John Gruber of Daring Fireball has put up an interesting postdebating marketshare vs. profit-share numbers in the good old Android vs. iPhone feud. He comes to the reasonable conclusion that the criteria for defining “winning” can vary, and that not all are equally valid. To wit — money is the way you keep score in business.
If we count all the money in Apple’s pockets from iOS devices vs. all the money in Google’s pockets from Android devices (and throw in ODMs like HTC, Samsung, and Motorola for good measure), Apple’s clearly winning. Heck, if we count the amount of customer satisfaction, the amount of iPhones sold vs. any other handset,, etc. you can find any number of reasons to rationalize the iPhone as winning.
And that’s fine. But I’d argue it’s wrong. Apple isn’t winning.
Apple’s already won.
Apple and the iPhone won years ago, when Google hit the brakes on their BlackBerry and Windows Mobile Standard competitor and began cloning the iPhone, when RIM and Microsoft stumbled their way towards Storm and QNX, and Windows Phone, when Palm went webOS, and Nokia burned their platform.
The smartphone now looks, feels, and acts nothing like it did before the iPhone, and that’s because of the iPhone. Reviews now compare, contrast, and dub “killer” every new hero phone on the market to only one thing, and that’s because the iPhone redefined the market.
And in tablets, the enormity of the victory is even more ridiculous. 18 months after launch it still has not a single rival. No one is breathing down the iPad’s neck. No one is even breathing in the same hemisphere.
Whatever happens in the future, whether Android becomes the Windows of mobile, whether Rim or Microsoft surge back to the top spot, whether Apple trips and falls and one day becomes a shadow of its current success, Apple has set the standard and shaped the industry.
Every time a finger pinches or swipes a big capacitive touch screen, every time the modern web is functionally rendered, every time an app is easily purchased from a built-in store on any device, it concedes that the battle now can only be fought for the next generation.
Because for this generation, Apple has already won.
Coda: We live in a world where the flagship front-facing QWERTY BlackBerry has a capacitive touch screen, where Microsoft has a functional mobile web browser, and where every platform has an app store — and Android has several. If you don’t think that’s because Apple won this generation, you’re nuts.