google apps are besting the iPhone’s default software, and Apple has to grin and bear it. ~ Mike Schuster, USA Today

Apple has to grin and bear it? Do they? Or is it actually the other way round and Google is the one who has to grin and bear it?

App Revenue

Apple’s iOS ecosystem is crushing Google’s Android in dollars generated from App sales.

“Cumulative app downloads have surpassed 45 billion and app developers have made over $9 billion for their sales through the App Store, including $4.5 billion in the most recent four quarters alone. Canalys estimate the sales from our App Store accounted for 74% of all app sales worldwide in the March quarter.” ~ Apple Earnings Call

According to a new report from app analytics firm App Annie, the iOS App Store has maintained its lead in terms of monetization, earning around 2.6 times more revenue in the last quarter. During the holiday season – when users are receiving, activating and then filling new smartphones and tablets with apps – that lead was even higher, with iOS generating roughly four times more revenue.

app-revenue-q12013

Ad Revenue

Whenever it’s pointed out that Apple developers make far more income than do Google developers, Android advocates quickly point out that Google is an advertising company and that they and their developers make their money through advertising rather than through the sale of Apps. Only here’s the thing…

… 75 cents of every dollar spent on mobile advertising is spent on iOS, not Android.

“…iPhone, iPad, and yes, even iPod touch ad rates are much higher. While Android smartphones draw $.50 CPMs (cost per thousand impressions), iPhones pull in $.65 to $.88 CPMs, iPod Touches do $.74 to $.98, and iPads do between $.82 and $1.16.” ~ Venturebeat

screen-shot-2013-04-18-at-10-26-24-am

As you can see from the chart, below, what’s utterly amazing is that the iPad alone makes almost as much advertising revenue as all of Android put together.

screen-shot-2013-04-18-at-10-31-48-am

Convoluted Logic

I have heard it said that Google’s excellent iOS software is a Trojan Horse that will make it easier for iOS users to switch from iOS to Android. But I fail to see how Google’s efforts to improve their iOS software – and therefore improve the iOS experience – either harms the iOS platform or makes it more likely that iOS users will leave the platform.

Google is not creating iOS Apps out of the goodness of their hearts. They make money when people use their apps and consume their advertising. And right now, the bulk of the app money and the bulk of the mobile advertising revenue is being made on iOS. If Google wants to stay in the game, then they’ve got to deign to play on Apple’s turf. It’s as simple as that.