Google Android Continues to Gain on Apple iOS

4 07 2010

I’ve already written a lot about the competition between Android and iOS, but this is such an important battle, that I am sure that I will be writing updates for some time to come.  Not only is this a classic battle between two different business models, but it is one that is going to have a huge impact on they way we purchase music & applications, listen to media, and communicate & interact with each other.

I have previously blogged about comScore’s numbers tracking the rapid growth of Android.  Apple growth had been slow but may be accelerating again with the delivery of the iPad and iPhone 4 which has shipped in record numbers.  Recent comScore numbers.

A recent survey by Appcelerator suggests that developers, at least Appcelerator’s developers, prefer Android and see it overtaking Apple iOS.

Appcelerator Developer Survey Results (2,733 developers)  See full article.

  • Most developers say that Apple is the #1 platform.  For now.
  • 55% say that Android has the most capabilities as an OS.  Compare to 39% who say iOS is more advanced.
  • 86% say that Android is the most open platform.
  • 54% say that Android has the best long-term outlook.

Also, Gartner recently predicted that Android would pass Apple iOS as the most popular mobile operating system by 2012.  See article.

Let’s take a more detailed and business-oriented look at Apple iOS and Google Android from a classic SWOT analysis point of view.

Apple iOS

STRENGTHS

  • Market share.  Apple leads, so developers have a trong financial incentive to port to iOS first as long as Apple is the leading smartphone platform.  (OK, Symbian is #1 but that is a different story.)
  • Apple brand.
  • iTunes strength and market acceptance.
  • Innovation.  Apple has consistently been able to deliver innovation that resonates with their target customer.
  • Control.  Apple controls their OS and their development environment.  This means better interoperation of components and a predictable, consistent platform for developers.  This issue is a lot of what the battle with Adobe about Flash is all about.
  • Tablet Computers.  Apple delivered first and got a smash hit with consumers on this one.  In the process, the re-defined the market space for their competitors.
  • Developer Support.  Apple leads in the number of current developers and the number of applications (OK, apps).
  • Applications.  The Apple App store.

WEAKNESSES

  • Openness.  Apple controls the hardware, software, development environment and which apps can ship on the platform.
  • Carriers.  Apple is tied to AT&T as a carrier.  The iPhone may be adding additional carriers soon as the exclusivity deal with AT&T ends.
  • Devices.  Only Apple devices can run iOS.
  • The perception is growing that iPhones have issues with call quality on voice calls.  Different people have different opinions about who or what is at fault but at some point this will cause problems if not corrected.

OPPORTUNITIES

  • Opening up the platform and letting other vendors design and sell devices.  Particularly devices that Apple does not offer.

THREATS

  • Google Android.
  • Google Voice will play a role in the competition over time as well.
  • The current iPhone 4 antenna problems could grow to be a problem.  See article.

Google Android

STRENGTHS

  • Widely perceived as an open platform.  Developers like it. See the Appcenter developer survey results above.
  • Faster growth for the Android OS.
  • Google Brand.  It stands for different things with end users, but it is at least as strong as Apple’s brand.  Interbrand ranked Google the #7 brand worldwide in 2009, ahead of Apple.    http://www.interbrand.com/best_global_brands.aspx
  • Device Partners.  Dozens of manufacturers are making phones and tablets such as Motorola, LG, Sony, Logitech, Toshiba.  Android is going to have more types of devices and more options for consumers.

WEAKNESSES

  • Multiple versions of Android shipping.  Each is different from a developer perspective and requires separate software porting efforts and more cost for software developers.  Google is working to bring more developer consistency to the platform by drawing a cleaner line between the platform and the services & apps that run on the platform.
  • The Android OS has not been rated as mature and stable as Apple iOS.  Recent reviews have Android closing that gap.

OPPORTUNITIES

  • Focus developer strength on a common set of APIs & Service Interfaces so that there is a single porting effort for all Android devices.

THREATS

  • Apple iOS
  • iTunes and the App Store.

In the end, the question is: Can Apple alone out-innovate their growing number of competitors, or will Google pull together its somewhat fragmented Android effort and win the volume wars by growing a winning partner ecosystem around Android?  Many people (including me) have said that this resembles the old Mac – PC wars.  It is impossible to ignore the similarity, and the consequences.

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