Let’s face it. Most panel debates at conferences are boring. So whenever I’m invited to sit on one, I try and speak more as if I’m down the pub to ensure I say what I really think.
Heroes of the Mobile Screen in London last week was no different and resulted with my confident declaration that “the West Coast is drunk on the iphone” seconds later being pinged around the Twittersphere.
In Hong Kong the mobile commentator (and pen of Communities Dominate Brands) Tom A Hinonen wrote a hugely detailed blog post, agreeing. Closer to home atleast one well known tweeter declared “He’s right”. Always nice to get positive feedback!
Valley investors are equally intoxicated and certainly for the next 6-12 months, if you’re running a mobile internet start-up you’ll be judged on your iphone app even if that is not strategically your final destination.
Since early 2008 I’ve been making bets that Android will over take iPhone in handset numbers by end of 2010 and go on to become the dominate mobile platform of the wider Western world.
This multinational lime green invasion force is home grown from California’s Google, but even now Silicon Valley is very much still iPhone Valley. This particular manifestation of the bubble effect of the Bay area has been compounded by some historical baggage. Europe had (until the second coming) been leading the way in advances in mobile, from inter-country spectrum standards such as GSM, to SMS. So we have a more pragmatic view when it comes to smart phones and the fragmented graveyard of mobile operating systems.
iPhone might seem perfectly placed to maintain it’s early blitzkrieg advances on the mobile battlefield, but it’s missing some heavy artillery in functionality (multi-tasking) and as a lone backer of the unified iPhone army, gambles the mixed blessing of control, closed ecosystem and superior design against the disorganised firepower of open-source and an impressive array of allies from the ecosystem, including a 400 strong Motorola Engineer Android army.
Apple can always improve the functionality of course (and will) but choice and competition has rather a good track record against early innovators – even if those leading the charge had superior technology.
The Apple Mac was and still is very much second place in market share to the inconsistencies of PC hardware & Microsoft Windows. Those who remember DIP switches or Windows 3.0 drivers will remember just how painful “compatibility” used to be, yet Windows has still dominated since.
Phil Libin of the excellent Evernote sighted the iPod as proof Apple could dominate a market. No question, the iPod is the Walkman of its time, often copied rarely equalled, it has achieved ubiquity; but a music player is not a phone. It has one job: to play one music format. Furthermore, you can buy that music from any store. How successful would the iPod be if you could only play Apple AppStore music on it?
The very fact Google has managed to get the assorted faculty of Mobile Operators and Handset Manufacturers to work with them at such speed gives you an idea of just how seriously they take the iPhone threat. Giants have been awakened.
Furthermore the wildcard of Microsoft, which has thus far entirely failed to respond appropriately to the inevitable future of mobile, replacing desktops and laptops within a handful of years, may yet awaken and surprise us all … or as it did with the Internet, the web and search, it may do too little, too late once again. I’d argue in fact, it is already too late, at least for any chance of dominating the first decade of real, usable, mobile internet device.
iPhone no question provided the first unasaleable proof that if you give users a mobile internet device which is easy to use with flat rate data, they will embrace it like a their lost child.
But the ubiquitous platform in years to come will not be minimalist white and black and named after a fruit, it will be a Picasso Michelin-man with gangrene. You read it here first 🙂