As Samsung starts to dominate is Android’s promise of ‘open’ under threat?

By January 9, 2012Amazon, Google, Mobile

I recently read Tim Wu’s The Master Switch (read my review here) the central thesis of which is that tech revolutions start with the promise of freedom to operate, light regulation, plenty of scope for new entrants and a promise of an enduring new order, but always end with regulated monopolies and oligopolies. A discussion over the weekend with Jof Arnold has got me wondering is Android is about to suffer the same fate.

The following bullets sum up the most pertinent recent news on Android:

Looking at this, it is easy to see a future for Android where the lions share of sales are with two vendors, one of whom (Amazon) has already forked Android and has a ‘closed’ mentality, and one (Samsung) that has a history of proprietary OS development (remember Bada). For a while Jof has been saying that he can see Samsung making its own fork of Android, and if that happens the smartphone market would be dominated by two companies with roughly equivalent proprietary OS-hardware combinations – Apple and Samsung.  The tablet market could end up in a similar place with Apple and Amazon being the lead players, although Samsung may have something to say about that.

There are of course other credible future scenarios for Android, including a resurgence of Motorola under Google’s ownership, but I think it is becoming clear that even if Android does win out against iOS it doesn’t necessarily follow that we will have an open, startup friendly, mobile ecosystem.  It may just be that we have a new set of gatekeepers.

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  • Anonymous

    A small blow for Schimdt and Gartner’s statement that Android is over 50% market share. Looks like the final quarter saw a big surge for iOS purchases:

  • They are close enough to 50% as makes little difference. I saw some other numbers this am which had their share at over 50%.

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  • Funny you coming up with 2 pieces on the closed internet – this above and the Google search piece. Always ignored Apple’s overtures over the decades given their closed stance, so not glad to see anything that takes us in that direction. I was intigued by a tweet from @actionlamb getting very excited about Microsoft’s WP7.5 for Mobile (normally understated guy even though originally in the Microsoft PR function in the UK) By chance on other business I was at the BETT show at Olympia yesterday and was given a demo of this OS on an HTC phone. Not an expert in this area but the Tiles/Hub idea of navigating content with what seemed like a completely open stance on connecting to all social media platforms and pulling in Gmail as well if needed, certainly made me think they are on to something if they can create access to market and of course stimulate the developer community to support it. I gather WP 8.0 shortly and Windows 8 in the background in the same Tiles/Hub format etc drawing the consumer and enterprise layers closer together.

  • Hi Damon – Microsoft’s WP7.5/8 seems to be generally well regarded, although I haven’t played with it myself. I wouldn’t write the old dog off yet, but I do think their tiny mobile OS market share, lack of decent handset partners and small app offering (all related) mean they face an uphill battle. Maybe Nokia will change that. The Lumina looks cool.
    I’m still betting on Android though.

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