Okay, some pure speculation on my part (and a link-bait of a headline), but could the next twelve months see a pincer movement on Android that neuters the Google dominance in the mobile space?
On one side, Apple. They’ve just launched the iPhone 4S, with stunning sales. No matter what you think of the iPhone as a platform, the public see it as one of the leading handsets. Even when the Nokia N95 was technical delight, it was the Apple phone that caught the public.
Times have changed, and as Google pull out as many stops as they can to boost Android in the market place and with the public, Samsung is carrying the flag with the Galaxy range of devices. If you’ve been following the patent action, Apple is building up some potent weapons (especially in Australia) that could seriously slow down Android adoption (and the Oracle trial could do similar damage). Android is not a safe harbour, as witnessed by the number of companies striking their own patent licensing agreements with a number of companies.
There’s a lot of Android out there, but with a medium to long term view it appears to be on unstable ground.
On the other side, you have Microsoft with Windows Phone. As I write this, the unit numbers from 2011 are lower than Microsoft likely wanted, or expected, but they’ve got three pitchers in play right now that are likely to change that.
The first is the Mango update, which by all accounts has had a remarkably smooth roll out, has provided enough functionality to put Windows Phone on the same technical front as Android and iOS, and (perhaps most importantly) is being talked up by the Tech Press as being a suitable alternative. That mix is likely to build user confidence.
The second is Nokia, a company who’s real expertise is in moving things around the world at as low a cost as possible, be it rubber tyres, set-top boxes, or smartphones. They bring that logistics skill to Windows Mobile, as well as a tier one manufacturer ready to put 100% behind the Windows Mobile platform.
And finally, Windows Phone feels new. The Metro UI approach and the idea of seamless links between applications to break out of the "app – launcher – app – launcher – app" cycle gives a wonderful feel to the OS, and it’s sure to stick in people’s minds. Let’s cut a moment during Over the Air, where i demoed the HTC Trophy to an Apple developer. The look in her eyes as Metro flowed through all the information… well if an Apple fanatic can go "ooooh" then job done.
One of the things that’s been mentioned in the eulogies and memories of Steve Jobs in the last week has been the respect that Apple and Microsoft have for each other. Competitors they may be but they have been there for each other at certain points in their careers.
Now that the threat of Symbian is minimised (perhaps Belle is going to happily rule the B-Class), both Apple and Microsoft must be looking at Google’s Android as a hugely disruptive element in their plans going forward. Apple are selling as many phones as they can make, while Microsoft have all the pieces in place for one last push to get into the consumer mobile space.
So what if… Apple and Microsoft (even with Microsoft potentially ‘earning’ more per Android handset than their Windows Phone, they’re sure to want people inside the tent), with no collusion or meetings whatsoever, decide that rather than live with Google, they want to squash it? They appear to have the business critera, and arguably the weaponry is there.
All that’s left for the Android handset manufacturers is to either wait quietly and not get noticed, hope they can licence every patent they need (something Apple in Australia has said to Samsung they won’t do), or do one final ‘line in the sand’ lawsuit to settle this once and for all.