Google Android is the worldwide leading smartphone OS in terms of shipments. I don’t think anyone would dispute that. iOS is the leading smartphone OS in terms of developer revenue, and I don’t think anyone would dispute that either. That Apple hates Android and would like to kill it – well, that may have been true under Steve Jobs.
But things are changing – Apple are introducing 4G, and beefing up Siri. Voice recognition and voice search are areas where Google do have quite a big patent portfolio, and both Google (through Motorola) and Samsung have 4G patents. So this could run and run.
If they keep hitting out at each other, there can only be one winner – Microsoft. The new Nokia Lumias – while a hideous ghastly yellow colour, and in a design that made me think it was a new LG Prada phone, but in yellow (seriously – if Apple can win the “trade dress” argument on just rounded corners and icons-that-do-the-same-thing-and-have-the-same-background-colour, I think LG and Prada would have a watertight case against Nokia, but I digress) – look pretty nifty, and even though Windows Phone 8 isn’t out yet, I can imagine Microsoft might have made some progress with some of the bugs in Windows Phone 7 but as Word 2010 still seems to have that strange page numbering bug I first saw in Word 2 for Windows 3.1, I wouldn’t hold your breath.
No, the truth of the matter is simple: consumers don’t like bad press, despite what P T Barnum might or might not have once said. And worse, Microsoft are copying Apple’s playbook: keep new features secret, don’t reveal too much too soon… and it does seem to be working. Worse, both Google and Microsoft spend an awful lot more on research and development than Apple do (approx 14% of profits compared to Apple’s 2%, if memory serves me right – I can’t find the article), and it’s starting to show – only now is iOS6 adding in turn-by-turn navigation, and that has to be licensed in. Google and Microsoft, of course, have their own mapping products already.
The current market share is pretty clear: Apple and Google 1 and 2, with the rest fighting over scraps – but Microsoft climbing fast. If Apple and Google don’t want to accept being number 2 and 3, behind Microsoft, they need to be settling their differences – and fast.