Tasting the Ice Cream Sandwich
Posted May 16, 2012 11:29 UTC (Wed) by anselm
In reply to: Tasting the Ice Cream Sandwich
Parent article: Tasting the Ice Cream Sandwich
Yes, but people still don't buy Android installation media for their iPhones – they're buying phones that they like that happen to come with Android preinstalled. The ecosystem is a factor that goes into picking a phone but if all Android phones were Android-robot green with yellow and pink stars all over them and Mickey Mouse ears attached then the ecosystem could be the best thing in the world but people still wouldn't want to be seen with a dorky phone.
It's really not the consumers who drive Android uptake. Consumers will buy all sorts of strange stuff, and for most people a phone is still a phone first and a mobile computer second (even though we all know that modern smartphones are really computers with the ancillary ability of being able to place and receive phone calls). A phone, unlike a computer, is a lifestyle object, so many people want to be seen with a reasonably recent and cool-looking one. Android phones do become cheaper and cheaper, but people who are in the market for a cheap phone don't see an Android phone, they see a cheap phone, and if it is running that Android thing they've heard about then so much the better as long as it looks like a goodish phone. If it was really running CP/M it would still be a goodish-looking cheap phone. (The first iPhone was a pretty lame phone from a technical POV when it came out but boy did it look slick, especially to someone who already had an iPod and whose mind equated »Apple stuff« with »cool stuff«, which means a large swathe of the populace.)
Android is out there mainly because the phone manufacturers like it – it saves them the trouble of maintaining their own operating system (and ecosystem) to compete with Apple. Also, with Google in the background, which is big, not a phone manufacturer (Motorola notwithstanding), and not going to go away, Android looks good to a phone manufacturer in a way that a dinky little outfit like Canonical (with Ubuntu) never could, which is why we are unlikely to see Ubuntu phones anytime soon regardless of their technical merit.
Furthermore, phone manufacturers want to sell lots and lots of goodish-looking cheap phones (especially in places where people don't have money to burn on the latest top-of-the-line iPhone), so a reasonably cool operating system that doesn't cost them license fees, like Android, is a good thing. Why do you think Microsoft tries to extort patent licensing fees from Android-using phone manufacturers? Right, because they want to disrupt the Android value proposition for phone manufacturers by making it more expensive to put Android on a phone than Windows Phone. The reasoning seems to be that once using Windows Phone is more convenient for the phone manufacturers than using Android, they will go for it and the customers will follow along because they're not buying operating systems, they're buying phones – and a Windows Phone phone is still a reasonable phone for calling people even if its app ecosystem isn't quite like that of Android. Especially if the phone itself is cheaper.
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