The Unbearable Inevitability of Talking Nonsense when you Don’t Know Shit about the Mobile Market

Via John Gruber I stumbled on The Unbearable Inevitability of Being Android, 1995. The article ignores key facts of the mobile market because they don’t fit the point the author wants to make.

People have the right to participate in re-enactments of historical platform wars, but they should not confuse them with reality.

The argument goes roughly as follows:

  1. Google makes money by selling eyeballs. It needs scale. Android was created to give Google scale on mobile. This much is actually true.
  2. Flash back to 1995. Microsoft was huge and scary back then, and it wasn’t very innovative. It also expanded into all directions. This much is actually true.
  3. Google is also expanding into all directions while simultaneously being not very innovative.
    Naughty Google! Trying stuff to see if it works is Evil! And you’re not even allowed to be innovative! You’re almost like ... drumroll ... Microsoft!
    [Audience is duly aghast]
  4. Google wants to dominate smartphones with Android, just as Microsoft wanted to dominate desktop with Windows. This is probably true, but it won’t work. I expect five mobile platforms with each between 15 and 30% of the market. Android will be one of the larger, but that’s about the limit of its scale.
  5. Google will force its partners to refrain from innovating because it holds the whip hand with Android. (This is the argument that doesn’t make sense, and the article falls apart without it.)
  6. So Google will become all scary and stuff and true believers have no way to run but Apple, just as it was back in 1995.
  7. AMEN, brother! Tell it as it is! Good vs. Evil, Light vs. Dark, Apple vs. Microsoft Google.

They key argument that Google’s position now is similar to Microsoft’s in 1995 and that it will force its partners to do unspeakable evil, is complete nonsense.

Selling an OS

Back in the day, if you were a hardware vendor, what was your alternative to Windows? Well, Mac, of course, but Apple wasn’t sharing. Linux wasn’t there yet. So Windows it must be. Effective monopoly.

What a contrast with Android. Let’s take a look at the three largest Android device makers:

Dangers abound for these sacrificial sheep if we are to believe our latest prophet and his writing on the wall (in impeccable Apple fonts):

Having secured a very fat market dominance, Microsoft displayed an embarrassing level of paternal indifference and inability to innovate.

[...] At the end of its inevitability run, most of the Microsoft “partners” were left holding the bag...of stalled innovation, disappearing margins and market irrelevance.

Picture those evil, fat Googlers patronising the shit out of everybody and handing them bags full of stalled innovation.

Now the real question is, would, say, Samsung allow this to happen? It wouldn’t. In fact, it’s preparing for exactly this eventuality.

If this were to become reality Samsung would simply pull the plug on Android and switch to bada. And what then happens to Android’s market share? Consumers buy a Samsung, not a Google. Bye bye, eyeballs.

The mobile market will not be dominated by any one single player. Google does not hold the same position as Microsoft once did. Device vendors have options nowadays, unlike the device vendors of old.

And that’s pretty much that. By overlooking this single fact the article melts down into a not particularly clever, fact-free anti-Google rant.

This is the blog of Peter-Paul Koch, web developer, consultant, and trainer. You can also follow him on Twitter or Mastodon.
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