iOS vs. Android Battle Repeats Mac vs. PC Clash: What’s Next? | Computerworld. (No longer available online. Original text included below.)
Smartphones and tablets are becoming the PCs of our time, and there are two major players in the game. Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android dominate smartphones, with RIM and Microsoft being niche players. It all feels very familiar, harking back to the Mac vs PC battle, and analyst Jack Brown suggests the outcome will be the same, with Android dominating by 2014. Can we learn anything from our past?
Mac vs PC
In the early days of personal computers, Apple developed the Mac which allowed the average person to use a computer. It was easy to use, and much better for graphics work than anything else available, so software companies wrote for it, and publishers and graphic artists used it exclusively.
Microsoft released Windows, and as it improved, more software became available for the PC until there was parity, you could get most of the popular software on either Mac or PC. Since there was more competition in the PC market due to Windows being available through multiple hardware vendors, prices dropped, and sales grew.
In the end, Microsoft owns the personal computer market, with Apple dominating only a few niches. Finding your favorite software on the Mac can be a challenge since writing for both platforms can be expensive, and most businesses release their software on the more dominant Windows platform.
iOS vs Android
Many consider Apple’s iPhone the first real smartphone, making it easy for the average person to have the power of a computer in their pocket. “There’s an app for that” let people know you could do almost anything with these elegant and easy to use devices. People flocked to it, developers wrote apps for it, and the competition took note.
Google released Android, and as hardware became available and units started selling, developers started releasing apps for it. Android could be licensed by any manufacturer, so many adopted it, and the variety of Android hardware spanned all price points. The Android Market matured and is on pace to overtake Apple’s App Store within months, and Android hardware outsells Apple’s by a 2-1 margin.
The two stories are quite similar, comparing innovator to main-streamer, and a closed ecosystem to an open one. The innovative, closed system sets the tone and gets early adopters, but the main-streamer with an open ecosystem wins in the end due to lower costs and greater variety of options. In the tablet market, Apple currently dominates, with Android’s slow start to enter, yet history suggests and analysts are predicting that in two to three years time, Apple will be the second place contender.
So how does all of this effect SMBs? In the past many businesses started with Mac, supported a mixed environment of Mac and PC for a while, and eventually went all PC. The extra costs involved in managing two platforms on top of compatibility issues and software availability made the migration inevitable. The same considerations apply now to businesses who must deal with mobile devices. Should you build your IT plan around iPads since they currently dominate the market and it’s obvious tablets will play a part in your strategy, or do you wait a bit longer and design your plan around Android tablets, knowing they’re more likely to be the long-term platform in the end?