Mac Musings

Android Is the New Windows

Dan Knight - 2011.08.04 - Tip Jar

Northgate. Texas Instruments. Zenith Data Systems. Tandy Radio Shack. Micron Computers. AT&T. Zeos.

These are just a few of the PC brands that have disappeared over the years as the Windows world continued its descent to lower and lower prices - and lower and lower profits.

At the same time, Microsoft kept increasing sales of Windows, which it has continued to do until 2011, when it appears Windows may have peaked. But Microsoft remains profitable.

And Microsoft doesn't care what happens to Northgate, ZDS, Tandy, or Zeos - or the guy down the street who cobbles together custom PCs for a living. As long as Microsoft sells you a license for Windows, it is happy. Hardware brands mean nothing to Microsoft.

Android

Acer. Alcatel. Dell. Garmin. HTC. LG. Motorola. Pantech. Samsung. Sony Ericsson. T-Mobile. ZTE.

These are just a few of the brands making smartphones and/or tablets that are licensed Android users. And as the commodity world of Android smartphones continues its downward price and profit spiral, who knows how many of these brands will still be selling Android hardware five years from now - or even two.

Whatever happens, Google will continue to see increased numbers of Android licenses and activations. And even though Google gives away Android for free, it is a very profitable company.

Google doesn't care what happens to HTC, Samsung, Dell, or Garmin. As long as the number of Android licenses grows, Google is happy. Hardware brands mean nothing to Google.

Real Competition?

Android licensees should realize that they are entering the same kind of commodity market that has killed off so many brands of PCs. When everyone uses the same type of processor, the same kind of memory, the same brands of 3G and WiFi chips, and similar touch displays, it becomes a fight for the bottom. Consumers have real hardware choices - one core or two? how big a display? - but that's the extent of it. With version 3.0, Android is under Google's control.

Microsoft is trying to do the same thing with Windows Phone, and it's going to be the same kind of downward spiral for Microsoft licensees.

PCs are commodities. Android and Windows Phone devices are becoming commodities. And while the numbers continue to grow, the profits continue to shrink.

Be Different

Apple has always built the whole widget, starting with the Apple II. It designs and builds the hardware. It own and tweaks the operating system. It creates products that seemingly have the same commodity components everyone else has access to, yet Apple is not caught up in a downward spiral of price and profits.

Quite the opposite, in fact. Apple makes more profit from selling its devices than any PC company, because Apple creates unique products that nobody else can duplicate. Microsoft and Linux can copy features from Macs. Microsoft and Android can copy features from iOS. But in the end, no manufacturer has an advantage, because everyone is dealt the same hand.

It doesn't matter to Apple if Android has two or three times its share of the smartphone market or the tablet market. Their products are always compared with the iPhone and iPad, and their apps with Apple's quality-controlled App Store offerings, and even the best come up short.

Complain all you want about Apple's walled garden, but realize that Apple's garden is almost completely weed-free. Windows malware runs rampant, and Android is starting to get its fair share, but Macs and iDevices have scarcely been touched by malevolent hackers.

As others have pointed out recently, Apple users do more. Most Windows users only run a handful of apps. Most Android users spend a lot less time online than iOS users. Why? Because we have better tools.

In the end, that's what it's all about - and that's why Apple is never going to be on a list of failed computer makers.

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Dan Knight has been using Macs since 1986, sold Macs for several years, supported them for many more years, and has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. If you find Dan's articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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