Competition is the cornerstone of business. If just a single company was dominating every respective market, the innovation consumers and enterprise users around the world enjoy today wouldn’t be nearly as advanced as it is. In fact, it’s quite possible that the very things many folks take for granted wouldn’t even be available.
Yet in the mobile operating-system space, there are multiple legal battles being waged that Google claims, stifle competition. Currently, Google’s Android operating system is being targeted by a host of companies, including Apple, Microsoft, and Oracle over charges that the platform violates patents held by those companies. Microsoft has been so effective in targeting Android, in fact, that it now has entered into licensing agreements with vendors producing over 50 percent of all the Android-based devices hitting store shelves.
It gets worse. Apple supporters say that Android copies iOS, and has become successful by including their favorite company’s ideas. Android partisans point to features such as iOS Notification Center claiming that Apple’s OS copies Android. Through it all, it quickly becomes clear that there is no easy way to solve the debate.
But should we? The fact is, Android and iOS are strong competitors that are trying to gain an upper-hand with each new software release. That’s good for all stakeholders—including Apple and Google. Read on to find out why:
1. It makes Apple see its faults
It’s easy for Apple to become over-confident. Nearly everywhere the company turns hear praise and adulation from its many admirers for delivering outstanding products to the market. However, Android’s continued innovation is making Apple realize its own faults. Consider, for example, the addition of Notification Center to iOS 5. Android has long had a similar feature but Apple hasn’t. The iPhone maker saw the error of its ways and addressed it. Without Android there, who knows if that would have happened?
2. More Android versions
Each year, Google releases several different versions of Android that in one way or another improve upon their predecessors. This year, for example, Google has offered up Android 3.0 “Honeycomb” and improvements to Android 2.3 “Gingerbread.” It will soon bring Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” to the market. If it weren’t for the competition it faces from iOS, who knows if Google would feel so compelled to release new and improved versions of its mobile platform so often?
3. It helps vendors sell more devices
As mentioned, competition in the mobile OS space is good for everyone. In fact, it helps vendors. Right now, several handset makers, including Samsung, LG, and Motorola rely upon Google’s Android platform to operate their companies. If Android was a loser, they wouldn’t be able to sell too many products. But thanks to the competition Google faces from Apple it keep releasing new and improved versions which allows vendors to release to devices based on those versions.
4. Market domination is the death knell
It’s clear that if one company’s technology held an overwhelming advantage over the mobile OS market innovation would suffer to the detriment of all mobile phone buyers. But that’s nothing new. Domination in any market creates stagnation and makes the leading company lazy, complacent and more inclined to rake in as much profit without rapidly improving its technology to the benefit of customers and partners. Luckily, we don’t have that in the mobile OS space because of strong competition. And we’re benefiting from it.
5. It brings other software vendors into the fold
The nice thing about competition is it allows other companies to break into a market. Too often, there are markets that are dominated by a single firm that provide no points of entry for smaller startups. But with more competition, it’s easier for a product to make a name for itself. In the mobile OS market, that’s especially the case. Right now, Windows Phone 7 and Samsung’s Bada operating system are slowly but surely making inroads, even as Android and iOS continue to dominate. If only one OS was dominating, who knows if those operating systems would even have a chance?
6. Tablets will only improve
The big issue in the tablet space is that there is really only one company—Apple—building the devices people want. But with competition from Android and help from vendors, that might soon change. Take, for example, the expected December launch of the Amazon Kindle Fire. That device, which goes on sale for just $199, is designed to establish a foothold in the tablet market. If it’s successful, it will also help Android become a more worrisome competitor to iOS. Will it take down the iPad? Probably not. But it will arguably be the first product to prove other companies besides Apple can succeed in tablets. It’s relying upon Android to do it.
7. It pushes prices down
The nice thing about competition is that it typically pushes prices down. After all, if a company that’s losing on features can’t gain an upper hand, its best option is to win on price. In the mobile OS market, Android and iOS pricing isn’t at play, but handset pricing is. Apple has been forced to keep iPhone and iPad pricing the same because of the threats it faces from competitors running Android. Companies running Android on their devices are also wary of pricing products too high for fear of looking too expensive against the iPhone. Make no mistake, Android and iOS competition is keeping smartphone and tablet prices down. And looking ahead, they might decline even further.
8. Consider the advertising angle
There’s more to the competition between Android and iOS than just market share. Currently, both Apple and Google are trying to gain a stranglehold on the mobile-advertising market. Apple has iAd, while Google has AdMob. Thanks to the competition between those firms, neither company has been able to fully take control over the mobile-ad market. That’s a good thing because the more competition in that space, the easier it is for users to avoid unwanted and intrusive ads.
9. It splits cybercriminal focus
As we’ve seen in the desktop operating system space, when a single platform has all the market share, cybercriminals will focus on it because that is where the most potential profit is. It’s the reasons why Windows is targeted each day and Mac OS X is a harder nut to crack for cyber-criminals. In the mobile space, however, cybercriminals can’t focus all their efforts on a single platform since the market is bifurcated mainly between iOS and Android. That makes it harder for cyber-criminals to seriously compromise the security of either Android or iOS and gives Apple and Google more time to contain outbreaks.
10. It gives enterprise users more options
Prior to the launch of the iPhone, enterprise users really only had one option available to them: BlackBerry. Since then, however, with Android and iOS putting pressure on RIM in the corporate world, companies have three—and if you include Windows Phone 7, four—options available to them when deciding to deploy new smartphones. In the IT space, having more options is extremely important. And thanks to the competition Android and iOS are bringing to the market, IT managers have all the options they need.