Android vs iOS and The Death of New Developers
Like every market out there, the mobile market is a cutthroat land of competition and profits. While it is a relatively new market, two competitors have already risen to the top and are currently battling it out to decide the true victor – Apple and Google, already two giants in the industry of technology.
Bert Danner, a writer at SeekingAlpha.com, has an insightful article on the Network Effect and its impact on the market. It defines the Network Effect as any platform’s self-reinforcing user base; the more customers and users one receives, the more third party support (E.G. developers, service providers, etc…) the platform receives. The more third party support received, the more appealing the product becomes to users, creating a loop which can very easily carry a product to financial success by increasing its value exponentially, especially in a new market where competition is still viable between multiple companies rather than a handful.
The mobile market has existed for a shorter length of time than most any other market, even when one considers the short life cycle and quick development of new fields in technology. Yet already, Google and Apple are pushing themselves far and away from the rest of the competition. They have created large markets for which most of the application developers readily flock to, in order to achieve the highest pool of customers, and between the two companies, have a large part of the mobile market’s collective brainpower dedicated to furthering their own products.
Where Bert differs from the real concern, however, is his focus on the victor of the battle between these operating systems. What is more interesting – and indeed, more concerning – is to consider what this means for the rest of the mobile market. Apple and Google have created two towering giants in regards to technology, support, and third party development for their products. Rather than pondering on who will win, customers should start thinking about who will lose – and in the end, that could be all of us.
With Android and iOS firmly controlling the majority of mobile technology, it will be difficult, or maybe even impossible for anyone to hope to break into the market. In order to achieve a sustainable level of customers and attract a desirable level of developers from outside sources they would have to compete against these two titans of the industry. This would require a level of funding and manpower few companies that aren’t already very well established in other areas would ever be capable of.
The networking effect doesn’t just build up a certain company – it starts to tear down any new competition as well. When new customers and clients arrive in the market, few will choose a product they envision as inferior, whether perceived or actual. The networking effect slowly begins to create an indomitable snowball, which limits the creativity of the market and creates such monopolies as Microsoft’s borderline control over the home computer market, or the trifecta of companies that control virtually every home video game console created in the last decade.
Even if a platform that could be considered greater, superior in many or all ways to these two companies and their devices, were to come along tomorrow it is questionable if it would fare any better than the rest of the competition. Customers and developers are attracted to well-established and stable markets; in the end, it becomes difficult or impossible to establish yourself in the market without already being established, furthering the network effect and creating an effective total dominance over all present and future clients in the market. Apple and Google are likely going to continue this battle for years, maybe forever – they both have the funding and established systems of customers, employees, and developers to continue upgrading their platforms for years. But it may only serve to further repress any promising products from outside their tight circle of control in the coming years.