Does the above, or parts of it, seem familiar? The tech press over the past couple of years has really been attempting to answer this question – and, I am going to add my 2 cents! (Notice that I haven’t included Sailfish OS, Blackberry, etc. to the mix – I think they are pretty much dead on arrival).
To me the debate is moot – it’s going to be Google!
Over the past year or so, the mobile landscape has changed drastically (I know, I know – it happens for every couple of years). Hardware and design, the areas where Apple excels, don’t seem to be enough. With companies like Honn Hai (better known as Foxconn), replicating hardware features is becoming relatively easy, and design was anyway fairly easy to replicate anyway (remember the Samsung Vs. Apple trial?). Just a couple of days back, one of my colleagues recently got a Samsung Note II, and as an Apple fan, I was shocked to see that it was as good as, better even, than my iPhone.
So then what is the value proposition? What distinguishes a company from others? What is fastest route to the throne? And I think Google has the answer – think beyond operating systems and devices – make your platform so pervasive that, one way or other, you are in a position to benefit from every aspect of people’s life! And don’t try to control the platform directly – control the web services that flow from the platform.
Unlike iOS, Android is available to all mobile phone manufacturers – for free! So now every phone that uses the Android OS, comes with Google Maps, Google Play, YouTube, Google Voice, Google Now and so on…. And I think that is a brilliant strategy. And this doesn’t end here –Google docs will probably replace Microsoft Office precisely for this reason. At some point, a vast majority of mobile, computing, and tablet devices will be Android driven (it’s free after all), and ALL those devices will be tightly integrated with Google Docs!! I also think companies like Samsung, HTC, etc., while making money, will not really be any more than branded OEMs , a channel really, for Android.
A few decades back, Microsoft did something similar – they made Windows OS available to ALL manufacturers. This led to a much faster penetration which in turn led to more developers building applications for Windows, which again led to higher penetration. At the same time, complete control of hardware, software and services led Mac to a measly worldwide market share of 5% – and remember, the Apple OS at that time was reputedly much better than the Windows. And Google is taking this a step further – unlike Microsoft, they are not even charging for their OS!! As a matter of fact, because of certain license fees, Microsoft makes more money from Android than Google. Honestly, it is amazing to me that Apple does not see the parallel – or maybe they do but think that the result will be different this time.
The killer part of Google’s strategy is that they are not stopping at computing devices – they expanding their reach to wearable computing (Google Glass of course!), Cars (Google Self Driven cars) and even providing internet access (Google Fiber).
And if you thought this was amazing – did you know that Google Ventures has invested in clean power companies – they have invested over $ 1 Billion dollars in solar power generation, Wind farms, clean power finance, Smart Grid platforms and so on. Or that Google is a large investor in DNA sequencing and research (23andMe – co-founded by Sergey Brin’s wife) or Google is an investor in NEST (smart thermostat) and finally that they actually have a space venture!!!! Google may not have figured out how to monetize every investment or how to translate the investment into increased dominance of their platform – but they will.
So while Apple is trying to build iPhone 6 (or is it 7) and Microsoft is trying their luck with new desktop and mobile OS – Google is already getting in position to dominate everything – check out Google Ventures and you will realize it really is everything.
So while the battle rages on – Google is already winning the war!