Is reality mimicking art? Is Android following the script from Genesis’ epochal hit Land of Confusion? Is it a bad dream on this day that happens once every four years? Yes, yes, and unfortunately no. Before I go into a litany of ills besetting the Android market and keeping Apple shareholders very happy, two points: a) I have an HTC Incredible and am a Droid fan, and b) the 1986 hit parodied superpower conflict and inept decisions by global leaders but presaged the fall of the Berlin Wall and 20+ years of incredible growth, albeit with a good deal of 3rd world upheaval in the Balkans, Mid-east, and Africa. So maybe there is hope that out of the current state a new world order will arise as the old monopolies are dismantled.
Apple clearly has the digital formula right at present; simplicity, ease of use, performance, and yet, at the same time unlimited choice and customization. Contrast that with this parody from SNL of Verizon and 4G/3G/2G/noG and the Samsung Superbowl Ad portraying a wild party. The result is a disturbing trend if you are an Android phone lover. The ecosystem’s rate of new technology adoption is slowing down even if better technology is being made as consumers are clearly confused. In the tablet market there is even a greater disparity, with Android tablets hardly making a dent in Apple's share.
Yesterday Eric Schmidt prognosticated at MWC a world where more is better and cheaper; which may be good for Google but not necessarily the best thing for anyone else in the Droid ecosystem, including consumers. Yet, at the same time Apple managed to steal the show with its iPad3 announcement. Contrast this with HTC rolling out some awesome phones that will not be available in the US this year because their chip doesn't support 4G.
The answer is not better technology, but better ecosystems. The Droid device vendors should realize this and build a layer of software and standards above Google/ICS to facilitate interoperability across silos (at the individual, device and network level); instead of just depreciating their hardware value by competing on price and features many people do not want. They can then collectively win in residual transaction streams (like collectively synching back to a dropbox) like Apple.
Examples of these include standardization and interoperability of free or subsidized wifi offload, over the top messaging, voice and other solutions and the holy grail, mobile payments. Companies like CloudFoundry allows for cross Cloud application infrastructure support, with AppFog and Iron Foundry are pursuing these approaches individually. But just think what would happen if Samsung, HTC, LG and Motorola were to band together and coordinate these approaches and develop very low cost balanced payment systems within the Droid ecosystem to promote interoperability and cooperation, counteract Google and restore some sanity to the market. Carriers (um battleships?) will not be able to stop this effort and may even welcome it just as the music industry opened its arms to Apple.
Apple hasn’t been an innovator so much as a great design company that understands big market opportunities and what the customer wants. The result is an established order that other industries and their customers clearly prefer. Millenials are too young to know Land of Confusion, but the current decision makers in the Droid ecosystem do and so they should take a lesson from history on this Leap Day. Hopefully we’ll wake up in 4 years and there will be a wonderful new world order. Oh, and a Happy 4 Birthdays to everyone present and past who was born on this day.
Good assessment of and comments on the fragmentation of Android
Is it the people Apple and Google hire? Maybe, maybe not.