Since yesterday I have seen several articles commenting on the fact that in Q1 2010 more smartphones were sold in the US with Android than with Apple’s iPhone OS. I won’t go into the minutiae of all numbers, as I don’t think it is really relevant, but the numbers being compared are roughly 28% for Android and 21% for Apple.
This has prompted some very positive comments from those that like Android and those that don’t like Apple. While I’m sure the fact that a large number of phones running Android were sold is a good thing for those involved with that platform, it can scarcely be considered as being in direct relationship to the sales of iPh0nes.
Why? Well, let’s look at what happened with iPhone sales and market share from Q1’09 to Q1’10. Apple more than doubled its sales of iPhones, selling 8.5 million phones in the quarter and saw its global market share grow to about 16%.
I think it is important to consider these numbers in relation to its competitors. All other relevant players in the smartphone business were already in the market when Apple launched the iPhone and it where these players that either lost or were unable to gain the 16% market share that Apple now holds.
Back to the comparison in the US market. Apple is the single manufacturer of iPhones and it’s phones are only available through AT&T. This means that Apple managed to garner 21% market share despite not selling to customers of other carriers, thus helping AT&T to gain customers from its competitors.
In face of the quick growth of iPhone sales, Apple’s competitors seeing that nothing they had was a match for the iPhone turned to Android, gracefully provided by Google for free, as their chance to waste as little time as possible trying to catch up.
Given that Apple’s sales have continued to grow, I would say that Android hasn’t been successful in checking the advance of iPhone OS in the smartphone space, however. Android’s 28% market share for smartphones in the US means that many manufacturers that had no other choice have turned to that OS for their phones. It’s not like they could turn to iPhone OS.
Moving away from the phone business, we have the music player/PDA space. With more than 30 million iPods sold in this space there is little doubt that for now, Apple and iPhone OS are in the lead. I don’t think that we are going to be seeing a lot of competition in this space as most companies capable and willing to create a device that could face up to the iPod Touch will probably prefer to produce smartphones, as an iPod Touch is essentially the same as an iPhone without the mobile phone components.
The next space where Android and iPhone OS are going to come into contact is going to be in tablet computers, such as the iPad. In this space we are likely to see the same kind of scenario as in the mobile phone space. Companies that haven’t got their own investment in creating a specific OS are going to be moving to Android as the only choice available for trying to compete with Apple.
HP’s recent move to acquire Palm and its webOS mobile platform seem to indicate that having been dependent on Microsoft for their tablet and mobile OS options didn’t work out well, as Windows 7 on Intel based hardware seemed clearly not to be up to the challenge presented by the iPad. Having had a bad experience with Microsoft’s ability to deliver a viable tablet OS, HP is probably little inclined to turn to Google, whose experience with operating systems is considerably less. So, HP seems to have dropped its Windows tablet plans, but instead of being the first in the Android bandwagon they decided to spend 1.2 Billion acquiring Palm.
That still leaves a large number of computer manufacturers, such as Dell, who not having another viable choice at hand will probably decide to go with Android.
Considering that Apple hasn’t shown any inclination to licensing its OS to other manufacturers in the past I don’t think that there is much chance of it happening in the near future. This means that unless you imagine that Apple will supply all tablet computers everywhere in the world, there are going to be several players in the market and it would seem that apart from Apple and HP, most of the others will either be running Android, or another Linux variation in their devices.
Again, Android becomes the choice for those companies with no other choice.