Android took 75% market share during Q3 2012! With fragmentation like that, who needs unity?
A few years back as Google just began kicking up its huge mobile dust storm in earnest, most Android competitors took some comfort in the fragmentation myth: that the many emerging isotopes and skins of Android would result in a broken ecosystem and developer & consumer pain. So when IDC announced the other day that Android's share of global smartphone shipments reached 75% during Q3 2012, I began to wonder what went wrong with that fragmented way of thinking. Where did it come from?
The current market stats are amazing: there were 136 million Android-based smartphones shipped during Q3 according to IDC, five times as many iOS-based smartphones. Those two platforms now have an oligopoly with 90% market share, leaving the others to fight for the market crumbs. How did it come to this?
The contradictory notion that Android's sudden white hot success would turn into its undoing reeked of sour grapes. Android's wide market adoption was a painful lesson for the market incumbents to watch. Google, a virtual mobile newcomer, was being taken very, very seriously. By operators. By vendors. By developers. And by consumers.
Smartphone portfolios were suddenly filled with Android-based devices, and Google's apps store quickly filled with high quality apps and services.
And then came talk of potential binary breaks as Google amazed with version updates at an inhuman pace. Some industry executives chimed in. There were too many OS builds on the market at the same time. Too many form factors. Too many APIs, too many tweaks, too many options, and too much customization. Supposedly the belief was that all this would be Android's Achilles' heel.
But for the most part, in the end, this fragmented thinking did a lot more harm to the competition. It enabled the creation of artificial comfort zones and supported the on-going denial of real-world trajectories. Industry executives from several non-Android adopter companies pointed to Google's market dynamics as being self destructive. Thick PowerPoint stacks were creating trying to prove this theory. All a waste of energy.
Exaggerating or inventing competitors' weaknesses is an effective --but expensive-- method of rationalizing. Rather than looking in the mirror, it's tempting to spend energy in trying to prove the competition is wrong than prove yourself right. It's a matter of creating the proper mental attitude. And aptitude.
Binary breaks? A million tiny pieces? Android managed to keep itself together.