I’ve been fascinated by the success of Android based phones, their amazing growth curve, and the ability of the press machine to create hype around Android as the solution for all things mobile. Pretty impressive.
Then I listen to people talk about Android. And am surprised that most of the time I don’t hear Android love.
In fact, what uniqueness is there to love? None of the ads for Android devices make a compelling, unique statement about their Android offering. For example, the ads for the Droid are predictable re-hashes of graphics we saw in the Terminator – cool without saying anything. And Droid’s advertising is the most prominent communication we see.
So if none of the developers are putting out communication that creates demand for Android, what has driven Android success? From everything I’ve seen, I think it’s Apple.
First, Apple is the one smartphone company with clear communication that tells us why we’d want their product. This communication creates broad demand for a quality smartphone.
But also, whenever I hear people talk about why they bought an Android I hear…
1. A desperate desire to move beyond Blackberry.
2. A strong desire to have an iPhone.
3. A refusal or inability to use AT&T.
4. Sometimes, pleasure that it’s less expensive than an iPhone.
(Yes. In tiny number of cases, I hear someone who really wants to tinker with their phone and Android allows (requires?) tinkering more than the iPhone.)
In other words, it sure looks like Apple has created the demand that manufacturers of Android phones are filling. And, as Apple continues to lead the way, they’ll create even more opportunity for Android manufacturers and APP developers.
Right now, this isn’t a bad thing either for Apple or the cloud of Android manufacturers. Apple wisely uses scarcity to their advantage in making clear that their devices that are at the top of the heap. And, manufacturers aren’t likely to complain about selling a lot of a product without having to do the hard work of communication.
But for the future, it suggests a striking truth: The manufacturers of Android devices are in strategically weak positions. They aren’t succeeding because they created their opportunity – they are taking advantage of an opportunity a more savvy consumer developer created.
This is important in guaging our expectations for Android. For example, if we look forward to TV, this lack of Android strategy suggests they aren’t likely to create a solid TV offering. Instead, we’ll find a cacophany of Android based developments for TV that harbor a few good ideas buried amongst the chaos.
And it’s pretty likely that, once again, Apple will step in and offer an organized and powerful view of how the internet and TV come together. At which time, Android companies (assuming Android is still a force) will copy Apple’s ideas, jettison much of their chaos, and finally consumers who want Android will find an interface that works for them.
Of course, there’s nothing to prevent some company from doing hard work of consumer marketing and develop something new from an Android starting point based on an inspired understanding of how technology can be meaningful to consumers. But having been around the tech biz for 30 years, I don’t think it’s likely.
It’s sad, really. Sad that so few manufacturers have the ability to understand consumers well enough to build mass market devices that bring new innovation. And sad that their option for success is to follow leadership of strategic and consumer oriented companies like Apple.
Copyright 2010 – Doug Garnett