Everybody and his brother know that Apple and Google are beating Microsoft and its latest yet-to-appear Phone 7 in the mobile market. You don’t need a table, but just in case here is the latest comparative numbers available from Gartner – note the Microsoft market share is for Windows Mobile 6.x and other Microsoft phone OS. There is a great comparison of the 3 major smartphone OS here. The specs are close now that Phone OS 4 will be out June 7th. But except for the number of available Apps, Android leads the parade. The real problem for Microsoft is that Apple and Google are locked in such a features battle that their latest functionality constantly ups the ante versus the yet-to-appear Phone 7. But unlike in the case of its great Windows and the Office software victories, not only is Microsoft playing catch-up against very fast moving opponents; but it is starting from a Windows/Zune/Silverlight mixed bag of technologies that will present major integration tasks.
The second problem is Windows itself. Google beats Windows with a slim and trim Linux-based Android. True, Windows 7 is definitely less bad than Vista but still slower than Windows XP .
Source: Wikipedia, Gartner
However, Windows 7 still carries all the old, underlying Windows baggage: 50M++ lines of code, huge runtime bloat, scores of problems like .DLL Hell and Object/Resource disappearance. So Windows 7 has a tendency to repeat the Windows XP genetic problems – extravagant memory and resource usage, inexplicable lapses in response time, and the tendency to require a reboot after 8 hours or so of continuous operation to get everything performing well again. Windows at 21 years is showing its age.
In contrast Google uses Linux and has been able to vitalize it for mobile lite use in the form of Android. The proof is that Android has launched over 50,000 apps and is now growing faster than Apple iPhone . But what makes Android particularly attractive to developers is that it uses familiar developers tools [think Flash, Java, as well as C/C++]. Plus Android works across many hardware platforms including ARM, Atom, X86, and other processor families. This Openness makes Android attractive to hardware Finally hardware vendors love the fact the cost of loading Android on their specific device is zero in comparison to the Windows tax. And they have available the Android source code so if they want to fix/add/modify features vendors can do so.
Thus a host of vendors including Dell, Acer and others will be introducing Android powered notebooks, netbooks and smartphones over the summer – in effect putting the Windows monopoly at risk just like the IE browser monopoly of 5 years ago when IE had 95%++ market share to 53% today [ see wikipedia here]. The bottom line is that Google has been able to take the superior OS performance of Linux and make it a leader in the fast emerging markets for smartphones and mobile lite device. This must give large corporates pause – because Android and Chrome OS may afford them the same opportunity to ditch the Windows support tax in their much anticipated Windows PC upgrade cycle.
As noted Google has managed to harness a wide swath of developers because Android development is more open, interoperable among hardware platforms and provides many familiar hardware and software technologies. Also, the Android’s Apache License allows software developers to make money on their apps without having to adhere to GPL’s everything derived must also be open terms. However, Google has yet to demonstrate the Redmond competence – the ability to deliver itself or through third parties software and tools that make administering and managing Google Android based computing devices easy to do. But this may be the only flaw in Google’s Hybrid Open Model for its Android and Chrome OS – other wise the price is right, the opportunity is large, and delivery by Google [see latest Android Froyo review here] is more than timely.
Finally, Google is openly challenging Microsoft to stay up with the latest standards on the Web. In effect, Google is promoting Web standards based computing not just for the Cloud Computing but also for traditional PC based computing as well as the mobile lite devices. For example, Google’s Chrome browser has earned a reputation for being one of the fastest while delivering cross platform capabilities [Apple, Windows, Linux, and key mobile OS platforms]. But just as in the case of Mobile Phone 7 and Windows 7 for the PC , Microsoft has a huge software development catch-up task before it with the IE9 browser. Maybe nothing concentrates the mind [and reduces Redmond’s apparently debilitating internecine warfare] as much as playing from behind – this is the so-called “Redmond is better as an underdog” effect.
With Google’s hybrid open strategy developers and hardware vendors are able to make money because they a)have low cost open source and/or other familiar development tools; b)have low or no cost OS and runtime utilities deployment charges; c)have the ability to create their own proprietary code and/or hardware features, d)have available an open source OS in Android and the basic Chrome OS framework which they can modify as they see fit [but see the so-called fragmentation danger raised by EnGadget and others] and e)have a vendor in Google who has stayed mostly out of their hardware or software markets save to set high base level standards so Google can make money on advertising.
In effect, Google is betting its hybrid open source model will beat Microsoft [and Apple’s] proprietary and monopoly based models for runing a large-scale computing business. It is not the purebred Richard Stallman Open Source model[thank heavens, since developers and vendors can choose to make money with proprietary extensions, apps, and software]. However, these vendors also know if they become too abusive in pricing or support they always can have competitors including Open Sourcers willing and more easily able to enter the market. In effect, Google is enabling an Open-based “Do No Evil” in a major technology market.