As TMCnet’s Tom Keating mentions on his blog, there are many factors to consider in the fight for mobile supremecy between Apple, Google Android and yes, even Microsoft. Tom’s point about Microsoft injecting itself into the Android relationship with carriers to become the defacto search engine has even begun to happen already.
But what caught my eye regarding the controversy is will Apple become the defacto high-end alternative that is priced out of the reach of most of the market?
The answer may lie in production numbers alone.
You see, the Apple hardware is virtually unchanged from iPod to iPhone to iPad so economies of scale work in the company’s favor.
However, Android devices are gaining massive share. If these gadgets can also leverage the same hardware with other mobile operating systems then they too can take advantage of the same efficiencies. Perhaps Samsung and HTC are best positioned in this regard as an HTC device, for example, can do double-duty as an Android and Windows Phone 7.
A while back I asked Nokia execs about the disadvantage they had in supporting a plethora of form factors while Apple gets away with one and they didn’t have a good answer.
But if a phone manufacturer can leverage multiple operating systems to drive scale they can then compete more effectively with Apple. Again, companies like HTC and Samsung may be in a great position here.
When I saw the Droid X I immediately thought of how the PC overtook Apple’s share because of the massive price/performance advantage. If we take my personal experience of implementing desktop publishing back in the 80s, the price for a loaded Mac was over $4,000 if my memory serves and you could get a PC clone with equivalent or greater processing power for less than half the cost.
But in the smartphone and tablet markets the prices are in the hundreds not thousands, meaning even if you can undercut Apple on price because the Android market explodes with growth and Windows Phone 7 devices use the same hardware, it is tough to see the prices for non-Apple devices having a dramatic price advantage. Obviously this is a fluid situation and one I will watch closely.
But to me the plethora of Android devices is the challenge Apple will have to contend with – as well as the plethora of marketing campaigns. Remember Gateway Computers for example? They were a hot PC maker for years using the branding of cows in massive magazine inserts to push their cause and increase awareness.
Then you had Dell, HP, Compaq, Acer, Toshiba and a slew of other companies – each with its own marketing ideas and each with its own successful sales strategies.
But more than marketing it is the form factors which will be worth watching closely. Is the ideal tablet size larger or smaller than the iPad? Is not supporting Flash going to be a factor in Apple losing lots of sales? I already know people who have returned iPads because they don’t support Flash – will this become a differentiator for other device makes in 2011?
Consumer electronics have become more important to consumers over the years and this trend is fantastic for the market, especially Apple who is the hands down leader and trend-setter. Next year, we will get to see if other companies are able to at least equal the street cred of Cupertino.