The battle for mobile supremacy has really heated up. Apple and Goolge had round 1 back in January with the release of the Google Nexus One. With the release of the iPhone 4 and the Droid X we are well into round 2. I am not going to debate which device is better or worse, that is for the market to shake out. Rather I want to comment on how the popularity of each device is strengthening its underlying platform. The iPhone 4.0 and iPad 1.0 run on iOS 4. Google’s mainline devices run Android 2.1 or will be upgraded to Android 2.2. “Froyo'”. It has been reported that Google will release an iPad style “Google Pad” based on Android 2.x as well. Developers are lining up to write applications for these two platforms, each expanding from the phone to a slate/tablet device. It is possible you may see netbook style devices running iOS and Android soon. That said, looking ahead 5 years from now, which one will “win” the most mindshare?
Apple’s iOS is quite popular since the iPhone and iPad are selling so well. Developers are turned off by the AppStore’s approval process and Objective-C in general. Apple also maintains complete control over iOS and you can’t license it and put it on your own consumer electronics device. Android is more open and easier to program for since it uses the more mainstream Java language. It is also possible that you can use Android on other devices (I know a company here in Hong Kong building a consumer electronics device based on Android.) Also, Google’s marketplace is not restricted (hence you can download porn apps if you like.)
In the long term my money is behind Google for two reasons: it is easier to code for and it more open. Eventually what you will see is applications appearing first on the Android then on the iPhone, with some never making it over for AppStore reasons or for Objective-C reasons. (This already happened with several World Cup focused applications.) Applications are what make a platform, you can have a more “cool” platform with less apps and the less “cool” platform with more apps will still win. Think Mac v PC 15+ years ago.
Speaking of PCs, where is Microsoft in all of this? The Zune based Windows Phone 7 is not slated to come out any time soon. By the time WP7 ships we will be talking about iPhone 5.0 rumors, Android 3.0 rumors, and the next generation iPad. Microsoft has a lot of catching up to do.
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