Android Versus iPhone: The Illusory Cage Match

Earlier today, in a post regarding Apple’s acquisition of mobile-advertising company Quattro Wireless, I touched on the different approaches and objectives that Apple and Google bring to the smartphone marketplace.

As I mentioned, it’s fashionable to see Google’s Android-based handset, not to mention the handsets of its Android-based partners, as a cage-match warrior in mortal combat with Apple’s iPhone. It’s a facile metaphor, though, and it doesn’t help us gain a deeper understanding of the actual dynamics at play.

In truth, Apple and Google might have products and services that compete, but they are not in a zero-sum struggle for survival. Not even close. To the contrary, closer inspection reveals that Apple and Google have different approaches, philosophies, and objectives in the mobile world.

Apple wants to make money from everything it does. It closely manages and controls practically every aspect of the iPhone experience, and it wants to generate margin from the device sale, from application downloads at the AppStore, and from content downloads at iTunes. It would like to get a piece of advertising revenue, too, which is why it bought Quattro.

Google, on the other hand, is focused overwhelmingly on extending its advertising empire to smartphones. It will push text ads, displays ads, and any other ads that make sense in a mobile context. To do so, it has come to the conclusion that it needs its own mobile platform, which is where Android enters the picture.

Now, if you consider these two very different companies and their distinct perspectives on the mobile market, you can easily envision circumstances in which Apple and Google each prosper in their respective spheres of influence.

That’s just what Bill Gurley has done over at abovethecrowd.com. In a cogent, eminently readable piece that advances logically and patiently to its conclusion, Gurley explains why Apple and Google aren’t on a path toward mutually assured destruction, despite what the hyperventilation and sensationalism of some commentators might lead you to believe.

Gurley begins by examining the claim from a Morgan Stanley analyst that “Apple is playing is to become the Microsoft of the smartphone market.” By end of his post, he’s refuted that assertion, contending instead that Google is aiming for that distinction.

All of which leads to the obvious question: Where does that leave Microsoft? As I’ve explained before, to the extent that there is a so-called smartphone war, Microsoft has suffered the greatest losses. Google has pillaged Windows Mobile handset licensees and left Microsoft with one last chance, represented by Windows Mobile 7, to redeem itself.

Some reports suggest that Windows Mobile 7 will not ship until the fourth quarter of 2010. That could be a case of far too little, far too late.

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