Oxford defines a duopoly as “a situation in which two suppliers dominate the market for a product or service”. This is also what countries like the UK say Google and Apple have when it comes to the mobile market. It’s quite difficult to argue against; there are phones without Google or Apple software, but they will never gain popularity. (Editor’s note: never say never.)
In almost all cases, a duopoly is a very bad thing. It limits consumer choice, gives ruling parties the opportunity to come to an agreement and shape the market in their favor, and pushes up prices.
We’ve seen the Google / Apple duopoly in action and it fits the bill for the most part. Gone are the days of buying a good Windows phone for $ 150 and will not be back. What is evident with this dreaded, but rarely talked about, duopoly is that this is exactly what consumers and a free market wanted to happen.
This does not mean you wanted this to happen, so you could settle down before going to the comments. I didn’t want that to happen either; I think MeeGo was a better choice, or maybe even webOS. But two people aren’t the decision makers, no matter how different we wish things were. Consumers liked Android and iOS more and the current duopoly was born. Long live the king (s). Or something.
For many people, their first smartphone was an iPhone or an Android phone. And these people might find it crazy that other great smartphone operating systems existed before iOS and Android. BlackBerry and Windows Mobile both have had times when they have been more successful than other brands. Yet none of the early operating systems gained enough followers to drive out the competition in significant numbers as we see today.
Now we have nostalgic users who reluctantly get their iPhone or Android back while bemoaning the loss of competition, disagreeing with users who happily accepted the changes and think we are all better because of them. Both are right. Both are wrong.
Luck played a role.
Google and Apple weren’t just lucky. Marketing, strategic partnerships with carriers and brand loyalty have all played an important role. And even that’s not always enough, as Amazon and Facebook’s broken phones prove. Someone had to “win the app wars” and no factor could have ensured a victory. Add a little luck to the smart decisions made by Apple and Google, and you’ll get to where we are today.
The “app wars” I’m talking about played the biggest role from my perspective. Maybe I’m jaded, but the only obvious advantage Android and iOS have over Windows Phone and others as well is in each company’s app store. Ease of use or security or even features just can’t compare to playing Angry Birds or having a great YouTube app. This too revolves around the wishes of consumers.
If you are developing an app today, you want to make it available for both Android and iOS, as you are doing it to make money in most cases. You know you’ll make more money if your app is available to more people and making another version of your app for relatively few users won’t pay off very much. Plus, you enjoy easy distribution and monetization even if you have to wet Google and Apple’s mouths by giving them their cut from above. It is a matter of simple economics and always has been.
Windows Phone died due to lack of application.
Windows Phone died due to lack of application. A lot of fingers have been pointed at Microsoft about its digital storefront or developer tools, but market share is the real cause of any application gap. Without enough users, its app store was not as profitable for building apps. Without the right apps, there would never be enough users. The gap between apps created a technological glitch for everyone involved, and ultimately the smart business decision was to stop trying to make a phone that could compete because no phone could compete. The same can be said for Palm, and pre-Microsoft Nokia, and BlackBerry, and all the other promising smartphone ideas that didn’t come from Apple or Google.
This is a problem with a clear solution that is almost impossible to achieve: build a better smartphone with better apps at a better price. Maybe fines and changes in laws or enforcement of existing laws can help, maybe not. But that won’t be something a smart engineer building prototypes in his garage will be able to fix.
Think about it for a minute: if I could create a high-end device running the latest version of your Favorite operating system from the past but it didn’t have any third-party apps, do you think it would sell very well? Should governments force changes to Make is it selling well? Should the buying public have the final say?
The market should – and will decide -.
If you said no, maybe, and yes, then we’re on the same page. We are also at the mercy of someone which is not us making decisions that affect what we can buy. I want to buy a modern version of the Nokia N9 with all the 5G and Wi-Fi 6th features that rival the best Android phone, but I also want to be able to install a handful of essential apps in it that aren’t. t available. Unfortunately, a browser and web applications cannot cover everything.
In the meantime, Android isn’t that bad even though Google can be. We have real choices when it comes to hardware and can reap the benefits of being half the duopoly. Let’s just hope the governments of the world don’t “fix” it in oblivion.