Sunday, May 29, 2011

Harsh Realities: Apple vs Android

Let me state up front that my original love for Apple has turned to ashes. I could spend the rest of the post cataloging all the reasons why in excruciating detail, but it wouldn't matter. I'd be falling victim yet again to the old geek flaw that the way I see the world is the way It Should Be Seen by Everyone Else. And the world just doesn't work that way.

There's also the the following incontrovertible facts:
  • Q1 2011: Apple reported revenue of $26.74 billion and profits of $6 billion, or $6.43 per share. Revenue was up 71 percent from a year ago, and earnings were up 78 percent. Analysts were expecting revenue of $24.38 billion and earnings per share of $5.38.
  • Q2 2011: Apple reported revenue of $24.67 billion and profits of $5.99 billion, or $6.40 per share. Analysts were expecting revenue of $23.38 billion and earnings per share of $5.37.
Apple can't make product fast enough to satisfy the market. Even with the Japanese 9.0 earthquake and resultant tsunami Apple's ability to sell product was barely touched. Apple has exceeded Wall Street expectations for the last 20 quarters. Apple's market cap now exceeds Microsoft's, making it the second most valuable company behind Exxon.

Apple, for all practical purposes, is invincible. Even if they started screwing up next Tuesday their momentum is great enough that they could coast for years, if not for decades like Sony and Microsoft, and still make boatloads of cash. And knowing the deep bench that Steve Jobs has built both managerially and technically, Apple won't be screwing up like that any time soon.

I say all of this as a prelude to my comments about an article published by The Street titled "10 Androids That Outmuscle the iPhone". Based on my experience with Android in multiple devices, the conclusions alluded to in the article are a bit optimistic. All the new handsets look overwhelming on paper; dual-core multi-gigahertz processors, lots of RAM and built-in storage, and supposedly the latest versions of Android.

And that's where the supposed superiority of these new handsets is questionable. At best.

I've worked with multiple Android and iOS devices. The distinction, the secret sauce, is the software. And for just about every practical task you care to name, iOS meets or exceeds Android by a comfortably wide margin. And it's iOS, or more specifically, the polish and attention to detail that have been lavished on iOS, that have helped make Apple the multi-billion-dollar unassailable juggernaut it is today.

There will be a lot of customers who'll buy these latest handsets. Many more, however, will walk into an Apple store, try out the latest iPhone or iPad, and walk out with an Apple product. Even if they try out one of the newest handsets first. That's because the real differentiator is the refined quality and consistency of iOS. Android is neither refined nor of consistent quality, especially when handset vendors (such as HTC) are allowed to modify the Android user experience with inferior changes and additions.

Apple has built up a multi-billion dollar formidable position over the last five years with its constant refinements to iOS, not just to the hardware. And until Google and its partners realize this and apply an equal amount of effort to achieve the same level of consistently refined quality then no amount of hardware will help. It's like watching the "Linux-on-the-desktop-overcoming-Microsoft" meme play out all over again, and I already know how that turned out.

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