The battle for the next generation operating system is getting a lot of buzz these days from geek fanboys. Everyone can agree that lightweight systems that can run a variety of devices from smart phones to netbooks that run apps and web based tools are the future of information access, interaction and engagement. The two leading platforms today are Apple’s iOS which runs the iPhone and iPad and Android from Google that runs a variety of devices from their manufacturing partners. Pundits are obsessed with arguing over which one of these platforms will become the dominant platform, likening the battle to Microsoft versus Apple in the 1980s. In my opinion it doesn’t really matter what is the dominant platform is. Neither Apple nor Google make money off of selling their mobile OS to the consumer. I have an iPhone iPad and was playing with some Android phones this weekend and the web browsing experiences are pretty similar. I think that in the future there will be a move away from specific apps to web based experiences. The app store on Android is still evolving but it is going to copy the Apple model in the end. So the question then becomes who will be the big winners in all of this from a financial windfall perspective?
Here is my list of winners:
Apple – folks are buying up their mobile devices at a feverish pace and they have the highest margins in the consumer electronics business. It will also be interesting to see how the iAd mobile advertising platform is adopted by both brands and the consumer over the next year.
Google – search will evolve on mobile and some of their great web based services such as YouTube, Docs and GMail will become cash cows from relevant ad placement. They win on Apple or Android in my opinion because they make great products and services.
Mobile carriers – consumers are dying to give you guaranteed over two years an extra $15 – 30 per month for data service that sucks…nice business.
E-commerce incumbents – Amazon and EBay have a great understanding of the mobile space. Last week EBay acquired RedLaser a mobile bar code reader made by a company called Occipital which allows you to scan a barcode on your mobile device. Here is how Steve Yankovich vice president of eBay Mobile summed up the reason for the acquisition “The goal is to think about where consumers are when a product becomes of interest — buy or sell. My contention is that most of the time when inspriation strikes us around being a consumer, we are not sitting in front of our laptops”. The company says it expects to see $1.5 billion in gross merchandise sales volume through its mobile apps this year.
Social networks – mobile devices are the grease that really makes the wheels of the social space turn. Easy access from millions of new devices will only increase the number of people on twitter, Facebook, foursqaure, etc.
Microsoft – the consumer is being to conditioned to get what you make all of your money on for free. That won’t work out well for their business model in the end.
Legacy PC brands – Dell, HP, Lenovo can’t keep up with flat manufacturing business models employed by companies like HTC in the mobile space and netbooks and laptops are soon to be declining categories as mobile devices become more powerful and the preferred tool to consume web content. Similar to what happened in flat screen TVs with Vizio becoming the #1 brand.
Retailers who don’t get the web – it has revolutionized the shopping experience, customer service and empowered the consumer, most retailers still don’t get it.
Research in Motion – They understand mobile email, not much else. Have you ever tried to browse the web on a Blackberry? It sucks.