Amid multiple antitrust investigations around the world, I’m not sure he wanted to suggest that Google was the new Microsoft. But that’s the analogy that Google Chairman Eric Schmidt used in his discussion of Android’s growth and increasing lead over the iPhone.
Quoted in a Bloomberg article Schmidt said the following:
Booming demand for Android-based smartphones is helping Google add share at the expense of other software providers, Schmidt said yesterday in an interview at Bloomberg’s headquarters in New York . . . Customers are activating more than 1.3 million Android devices a day, Schmidt said.
“This is a huge platform change; this is of the scale of 20 years ago — Microsoft versus Apple,” he said. “We’re winning that war pretty clearly now.”
According to Gartner Research Android handsets constituted 72 percent of global smartphone sales in Q3, up from 52 percent a year earlier.
Android’s growth and UX improvement have been impressive. However, despite its platform lead Android lags when it comes to several key metrics including share of web traffic. This is even more true in the tablet category.
The Microsoft analogy may well be accurate and has been used by numerous financial analysts in discussing the iOS vs. Android rivalry. Apple’s proprietary approach has limited the platform’s reach, whereas Android’s Microsoft-like approach has gained it adoption by scores of hardware OEMs globally.
The irony is that Android’s success is partly built on it being the only viable response to the iPhone (perhaps until very recently with Windows Phone 8). Its more recent success is also driven by the fact that the gap between user experiences on the two platforms has now been substantially closed — much like what happened when Microsoft went from an amber, DOS UI to the Windows interface.
At the time Apple sued to prevent the “appropriation” of its design and UI elements and lost. History has repeated itself with Apple’s litigation against Samsung and other Android OEMs for “slavishly copying” the iPhone. Of course Apple won in US court against Samsung but that won’t stop the “Samdroid” juggernaut.
After its aforementioned legal victory against Apple, Microsoft went on to capture the dominant share of PC desktops, effectively creating a monopoly over the market. A number of years later Redmond was branded a legal monopoly in both in the US and Europe, although the US decision was substantially without any penalty. The Europeans fined Microsoft repeatedly however.
It’s quite possible that if Google’s Android continues at this pace and ascends to Microsoft-like dominance in the global smartphone market (80 percent – 90 percent share) we will see an effort to separate the platform from Google’s control. That’s not outside the realm of possibility.
Accordingly Google probably shouldn’t want Android to become that successful.