Why Apple’s iPhone Will 'Drown in a Sea of Androids'

By locking down its mobile platform, Cupertino is repeating the mistake that led to the marginalization of the Mac.

Google's Android mobile platform may still follow Apple's iPhone in the smartphone race, according to fresh Nielsen data released Monday, but that advantage may not last long.

Specifically, unless Apple starts licensing the iPhone to other handset makers, the platform could get lost amid the many Android competitors, according to Apple France founder Jean-Louis Gassée.

"By refusing to license the operating system--iOS, in this case--the iPhone will drown in a sea of Android smartphones," Gassée wrote on the Monday Note blog on Sunday. "We've seen it before: Apple is repeating the mistake that allowed Windows clones to scuttle the Mac."

'Apple's Arrogance'

Apple's iOS currently enjoys 28.6 percent of the U.S. smartphone operating system market, followed narrowly by RIM's Blackberry, with 26.1 percent, and Android, with 25.8 percent, Nielsen reported today.

iOS devices are likely to retain a substantial share of consumer dollars, Gassée conceded. Nevertheless, much as "Apple's arrogance beleaguered" the Mac platform, the same attitude could marginalize the iPhone, he wrote.

"The Mac had immense promise, a much better personal computer than the 16-bit clone of the Apple ][ called the IBM PC," he explained. But "instead of following the Microsoft model-focusing on software and letting licensees create a prosperous ecosystem-Apple repeatedly nixed Mac clones and was marginalized, with the Mac market share sinking as low as 2 percent."

"The iPhone is equally promising and, the argument goes, just as equally destined to a marginal role," Gassée added. "Like the original Mac, the iPhone has inaugurated a new era, and will ultimately see others dominate the market."

The Power of Choice

This is true. The iPhone will clearly out-earn any single Android device in the short term, but Android's diversity will win out in the long run, relegating the iPhone to niche status.

With what's surely the most closed ecosystem in the market, Apple is doing all it can to keep Android's influence at bay. It's "lawyering up" for an increasingly litigious approach, for instance, and it's also fighting any Android-related apps submitted to the App Store.

Ultimately, however, Apple imposes too many restrictions in its condescending approach, and it offers too few choices to have the broad appeal it needs to dominate in the long run--namely, choices in hardware, carrier, apps, content and experience. It also leaves much to be desired when it comes to security.

Apple will always have a contingent of fanatics that support its every move. But with its current strategy, it can't compete with the diverse and powerful platform that is Android.

Follow Katherine Noyes on Twitter: @Noyesk.

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Katherine Noyes

PC World (US online)
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