This week saw a report from Canalys that had Android at close to 50% of the mobile OS market share which continues an inhuman ascent that has been unabated for the past year. This is not a surprise when it comes to market share – Android’s steady climb has been fuelled by hardware manufacturers adopting the “open source” OS left, right and centre – what has been surprising is the lack of application and revenue growth which is still dominated by Apple.
The great challenge facing Android is, by nature, the thing that got it do a dominant position in the first place – the fact it is open source. Forget the malware corner cases (of which there will be many more to come), forget the lawsuits and bitter bickering back and forth between Google and Microsoft and forget the OS battles. These will seem inconsequential in the long run compared to the lack of a strong, consistent ecosystem that needs to be built in order to gain massive traction from the development community. Compound this with Amazon’s recent announcement of hitting 10,000 apps in their Android AppStore and you quickly get the picture that in order for Android to dominate they will need to reign in control and start taking the ecosystem challenge seriously.
From where I sit, Google is heading down the same disastrous path Microsoft did with Windows Mobile in the early days of mobile. They thought the battle was getting onto as many devices as possible and the rest would take care of itself. Flash forward a number of years and the once dominant mobile platform had to retool and now occupies a distant 5th place in mobile OS.
An OS is as good as the last app published
Microsoft learned an incredible lesson – dominance on the mobile OS front relies on people engaging in the OS through applications. You would have thought this to be second nature to the world’s most dominant desktop OS company but it wasn’t, the OS faltered and they needed to start from scratch. Fragmentation killed Windows Mobile and it looks like Google is making the same mistake today.
OS dominance doesn’t mean application dominance
This article on GigaOm talks about the reasons why iOS development is winning. Agree with it or not you can’t argue the fact that right now more applications are making more money on iOS devices than Android. You could also make a good enough argument that the closed iOS environment has helped keep out a great number of “issue” apps and that having one centralized store has benefitted the developers thus far. One thing we’ve seen is that OS dominance does not equate to application or revenue dominance.
Is Google following in Microsoft’s footsteps? Can they hold this rocketing trajectory for Android or will they come crashing back down to the rest of the pack?