Daniel Eran Dilger
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Gartner’s presumptuous coronation of Android as the Windows of smartphones

Itanium forecasts

Daniel Eran Dilger

A variety of people seem to think that Google’s Android is quickly shaping up to be the “Windows 95 Macintosh-killer” to Apple’s iPhone, with some of the most vocal proponents of this idea being analysts and bloggers associated with Gartner. They’re wrong, here’s why.
A month ago, Gartner blogger Brian Prentice published an interesting entry on why he thought Apple’s rejection of Google Voice was a “tempest in the wrong teacup.” The problem is that Prentice–to mangle another cliche–went on to describe the perfect problem to necessitate a solution, and in the process revealed why the “conventional wisdom” on Android’s assumed takeover of smartphones is based on faulty logic and historical fallacy.

Essentially, Prentice wrote that Apple is fully justified in rejecting anything in its own App Store store, but that this practice would ultimately result in a replication of the history of the Mac vs the PC, where the market supposedly learned “that addressable market size trumped elegance.”

Prentice is right on the money in articulating the non-populist position that “store owners have a right to determine what they’ll be stocking on their shelves.” Apple’s software store has no obligation to open its doors to competitors, he wrote, just as you wouldn’t expect to see Windows PCs in the company’s retail stores, Volkswagens in a Toyota dealership, or tires at a florist. After making this point however, Prentice suddenly steps out of his original thinking and returns to conventional Gartner-like analysis.

Apple’s App Store Rejections – A Tempest In The Wrong Teacup (Gartner)

Presumption that software monoculture is both desirable and inevitable

Whenever you have a group of people who all have a business or political or ideological need to essentially share the same opinions, they’ll need to focus on repeating core principles as talking points. For Gartner, that means that the recommendations it made back in the 80s and 90s, which were a simple reflection of where the market seemed to be trending, must now be accepted as gospel in explaining how things “ought” to be in the present and into the future.

And since Gartner championed a desktop PC dominated by a software monoculture back then (because that was actually happening, because those wanting to make it happen paid Gartner to advocate it for them, which helped make it happen), the group is pressed to similarly advocate a software monoculture in smartphones today.

Given that Windows Mobile is clearly in no position to delver this, Gartner analysts are inventing white paper “proof” to support the idea that Google’s Android platform will explode to take the number two position behind Symbian within a couple years while Apple’s iPhone market share growth remains completely flat, reserving some hope for the possibility that Microsoft will “merely” almost double its sales, despite its current market share losses, and stay in the game.

Marginalizing criticism

An earlier entry I posted a couple weeks ago looked skeptically at Gartner’s “evidence” for this supposed inevitability, which was contained in a report that reflected what Gartner wanted to happen, rather than being based on any facts or evidence reflecting what was actually happening. As reader HCE outlined, Gartner’s report (which was published by the press without any criticism) predicted:

“Nokia’s [Symbian] share is going to go down from around 50 percent to around 40 percent. Very safe prediction here – even if Nokia executes flawlessly from here on out, there’s no way they can keep a 50 percent share given the kind of competition they are facing.

”Android at around 14 percent (as opposed to 3 percent or so today). Well, I think it is fairly safe to predict that Android’s share will rise – though saying it will rise by 400 percent is something of a stretch.

“Apple’s share is going to be around 13 percent. That’s what Apple’s share is today. So the analyst is essentially saying that Apple’s market share is going to stay flat. Not likely IMHO. It seems fairly safe to say that they are not going to have the kind of explosive growth in market share that they did over the past couple of years but to say that they won’t grow at all is ridiculous.

”Windows is going to be at a little over 12 percent. They are at 9 percent today – and falling. […] Gartner thinks that WinMo 7 will cause Microsoft’s market share to grow by 70-80 percent in less than two years! Wow, ‘ridiculous’ would be an understatement!

“Blackberry is going to be at around 12 percent as well. Right now, they are at around twice that. Gartner thinks that their market share will drop in half! With all their problems, they are still growing sales and they have quite a strong hold on the corporate market. With the growing consumer smartphone market, their overall share could drop but saying it will drop in half is a bit too much of a stretch.”

Simply calling attention to Gartner’s uncritically propagated wishful thinking report resulted in criticism: an official response from Gartner’s “we’re not flacks” Ombudsman Nancy Erskine, as well contemptuous satire from Fake Steve Jobs, who is actually voiced by Daniel Lyons, a well known industry flack who has a lifetime record of supporting paid-to-say sources such as Gartner and one-man-consultancies like the Microsoft-funded Rob Enderle, who played a key role in getting Lyons to attack Linux and open source when that’s what Microsoft wanted the press to be doing during the SCO lawsuits. And before he was a blogger, Lyons wrote about how terrible bloggers were.

Dan Lyons

Gartner declares Android a second place winner in 2012. Why?
Daniel Lyons Cries Wolf: The Real Bill Gates Behind the Fake Steve Jobs

Gartner’s prediction scorecard

Gartner’s business model revolves around getting paid to print reports that say what Gartner wants to happen, but which are voiced as neutral-sounding positions of supposedly “what is actually happening.” The thing is that neither Gartner nor anyone else really knows what exactly is going to be happening in a few years, so any and all predictions are going to be based on ideas that reflect a particular bias (unless there is some clear proof involved).

And nothing fuels bias like funding. Or, as Microsoft likes to refer to the process of paying Gartner to issue favorable reports, “lobbying.”

This kind of lobbying, along with “plotting out the future based on the past” has allowed Gartner to incorrectly predict a variety of things over the years, including the ideas that professional programmers would become obsolete as development tools got easier to use; that IT staff would be dramatically cut back because nobody needed their services anymore; that distributed computing would return to centralized computing (and vice versa, sounds good doesn’t it?); and that, echoing the rest of the Microsoft-centric media, server and workstation CPU vendors, particularly Sun and IBM’s PowerPC, would face tough competition from Intel’s Itanium processor, which really only ever ended up being the Zune of that market. Gartner bloggers also still like to suggest that the Zune will someday bounce back and should not be counted out yet.

Itanium forecasts

In 2002, Gartner predicted that by 2008 bandwidth would become more cost-effective than computing (which certainly has not happened), but that computing would still unabatedly follow Moore’s Law through 2011. While the principle of Moore’s Law has continued, Gartner’s interpretation of it was way off base. In its 2002 predictions, an analyst wrote, “Gartner projects that by 2008 the typical desktop computer will have 4 to 8 CPUs running at 40 GHz, 4 to 12 gigabytes of RAM, 1.5 terabytes of storage, and 100-Gb LAN technology. By 2011, processors will clock at 150 GHz, and 6 terabytes of storage will be common.”

While a quad-processor (usually two dual core CPUs) is now available as a high end option, “typical desktop systems” don’t have CPUs with even a tenth the clock speed Gartner said they would just 7 years ago, and most systems have less than 4GB of RAM, much less than a terabyte and a half of disk space, and even 1Gb networking is still considered to be the top of the line for desktops. This indicates that Gartner’s predictions can off by an order of magnitude or two, in those cases where they are not simply dead wrong.

Ten tech predictions to shake your world (Gartner, 2002)
How Apple’s Firmware Leapfrogs BIOS PCs (Itanium)
Itanium: A cautionary tale – CNET

Did this all happen before?

However, Gartner is not alone in championing Android as the heir apparent of the smartphone operating system monoculture throne being rapidly vacated by Nokia’s Symbian. And Gartner’s stated reasons for picking Android as the take-all winner are not unique either. Everyone, it seems, feels that no hardware company can maintain a significant position in smartphones, but that some software platform definitely will. The reason behind this faith is that Apple lost its 1984 Macintosh’s position to Microsoft’s Windows in just ten years. The problem with this belief is that it has very little to do with today’s smartphone market, or for that matter, historical reality.

Apple’s Macintosh platform began to erode in the late 80s, not because of competitive encroachment by Windows, but almost entirely because of poor management at Apple combined with unfavorable business conditions. The company did refuse to license the Mac in the same way Microsoft licensed Windows, a decision which may (or may not) have otherwise given Apple a stronger position in selling computers or making money in general. However, the real problems that prevented Apple from selling the Macintosh were:

  • The encroachment of IBM’s powerful, entrenched brand into the fledgeling personal computer market in 1981.
  • Apple’s internal struggle between selling the outdated but successful Apple II versus investing in the new Macintosh.
  • Complex, unique, and incomplete development tools that slowed the release of new software for the Macintosh.
  • Management issues that forced Steve Jobs to leave and take with him a significant number of Apple’s top engineers with him to NeXT.
  • Apple’s decisions to limit sales of the Macintosh to specific markets on the high end where easy profits were.

Today, Apple has none of those same issues.

  • Apple itself is the powerful, entrenched brand in mobile devices with its iPod, released in 2001.
  • Apple has no internal struggle between selling iPods, iPhones or Macs. Instead, each benefits the other.
  • Apple’s iPhone development tools are simple, solid, and complete, and superior to those available for Android and Symbian. Its App Store leads the world both in successfully marketing and in delivering what is by far the world’s largest and most desirable catalog of mobile software.
  • There are no major management issues or defections causing problems within Apple.
  • Apple is successfully working to sell the iPhone in every potential market segment, including at the low end, in education and the enterprise, and internationally.

SCO, Linux, and Microsoft in the History of OS: 1980s
SCO, Linux, and Microsoft in the History of OS: 1990s
SCO, Linux, and Microsoft in the History of OS: 2000s

Google is no Microsoft

Conversely, Microsoft’s rise to power with Windows had little or no similarity to Google’s Android.
No experience, no barriers to competition: Microsoft had been partnered with IBM since 1981, building support for its DOS PC platform for ten years, before it launched a the first version of Windows that anyone took seriously in 1991. Google as a company has no track record in managing a software platform, and is essentially building Android entirely from scratch with no existing installed base of users.

DOS PC users were able to slowly migrate to Windows between 1991 and 1995, preserving their PC investment while continuing to run their legacy software (and preventing them from considering non-DOS compatible alternatives like the Mac). There is no upgrade cycle that allows users to bring their existing phone to Android, and there’s no existing installed base of software that encourages users to stick with Android until it is finished (as was the case with DOS/Windows).

There is also no barrier to adoption affecting any of Android’s competitors; if anything, users who try the iPhone might have reason to stick with it if they buy a bunch of apps).

No lack of patent protection to exploit: In 1990, DOS PC vendors were growing desperate for software that could compete with Apple’s Macintosh, particularly in education markets. Today, smartphone vendors are similarly desperate for software that can compete against the iPhone. However, the valuable aspects of Apple’s Macintosh weren’t ever protected by software patents, whereas many key features of the iPhone are protected by patents today.
The most basic example is that Android intentionally doesn’t expose support for multitouch to avoid conflict with Apple. Microsoft similarly tiptoed around Apple’s intellectual property (until the “look and feel” case was thrown out in 1994) resulting in Windows being a far less competitive product. With Windows 95, Microsoft went whole hog in appropriating unprotected Mac (and NeXT) user interface concepts, and its release was subsequently vastly more popular.

Google does not have, and will not get, a similar opportunity to simply take Apple’s intellectual property and start its own business with it, leveraging the dominant position of a latter day IBM to use Apple’s own work against it. Any an all comparisons between Android and Windows are therefore completely superficial.

No legal suppression of the market: Additionally, the legal action waged by Apple in the late 80s against NeXT, Digital Research’s GEM, HP’s NewWave, Microsoft resulted in a market where competition was scarce and potential new contenders were hesitant to enter the market.

Unfortunately for Apple, the 1994 failure of its case against Microsoft (primarily due to a previous licensing agreement it had signed giving Microsoft access to Mac technologies) resulted in unfettered growth of Windows in the PC market like an drug-resistant superbug in a petri dish with no competitive life forms, let alone no larger and more entrenched predators.
In contrast, Google today is entering a crowded market with all the valuable segments dominated by entrenched players: RIM sits on enterprise customers; Apple has consumers and education; and Symbian controls much of Europe and Asia. There are no easy pickings and no protected license to grow unchecked without any real competition as Microsoft enjoyed. Google also faces new challenges in balancing its desire to grow its own Android platform while also promoting its software and services on rival platforms.

No strict platform management: Finally, Microsoft’s lack of competitive pressure as essentially the sole viable vendor of a PC operating system gave it the ability to enforce rules on PC hardware vendors. Microsoft rolled out reference designs that PC makers were forced to follow, involving everything from minimum hardware features to what color the mouse port should be painted to what the desktop should look like and the presence of a standard Windows key.

By 1995, these increasingly strict rules whipped the cat herd of PC makers into a unified force that could credibly be compared to the Mac platform, and resulted in even technically-challenged users knowing what “Windows” meant: something you should ask for by name when buying a PC.
Google not only has no power to enforce anything, but has no desire to erect any rules. The result is that every Android phone looks almost completely different. There is no strict baseline for minimum hardware specifications, no established conventions for external hardware buttons or controls, and no restriction on changing the Android look and feel to something completely different. Google doesn’t even advertise Android as a brand, choosing instead to advertise the phones as being “with Google.” Customers asking for phones “with Google” could just as well walk out of the store with an iPhone or Palm Pre or BlackBerry or Nokia N97.

Google’s permissive handling of its Android platform is why HTC’s Hero, which may currently be the best Android phone, uses an entirely unique “Sense” user interface that isn’t shared by any other Android phone, not even HTC’s own Dream/G1 or Magic/myTouch. Motorola is crafting its own unique UI, as is LG, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson. Because phone makers (and mobile operators) are all desperately clawing for some sort of unique differentiation to stand out among the hundreds of smartphones vying for attention, Android will be stretched in every direction to the point where customers won’t really benefit from any of the upsides of having a unified software platform, but will experience all of the problems associated with a software monoculture.

Apple’s Billion Dollar Patent Bluster
Why Apple’s Tim Cook Did Not Threaten Palm Pre
How Apple Keyboards Lost a Logo and Windows PCs Gained One

Android is the worst of Windows Mobile, Linux and Symbian combined

While this sort of look and feel diversity is usually given as a strength of the Android platform, it’s really the same problem that keeps Windows Mobile from being recognized as something users need (in contrast to the PC desktop, where such UI customization isn’t allowed). This kind of “tyranny of choice” fractionalization has historically also been a key problem for Linux on the desktop. Which window manager do you want to use? The vast majority of users don’t know, don’t want to know, and are only irritated by the choices presented by rivals all trying to be different for various commercial or ideological reasons.

More specifically to smartphones, Android is shaping up a lot like Symbian, where three UIs once existed: one for Nokia (s60), one for Sony Ericsson (UIQ), and one for NTT DoCoMo (MOAP) in Japan. The fact that all three shared the same kernel allowed Symbian to crow about its great market share, but it did nothing to make different sub-platforms of “Symbian software” work across phones from different markets or makers or to create other economies of scale that shared the costs of UI research across companies in the way that Windows did for the PC.

The result has been that Symbian market share plummeted as soon it was exposed to any real competition: RIM and Apple have in the past two years bitten off a third of Symbian’s share and the rest is expected to rapidly erode even faster with the demise of Sony Ericsson. Nokia is now working hard just to give Symbian away to anyone who will use it.

Readers Write About Symbian, OS X and the iPhone
iPhone panic spurs Nokia to dump Symbian on high end

Like Windows Mobile, Android encourages radically different hardware form factors, ranging from phones with or without physical keyboards to netbooks to notebooks to tablets. As with UI flexibility, hardware flexibility comes at a cost: third party developers have to accommodate for different screen resolutions, button arrangements, missing hardware features, and widely divergent specifications from the camera’s resolution to the processor speed to the amount of RAM installed.

Particularly for mobile devices that need to optimize their performance, these kinds of issues are show-stopping problems. They require testing and can result in customer complaints and chargebacks. For Windows Mobile phones alone, these issues have contributed to a 25% return rate due to user dissatisfaction. This is egregiously high, and while Android might improve upon the software quality of Windows Mobile, it can do nothing (and does not try to do anything) to address its core hardware issues).

Exclusive: Pink Danger leaks from Microsoft’s Windows Phone
The Spectacular Failure of WinCE and Windows Mobile

Wait, I think this did actually all happen before

Pundits forgive and ignore all these very real problems associated with Linux, Windows Mobile, and Symbian in their mad dash to equate Android with being the Windows of smartphones, but Google’s permissive handling of Android really has very little in common with Microsoft’s strict management of Windows PCs.

Further, the generic PC market has little in common with smartphones, which require far more optimized hardware/software integration because of their size, battery constraints, and uptime requirements. Smartphones are also heavily subsidized by carriers, masking any minor price advantages that generic hardware makers can offer.

Smartphones are actually a lot more like the handheld music player market. That market was dominated by a single vendor from the mid 70s through the late 90s (Sony) and by another single hardware vendor this decade (Apple). Efforts to deliver a ubiquitous commercial software platform for music and media players (Microsoft’s PlaysForSure) failed dramatically, and open source efforts to provide a free alternative operating system (Rockbox) have been about as successful as Linux on the desktop. If you want historical foreshadowing of the future of smartphones, it’s hard to find a better one than that.

Origins: Why the iPhone is ARM, and isn’t Symbian

Let me say what I really think

If you’ve read this far, you’ve may have decided that I hate Android and Google and am running down the platform to make the iPhone look better than it is, and that all the facts that I present are therefore meaningless because of my personal opinion. If so, you’d be wrong on all counts.

I think Google is a fantastic company on many levels, ranging from its commitment to supporting open, interoperable software development to its core business model that effectively churns out free (well, ad-supported) services that almost always work well and are quite reliable. I use Google’s services every day. I earn some money from Google AdSense from the properties that publish my articles. While I think the tech media sometimes gives Google a free pass in some areas where it deserves scrutiny, Google’s track record in playing fair, in supporting the environment, in treating its employees well, in not immediately selling out in human rights issues to gain access to China, and many other areas is much better than most of its peers.

As for Android, while I see lots of obvious problems that I think the media is ignoring or glossing over in their simplistic desire to write up a compelling underdog piece, I have never described Google’s smartphone plans as being a competitor or threat to the iPhone. My first article on the subject presented that the rumored “gPhone” was not going to be a hardware competitor to the iPhone at all, but rather a software platform that would target Windows Mobile. I was completely right.

The Great Google gPhone Myth

Subsequent articles I’ve written about Android have all focused on that same idea: that Android is aiming to become the survivor of Windows Mobile and Symbian, both of which are in rapid decline. I also point out that the brightest stars in smartphones are RIM and Apple, and that nothing about Android’s Windows Mobile approach provides any evidence that Google’s hardware partners will somehow radically improve their market position as they shift from making terrible smartphones dripping with impressive specifications and running Windows Mobile to making terrible smartphones dripping with impressive specifications and running Android.

If the world of smartphones was destined to be dominated by a third-party software monoculture, I would certainly pick Android over Windows Mobile and Symbian. However, I’d prefer to see the winner picked by a market-based meritocracy, not by fiat decree of an ideologically-driven array of punditry and analyst flacks.

Meanwhile, I’ll be watching both Android and ChromeOS as potential rivals to Microsoft outside of the smartphone business as well, where open source operating systems offer more benefits and fewer disadvantages in terms of integration, fractionalization, and homogenization.

And for those flacks desperately working to write me off as a hysterical fan-bot with no clue about things, consider that I have a track record better than Gartner and punditry at large, from the flat panel iMac, to the Red Box Myth, to the Mac OS X moving to Linux myth, to the closing of Darwin Myth, to the iTunes-look Finder, to iPod/iPhone coexistence, the iPhone myths, to the not-open/not-closed iPhone software market, to Apple’s purposeful baring of Flash and Java on the iPhone, to multiple years of Zune failure, to the failure of Vista, to ZFS not replacing HFS, to the Mac mini server, to iTunes LP self-contained websites, to… well, you can Google my website.

No doubt you can also find predictions that haven’t yet come to pass, or identify outright errors among the hundreds of articles I have churned out every year. But unlike Gartner, I don’t just make predictions that may or may not come to pass. I explain why I think something will happen and present evidence supporting that position. That forces me to think about what I’m writing. I also read readers’ replies, and often learn as much from other people as I do in my own research and observations. And nobody pays/rewards/entertains me to influence my opinion.

It may very well come to pass that the majority of hardware makers abandon Symbian and Windows Mobile to flock to Android. But the majority of hardware makers also flocked to PlaysForSure, and that didn’t result in an effective challenge to Apple’s iPod dynasty. The real issue is that whether Apple and RIM will give up ground to Android over the next couple years depends a lot upon how well RIM and Apple execute their business, not upon some fated inevitability related to an ancient and apocryphal prophesy involving the late 80s Macintosh, voiced by Gartner’s high priests.

  • http://www.adviespraktijk.info Berend Schotanus

    “I’d prefer to see the winner picked by a market-based meritocracy, not by fiat decree of an ideologically-driven array of punditry and analyst flacks.”

    My pre-descendants way back in the 16th Century had to endure huge disappointment when they discovered the Roman Catholic Church was covering up clergy misbehavior instead of telling the truth. This resulted in a broad movement, including Protestant Reformation and the “Cartesian” doctrine that truth should be derived from mathematics, not from what the Pope says that is true. I was raised firmly in this Cartesian tradition. I have found it very painful to discover that the untruthful kind of “cover-up” behavior, once reproached the Pope, still can be found in a wide variety of organizations, including state-organizations that pretend to work in a strictly Cartesian rational manner.
    My current search is how to deal with the fact that apparently it is not possible to eradicate this kind of human behavior. My current assumption is that reality is way too complicated to be contained in one single “truth” but that it works quite well to handle it as something that can be looked upon from different perspectives.

    In the Android case it might be interesting to look at it from the “hardware” perspective rather than the “software-platform” perspective.
    There is a current amount of people working in plants, marketing firms, shops, etc, selling cell phones. To get the picture, I’m thinking of the sticky old-fashond kind like Motorola, Samsung or LG devices that don’t pretend to be much more than a phone. These people are earning a living in the cell-phone business and they want to keep doing that in the future, which at first sight shouldn’t be so much of a problem because they have a large customer base who are also thinking in sticky old-fashioned cell phones.
    Then the world changes, a new type of phone emerges, new brands enter the market and start stealing market share. Some of the people have a chance to switch to the new thing but, for various reasons many of the people I’m talking about are stuck in the old structures, at least on the short term. What should they do? Get jobless? Commit suicide?
    I think it is natural they try to find a bridge between their world and the new developments. Verizon can’t sell iPhones because Apple won’t deliver them, Motorola can’t built iPhones because Apple won’t license the technology. They are in desperate need for an industry standard for building cell-phones. They are in desperate need for anything to give them hope to keep going.
    Can you blame them for that? Can you really blame them?

    I think today Android is really getting in the position of being the industry standard for cell phone manufacturers. It is slightly more sophisticated than bare Unix, slightly better branded than Linux but really more a component than a platform.
    There are the Class-A Gods like Apple and RIM who have the ability to build their own operating systems. There are the Class-F creatures who just illegally copy Class-A products and sell them in Bangkok and Shanghai. In between are the Class-D, C and B plodders trying to make their living. There are masses of them, some will die, some will survive, some will take us to surprise. That’s the reality our world has to offer.

  • http://aranea.zuavra.net/ Skippy

    “[..]Android will be stretched in every direction to the point where customers won’t really benefit from any of the upsides of having a unified software platform, but will experience all of the problems associated with a software monoculture.”

    I don’t see it.

    The main problem with monoculture is high wipeout potential. Like Linux, Android doesn’t have it, period. FOSS provides wide diversification, which makes it very resilient and adaptive to change. So if there’s one thing we can reasonably be sure of, IMHO, is that Android will not dissapear in the foreseeable future. It’s here to stay.

    Granted, resilience is only part of the issue. Linux has been around and will be for a while longer, but that doesn’t make it popular on the desktop. But this is where the analogy stops. Linux hasn’t made it on the desktop for several unrelated reasons. It didn’t benefit from marketing. The Linux desktop historically never had a central vision. And it has had to fight an entrenched monopoly (Windows).

    Canonical proved that, given marketing, a central vision and an entry point, Linux can be very successful on the desktop.

    Yes, FOSS takes a while to get used to. But we’re all learning and adapting nowadays. FOSS is a reality. Mutual symbiosis with FOSS is a fact. Individual products may suck at first (witness Linux desktop attempts from netbooks vendors). Similarly, many Android phones may flop. Eventually, they’ll get better.

    This is a new way of doing things and IMHO everybody would do well to pay attention. Open platforms which provide tools but don’t attempt to impose anything on anybody are more resilient, empowering and beneficial in the long term. Yes, lack of vision and focus will hurt individual products but then again, they always have.

  • ChuckO

    “I’d prefer to see the winner picked by a market-based meritocracy, not by fiat decree of an ideologically-driven array of punditry and analyst flacks.”

    I don’t think this happened\happens it just seems to. These people write what they write and it “feels” or seems like they drove the outcome but as this article points out very nicely there was a number of actual “events” that led to Microsofts dominance.

    One of the things I take great joy from with Apple’s success is that it shows how doing great work will be rewarded. Apple shines like a beacon in a shit storm in that respect.

  • ChuckO

    There’s an odd thing about this to me in that it doesn’t seem like you can really compare iPhone to Android. It doesn’t really hold up logically to compare the iPhone to Android. It should be compared to other particular models. The same with comparing to RIM sales. You wouldn’t compare iPhone market share to all flip phones.

    I personally feel like the iPhone will dominate on a phone to phone comparison but probably not on the larger company to company comparison because the iPhone will sell to people who see value in the platform. I think lots of people won’t see the value proposition in the iPhone platform because they are more casual users and will buy on price. BUT. Apple will be the ones to make serious money selling smart phones and everybody else will be selling plastic.

  • http://www.muir.tumblr.com John Muir

    Nice article.

    There’s a similar fuzzy kindness being splashed about on Android at the moment as has been made about the Palm Pré. Not only from idiots, but from some 3rd party iPhone developers who should be well positioned to know better. A lot of it seems to just some down to dreaming. There’s a bitter sense of Apple getting too much power for its own good if the iPhone remains peerless and comes to dominate in the way the iPod did. Or too much power for the 3rd parties good, certainly. I’m not quite old enough to remember, but perhaps there was a similar grumbling resentment around the Macintosh too, back in the 1980’s, once DTP had taken off and the platform’s future was secured.

    Something I’d like to hear about is Chrome OS. I think you hinted that you don’t think desktop operating systems suffer from the same hardware diversity requirements of mobile platforms, and so probably have a rosier future in mind for it; not least against Windows 7. I think so too, but the hardware makers and large store chains will have a say in that battle, more than they can in anything but the dumbest of phones.

  • enzos

    Umm.. media is plural.


  • tundraboy

    From my reading, the article revolves around one theme that you never explicitly mentioned: Complexity is the enemy of the tech industry. It leads to software bloat, slow product development cycles, and lumbering, flat-footed, ultra-bureaucratic tech companies. It’s what’s been weighing down Windows. It has stunted desktop Linux. And is killing Symbian. Perhaps in earlier times, tech companies were able to handle the innate complexity of engineering software/hardware solutions to produce workable tech devices. But as technology marches on and the functionality demanded of computers (I include smart phones in that category) increases, their complexity increases exponentially. Add to that the need to tailor an OS to a multitude of hardware platforms and the complexity increases by at least a magnitude.

    The problem is most tech people don’t realize this because basically they like complexity. It’s what lured them to this industry anyway. Nothing thrills them more than seizing the challenge of a thousand moving parts and delivering a solution that has all those parts moving in lockstep harmony. Too many moving parts though and the solution becomes unattainable.

    Thing is, few CEO’s and hence few tech companies have escaped this engineer’s fascination with complexity. Apple and Nintendo come to mind. Microsoft is the classic complexity lover. It’s why they choose a business model where they build an OS to run on as many different devices as possible. They consider it a badge of professional honor that they came up with this millions of lines of code and and they can make their OS run on any machine out there. And it starts from the top. I read that Ballmer is a numbers guy who could look at a spreadsheet and ferret out trends, relationships and conclusions that are invisible to mere mortals like us. In short, he likes complexity and has supreme confidence in his ability to tame it.

  • HCE

    I guess that since you have extensively quoted a previous comment of mine, I am obliged to leave another one :-)

    No bug disagreements here but I do think you have some kind of anti-Android bias. Comparing what’s going on with the Android platform with what used to happen with Symbian is wrong. The S60/UIQ/MOAP interfaces on top of the Symbian kernel weren’t just three different user interfaces – they went a lot deeper. The APIs were also different – which meant that applications for one would not run on another. That is not what is happening to Android. The UIs on top of Android are little more than skins and all of these UIs will still run the same set of apps. S60, UIQ and MOAP were, for all practical purposes distinct operating systems (all of which just happened to be based on the same kernel). The Linux equivalent of this situation would be Android, Palm’s WebOS and Nokia’s Maemo – all of which are based on the Linux kernel but are quite different at any level above that.

    Frankly, I don’t think Gartner is being paid to write this stuff. I think it is just the case that they have completely bought into the idea that the model of an OS made by one company running on handsets made by multiple other companies is the model that will generate the most sales and this thought seems to override all other considerations in their heads.

    – HCE

  • ChuckO


    Wow, yea, All that stuff. Plus Microsoft is a huge company attacking a number of super complex problems in a world where we’ve given up on managing people hence the outsourcing trend. Apple’s doing an amazing thing executing like they are and at a very high level. Reading Dan’s articles are what originally made me recognize that.

    Look at the product releases from a couple of days ago. What a freakishly interesting bunch of stuff was released. Can you think of anything at anytime like it from the wonderful world of Windows? Orwell couldn’t write a better satire of dreadful, stultifying, bureaucratic tediousness than Microsoft’s reign of error.

  • NormM

    I agree with your assessment of the presumption of Gartner’s prediction and the barriers that Android faces. I would guess, though, that as all cellphones become smart to some extent, Android is likely to become ubiquitous as the most common *cellphone* OS. I would also expect that a lot of the difficulty caused by varying hardware issues will subside as a minimal set of convergence features emerges. As long as highly desirable hardware innovations continue to be made, though, Apple will have an advantage at the high end of the market.

  • ChuckO

    Yea, if Android phones become ubiquitous because you get them for free for signing up for a data plan does market share comparisons matter anymore?

  • John E

    many good points here. two things:

    first, one crucial fact that should be a major note is missing: all these discussions of the smartphone market lump together 1st gen smartphones, like WinMo 6.x, with the second generation, of which the iPhone was the first. the second gen have a large media friendly screen with a complete easy to use touch UI and, since last year, sophisticated apps. all WinMo phones (still need a stylus practically) and nearly all Symbian phones are first gen. you can debate the Bold, but the other BB phones except the Storm are first gen.

    the iPhone’s share of this second gen market today is certainly well over 50%. 1st gen smartphones won’t disappear, they will just merge with the “basic” phone category – the ones you get free with a contract and that you see everywhere in the third world. so they will still have really big sales numbers. in a few years every phone in the world will be “smart” to some degree.

    second, in essence Gartner’s prediction was that Nokia would keep its big lead, thanks to this lumping of the two generations, and that the other major brands would all be roughly equal at around 15% of the market. but if you subtract 1st gen smartphones from that, Gartner would then pretty much have all brands splitting the 2nd gen market up with pretty much equal shares (assuming future 2nd gen WinMo 7 and RIM phones).

    Android’s big opportunity then is to gobble up a lot of Win Mo and Symbian marketshare. and it might. all the Android problems cited in the article also apply to the other two, but Android might do a much better job with apps, one of two other crucial factors the article did not address. will all Android apps work on all
    Android phones?

    looking at the 2nd gen market this way, it is not hard to predict Android could capture 40% of the market. Harder to predict about RIM. it might be 10% or 20% depending on whether it sticks to its enterprise niche or expands into a real consumer product – so 15% is not a bad guess. Apple should be able to hold a solid 30% or more of the market. all the other brands, including Win Mo and Symbian, would divide up the remaining leftovers.

    so yeah, all Android products combined would be #1. but Apple would be #2, and the leading unified hardware/software brand – hence the biggest money maker.

    the second crucial factor the post did not discuss is the supporting “ecosystems” for smartphones. it’s too big a topic for Comments. bottom line, Apple’s is the most developed, Google/Android #2, RIM #3, with WinMo and Symbian way back.

  • ChuckO

    Not a lot of talk of Palm in these comments. Are they meat already? The marketing on the second Web OS phone seems non-existent. What’s it called the Palm Fairy or something? It’s pitched at the kids I think.

  • jdb

    @Berend Schotanus
    “In the Android case it might be interesting to look at it from the ‘hardware’ perspective rather than the “software-platform” perspective”

    I like the idea of looking at Android from the perspective of a hardware manufacturer. I’m pretty sure that this is what Google did during their market analysis.

    The thing that has stood out for handset manufacturers before the advent of the iPhone is that they are really bad at software and UI design. Motorola being the poster-child of bad software execution. This wasn’t really causing too much trouble though because nearly all handset manufacturers were equally bad at software design.

    Symbian and RIM had at least organized their dreadful platforms in a way that looked a bit like an embedded OS instead of one-off firmware releases designed for specific phones. Palm had unintentionally fractured its market with their bungled OS upgrade paths. Microsoft was better than the others but few manufacturers wanted to follow the path of Microsoft dominating and dictating the Mobile OS market. The consequences of that were clear by looking at the PC market; especially the high-volume, low-end market where Microsoft leaches away the majority of profit from the low margin business.

    This was the stagnant Mobile OS market for years. The handset manufacturers experimented with Microsoft Mobile OS but only for their high-end, high-margin, low-volume phones. They were resisting the siren call of Microsoft’s penetration in the enterprise but I suspect that resistance was starting to crumble. Both Motorola and Palm had started to embrace Windows Mobile for example.

    Then Apple came out with the iPhone. The details were available months before the release. This allowed Google to take a fresh look at the Mobile OS market before the Apple juggernaut was widely recognized by the rest of the industry. Google’s goal seems to be to prevent Microsoft from gaining a foothold in the high-volume handset market–not to target the iPhone at all.

    With Android free from cost and onerous licensing restrictions, the handset manufacturers had a ready made solution that was miles ahead of their lame software distributions. It was nearly a drop-in replacement for Microsoft’s Mobile OS.

    The only companies not on board are those that had their own mobile OS brands. Symbian, Palm, RIM and especially Microsoft. It looks like everyone else if jumping on the Android bandwagon because there is little reason not to. As Android is enhanced to deal with lower end platforms, I suspect that Android will move down-market and dominate the 100% subsidized handset market.

    What’s interesting is that the handset hardware manufacturers still don’t get software. They seem to have no interest in creating a platform to make third-party software widely available. They seem to be actively working against having a software platform where applications work seamlessly between different brands of handset. This is where Android will not be competitive against Apple’s iPhone. The single platform that Apple is creating is driving a huge surge of developer activity. The fragmented market created by the Android partners is going to stifle the efforts of the Android developers. This is especially true because making money off of a free, open-source platform is already more difficult that trying to make money from a proprietary platform.

  • jdb


    You nailed it. That is why the handset manufacturers with Android can’t complete against Apple and the iPhone. I’m not sure that Google cares about the software platform aspect of Android. Their goal is to get Android on as many handsets as possible to make sure that Microsoft is locked out of the market and hence from search and other online services. Without Google pushing for a single Android platform, it isn’t likely to happen.

  • ChuckO


    “What’s interesting is that the handset hardware manufacturers still don’t get software. They seem to have no interest in creating a platform to make third-party software widely available.”

    This is probably Google’s fault. They would have to get very Microsoft about how Android phones are made to get around this problem. And it really isn’t in the hardware guys interest to do this anyway. However they play it their Android phones end up a commodity. How do you market them if they are all basically the same? But how do you take on the iPhone if splinter the platform?

    So I think for the hardware guys just have to be happy they have Android to keep them in the game. They don’t have the time or expertise to build a platform but they do have something in the ballpark to move product.

  • jdb

    In support of my declaration that it is hard to make money on an open source platform. From google discussions:

    “Will Android apps every make proper money …”

  • jdb


    Yeah, in my followup to Tundraboy, I pretty much said the same thing.

    I think it might also tie in with Chrome OS and why Google is seemingly handicapping their Android for release on Netbooks. I think Google very much wants to own the 100% subsidized mobile handset market but understands that they can’t dictate standards there and accomplish their goal. So they create Chrome OS instead where they can work with a more PC like environment where manufacturers are used to being told what the hardware platform looks like and will go along. This allows Chrome OS to be a standard platform which is much more necessary for a PC OS replacement.

    It is a similar strategy to Android in that Google is going to make the OS available for free, allowing the manufacturers to retain the profits from their low-margin business but unlike Android on mobile phones, the Netbook manufacturers are already hardware constrained by the market.

  • John E

    with its future Chrome OS and now its rumored Google version of iTunes under development, it is obvious Google intends to offer a complete third platform/ecosystem (Linux and “cloud” based) that pretty much matches Windows and OS X consumer products and all their associated services.

    if it matches Apple in seamless quality and “just works,” it could take some market share from Apple products. but that is very hard to do, as DED’s post notes, with multiple hardware makers.

    but it could take a big chunk away from Windows if it is even cheaper and yet better.

  • gus2000

    Daniel has certainly been right far more than wrong. If there were bias trends visible in the RDM archive, he’d get slaughtered.

    Prescient he is.

  • gus2000


    Umm..nit-picking is douchy.

    But since we’re going to nitpick, let me point out that “Umm” is not a word in English, and the ellipsis is three periods (“…”) not two.

    Oh yeah, and “media” can be singular. To wit:

    “…the media means something like ‘the press.’ Like other collective nouns, it may take a singular or plural verb depending on the intended meaning.”

  • http://www.iphoneventures.com sanjayp

    hoohah! You should teach the English: Argument class at Stanford or UC Berkeley.

    The only hope that Android has in the consumer market is if the is a plethora of device options that are relatively cheap; more hardware features at a subsidized price close to zero. Otherwise, go iPhone!

  • ChuckO


    “The only hope that Android has in the consumer market is if the is a plethora of device options that are relatively cheap; more hardware features at a subsidized price close to zero. Otherwise, go iPhone!”

    There seems to be a consensus on this being the likely outcome.

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  • bartfat

    Great article Dan. Excellent analysis, backed fully by lots of evidence. It almost seems like you’re a real professional at this, even as “professional” writers on the topic fail to grasp what logic you seem to put out. But you are right, too much of the tech media is based on emotion and opinions, not facts, and some of this is due to the general public not really caring for factual articles, because they aren’t informed enough to know the difference between opinion and fact. It all sounds the same to them, which is why CNET and PC Magazine still exist. Thankfully, these giant paid flacks are really diving into oblivion though, because once people realize you’re just putting out unsubstantiated opinions, they stop listening. Thank god that there’s someone like Daniel still here, telling us common sense among everyone else pounding on Apple.

    Sorry, back to the article. Android is a great platform, no doubt, but didn’t you actually suggest that it would occupy the low-end smartphone segment while the iPhone took the top-end? I guess that’s not happening anymore, since Apple has repeatedly said that it’s not leaving a price umbrella to allow fierce competition on its turf. So it’s just Apple, Google, and RIM (who is caught is the middle) that own the lucrative part of the smartphone market (Nokia didn’t really make great smartphones until very recently.. meaning anything that isn’t Symbian… and uptake has been pretty slow on those devices). but as TundraBoy and some others have pointed out, Google isn’t planning on battling Apple directly, and would rather just not get locked out the market if Windows Mobile took over, which is why they launched Android. Since Apple already gives Google prime locations on its phone, why would they want to destroy it in order for a arguably less-inspiring phone to take its place? Google needs a halo product for showcasing its search technologies… and I think the iPhone fits the bill quite nicely. I don’t think Google is searching for a substitute for the iPhone like “analysts” would like people to think.

    It’s just the so called “analysts” like Gartner that make up predictions all of this in the hope that their revenue stream doesn’t dry up and they start losing readers (who apparently don’t like Apple in the first place, since they are unfamiliar with their products anyway). I’d say they’re similar to Greenpeace… dying but it’ll be a quite a while before anyone gets them to shut up about Apple, because obviously they had the balls to give Dell (who did NOTHING in environmental terms, but said EVERYTHING) a better score, even currently, than Apple (who eliminated all PVC and BFRs… no other PC maker has done that yet). It’s all in the name of publicity, and it sickens me.

    P.S. I’ve just noticed I’ve repeated most of what Daniel has said one time or another in his articles. Well done Daniel, for 3+ years of journalism excellence!

  • enzos

    USAGE The word media comes from the Latin plural of medium. The traditional view is that it should therefore be treated as a plural noun in all its senses in English and be used with a plural rather than a singular verb:: the media have not followed the reports (rather than | has not followed). -Oxford

    So sue me – I’m a traditionalist. Next thing you’ll be telling me the data is incorrect.

    And who said.. was meant to be an ellipsis? There’s no missing words; it’s just a laid-back colon!

    a cigarette that has already bein lit and smoked and put out before finished to save until later.

    Umm jar: The jar you put your umms in. Or any jar that looks like a bee
    -Urban Dictionary
    Love it!

  • tundraboy


    I apologize in advance for the pedantry.

    The media is/are: In British English collective nouns are plural. In U.S. English collective nouns are singular. So in London, you say “the Bank of England ARE . . .” while in Washington, it’s “the Federal Reserve Bank IS . . . “

  • thyl

    A difference between PCs and phones is also that people expect their phones to just work. And they get upset beyond belief if they recognise that their phones crash, so much that it harms the reputation of the entire company, even if it just one phone that is problematic. To this date I believe that actually, two specific phone models ruined two companies in that field: The buggy S1 ruined Siemens (they then sold to Benq), and the S930 (?) ruined Sony Ericcson.

    People need their phones. If a platform is not stably running third party apps, people tend to not install any. They will use their so-called smartphones only with the built-in software that is hopefully tested, thereby effectivly down-grading them to feature phones. This is the case for -as it appears- Windows Mobile, Symbian, and also RIM.

    But there is a significant number of people out there who really understand what a smartphone should be about. Enter the iPhone. More and more people start recognising that this is actually a _smartphone_. Apps run stably and are usable.

    So the Gartner report does not properly reflect what is happening right now, because they count those maybe 90 % of Symbian, Windows Mobile and RIM phones that are really only used as feature phones, among the smartphones.

    They completely miss the fact that the perception of smartphones -now that the first true smartphone showed up- will quickly change, and the market situation follows suit. This is very important for developpers, since they cannot sell apps to “feature phone users”.

    Does Android “just work”, like a phone should? If yes, it might become a player. If it is in line with the usual Nerd chaos of Linux, the 10000 apps already available now (a great success I must say) could well just be the typical emanations of the devoted Linux community, a hermetic world of its own.

  • Argosy

    Don’t you think jdb, tundraboy really hit the most important point? Google makes no money off Android (or Chrome OS) right? It is all about search isn’t it? I’m sure you’ve mentioned this before.

    Google has Android and Chrome OS to squash any chance MS has in mobile search (and online services) in both phones and ‘netbooks’.

    As Daniel points out Android will have the same problem as Windows Mobile, “one” OS on a slew of different mobile devices. Guaranteeing that no “two phones” work the same. Splintered hardware efforts breed splintered third party development. Androids benefits are: 1) it’s free and 2) it’s actually available NOW with multi-touch capabilities. Windows Mobile, not so much….

    I mean does Google really care about the phone business? No of course not. They just want to make sure Windows Mobile has no chance of getting out of the grave MS has dug for it. And hence, Bing has little chance of being important in the mobile search world.

    Apple certainly won’t default to Bing for search on the iPhone. As long as Windows Mobile is being sold, will many hardware manufactures want to help out MS by selling an Android phone default to Bing for search?

    It’s like when Pepsico owned KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut etc. etc. Coke distributers simply had to point out to potential restaurant owners is, ‘Do you want to subsidize your competition by selling Pepsi?’ Of course not.

    As Daniel and others have already said, Google is not targeting the iPhone with Android.


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  • brew57

    It seems Gartner’s Android predictions are coming true after all, despite taking a beating in this article.