Before all you fanboys out there get your backs up, let me start by saying that Apple gets full credit for blowing up the mobile software business and creating an entirely new market for software entrepreneurs. The iPhone / iPod Touch / iPad / iTunes juggernaut is one of the most awesome technology ecosystems ever and I stand in awe of what Jobs and co. have been able to pull off.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let me give you five reasons why Google’s Android platform is by far the more exciting opportunity for mobile software entrepreneurs and the investors who back them:
1. Carriers are scared shitless of Apple + iPhone, and Android is the best defense they’ve got
- Apple controls their iPhone ecosystem top to bottom – from app sales revenues, to in app transaction fees, to iAd placement fees, Apple skims the cream and carriers get nothing.
- Carriers rely heavily on content placement fees, pricey software downloads and carrier-billing transaction fees to boost profits in their legacy feature-phone business.
- Android also puts these revenue lines at risk by giving consumers more control of the deck – but carriers at least have a shot at playing a role and taking a cut with Android, they never will with iPhone
2. Google is fucking up Android Market, leaving room for competing alternatives
- The iPhone wouldn’t be what it is today without iTunes – Apple’s ubiquitous desktop content management and payments platform
- Google has – so far – failed to offer a credible equivalent content discovery and management solution for Android. Google (a search engine!) hasn’t even offered a basic Web-based browse experience for Android Market (FC portfolio company AppStoreHQ has filled the gap)
- If Google wants to attract and keep great developers (which is where the magic really happens on smartphones), they need to help them move units – so far, they’re failing.
- This huge gap is being chased by a diverse mix of carriers, carrier services companies and software entrepreneurs, but the game has only just begun.
3. “Open” is messy, fragmented and confusing – and confusion creates opportunity
- Fanboys love to suggest that Apple’s vertical integration model – where they control everything from the device and OS to the apps that can run on it – is the only way to create a winning consumer experience.
- The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t leave much room for others to play, a hard reality that began to sink in for many with Apple’s OS 4.0 pre-announcement, where whole swaths of iPhone-related startup and venture activity were effectively shut down by new Apple-imposed restrictions.
- In contrast, Android’s open structure leaves plenty of room for handset makers, carriers, and developer platforms of every stripe to carve out a niche for themselves.
- Does this create confusion for consumers? Absolutely. Will this confusion kill Android? Follow the headlines (including a few below) and judge for yourself…
4. Free software wins, especially in the fastest-growing global markets
- The rich first world will always love – and be able to afford – Apple’s premium offerings, but for most of the world – including the fastest-growing markets like India, China and Brazil – price matters a lot, and Android’s free price tag is a huge competitive advantage over Apple.
- A GigaOM post dubbed “The Global Rise of The Smartphone” put it this way:
“…the rest of the world, and the large portion of people toting feature phones, are not the dregs of the market but the massive middle…“
- That “massive middle” is where developers, carriers and investors will reap the greatest rewards and Android will be the smartphone OS of choice in these markets.
5. Consumers (and developers) really want stuff that Jobs + Co. won’t let them have
- Steve Jobs keeps telling people that Android is the phone for people who love porn. I’m sure he has his reasons for keeping adult content off his platform, but I’m also sure that consumers want it, and if Steve won’t let them have it and Android will, that’s a market-moving decision.
- I just checked my own assumptions here by using Google Insights for Search to compare global search volume for the term ‘iPhone’ vs. the term ‘porn’ over the last 12 months. The answer? Porn wins by >3x:
I said most of this 18 months ago and every iPhone owner I know rolled their eyes. A lot has happened in 18 months, and we ain’t seen nothin’ yet…
- WHOA! Google Android Outsells Apple iPhone in the U.S. – Silicon Alley Insider, May 10, 2010
- Why U.S. Android Handset Sales are Outpacing the iPhone – GigaOM, May 10, 2010