There has been a lot of talk about how Android is beating Apple because it has so much more marketshare. There also been a lot of talk about how that doesn’t matter since Apple had the majority of the profits. Then there’s the also rans, Microsoft, Blackberry, Firefox.
If this was any other industry, such as automobiles, each of those players would take a slice of the pie and it wouldn’t matter. There is a difference here that no one seems to understand. These technology companies are not building the cars. They’re building the roads.
The equivalent scenario doesn’t exist in the physical world. Anti-trust laws wouldn’t allow it, but our laws have not caught up to our technology. The real-world equivalent of the Android Ecosystem or iOS ecosystem would be one where you purchase a car from Ford and then you have to drive it on roads developed by Ford. You wouldn’t be allowed to drive your Honda on those same roads.
The solution to this problem already exists, we just haven’t fully realized it’s potential yet. The solution is the web, or the future incarnation of the web. I think we’re beginning to see evidence that the operating system will be less and less relevant in the future. If you look at Microsoft for example, they pretty much own the OS environment, and yet you get the sense from Satya Nadella that the future is much more agnostic than the present.
In the past year Microsoft has done several things to help democratize technology such as providing part of the .NET framework as an open source project. They’re also placing more emphasis on the Azure platform, which is natively agnostic.
I think in 10 years we’re going to see a very different world than what we saw in the last 10 years. The biggest holdout to all of this of course is Apple. I have a strong feeling that once Apple’s sales begin to decline they’re going to shift to a more open model. They’ve done it before. Both OS X and Safari were open source projects. I think we’ll start to see a more open Apple under Tim Cook. The real test will be whether or not they open up their new Swift programming language and allow it to be used on other platforms besides Mac and iOS.
One day in the not too distant future we’re going to see a much more level playing field. Before that can happen though, there will have to be an extinction event. There are far too many developers out there that are not making any money with apps. The app store model is slowly turning into the web model, one where everything’s free. We all know that can’t be sustained. That’s exactly why these artificial walls will need to fall away and allow us to create the automobile industry of the technology world. One in which there are numerous players that all have ten to fifteen percent of the market. No one really dominates, and everybody wins.