First up, a shout out to @publicityoxford for inspiring this post.
When a new player comes into the computer technology market, there’s often some debate about which one will be the winner. iPhone vs Android, Surface vs iPad. I think that the question is heavily influenced by what happened with Mac and PC, where one player became and remains dominant (around 90% market share).
It’s easy to see why people draw the parallels. Both are platforms of software and hardware, both have ways for 3rd party developers to build applications.
But there are some differences between say, Android vs iPhone and Mac vs PC, which I believe will explain why even if one player does come out on top, it’s going to take far longer to resolve.
- Cost differences. The difference in price between a PC and Mac in the early 90s was huge. You would spend a lot more on them. An iPhone may cost more than an Android phone, but it’s not that much more.
- Applications. PC applications are generally considerably more complicated than phone ones. And if you go back to the 90s, things like abstraction of logic was done less than it is today because of the efficiency of the computers. The costs of building for Mac as well as PC were high back then. Today, there’s a lot more sharing of code, so the additional costs of building an iPhone as well as an Android version are higher.
- The web. Back in the early 90s, everything was done on the PC. Today, we use browsers to do a lot more, and Android and iPhone both have browsers, so can do things.
Looking at iPad, Android tablets and Surface, I think the question about which will win is, that we will. If you want the most attractive, tablet with a curated experience that’s aimed at content consumption, the iPad is probably best. If you want a functional tablet for say, browsing, Android. If you want a well-built hybrid business/general tablet with Windows, go Surface Pro.
Apps aren’t much of a discriminator, either. iOS may have 500,000 apps and Windows Phone 80,000 apps, but the fact is that 99% of the apps on your phone will be in the top 1000 sellers, which means they’ll be on both, or you’re not likely to be affected by one missing or the other. You’ll still have a Twitter Client, Kindle Reader, PDF reader or IMDB app on all 3. By the time you get past the first 5,000 apps, you’re into some very obscure apps with very few users (like Uzbekistan Radio stations).