iPhone Myopia & Google Android Euphoria
3:55 PM -- First of all, I want to reiterate, both the new 3G iPhone and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)’s Android are great additions to the wireless world, and represent sort of the O’Reilly and the Olbermann of wireless perspectives, although I’m not sure which is left or right, but one’s "open" and one’s "closed." (See Open=Beta? and Does Apple Bite?)
Both will push the wireless envelope, but now that both devices/platforms are launched, the hype around both needs a bit of caution. (See Slideshow: Switching On Android.)
Last week I spoke at a wireless conference in San Francisco, attended mainly by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, wireless execs, and journalists/bloggers/pundits. Great conference, but one of the things that stuck out for me was a question a panelist asked the audience: “How many people in the audience own an iPhone?” About 30 to 40 percent of the crowd raised their hands. Looking around at the tables for folks with laptops, probably close to half of the laptops were MacBooks and MacBook Pros. Remember, guys, I’m a Mac fan -- I have a bunch and own Apple stock -- but this is not the world.
One recent article has Apple selling 5 million iPhones this quarter, while another has Apple selling 40 million iPhones globally in 2009. This out of a global market for 1.2 BILLION (40,000,000 vs. 1,200,000,000) phones. A great start, but not game over. The Apple Apps store, in my opinion as a iPod Touch owner playing with the Apps Store (see Apple, Operator War Averted (for now)), is that the store is one of the greatest collections of maybe great beta apps around. But it’s not game over.
On the other side of the fence, kudos to Google for launching Android as the T-Mobile US Inc. G1. Android, like the iPhone, was the subject of untold panels at the conference, and the topic of a great talk by a guy from Google. I have not had a chance to play with one yet, but for all the hoopla around "open," there is a lot of “same old, same old” for me: $179 price point, "subject to credit approval; two-year service agreement, qualifying rate plan, and data plan required.” Nothing new there. Several reports stated that that the $25 data plan will be capped at 1GB per month. I could not find that clause (I saw it on third-party sites, so it may have been pulled), but T-Mo does say: “To provide the best network experience for all of our customers we may temporarily reduce data throughput for a small fraction of customers who use a disproportionate amount of bandwidth."
And with "yet another new hardware platform” (YANHP?), we’re possibly looking at headaches after launch, especially with an operator like T-Mobile that is relatively new to 3G, as well as yet another platform for apps to come to market, which in my view is a dual-edged sword, as I really hate being a beta tester. Like my comments on the 3G iPhone, time will heal all wounds (or beta app headaches), but it takes time.
So, in the past month, we’ve seen the game change from both sides. Both platforms have pushed the ecosystem and both will continue to push wireless, but in my view, it’s a billion unit plus per year market, and a myopic focus on “Apple Wins” or a euphoric belief that “Android Wins” misses the point. The point is we all win, the folks in 2009 that buy the 50 million iPhones and Androids, as well as the 1.15 billion that buy stuff from Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK), Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC), LG Electronics Inc. (London: LGLD; Korea: 6657.KS) , Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications , BlackBerry , High Tech Computer Corp. (HTC) (Taiwan: 2498), and others. The pace of innovation is quickening, and from a lot of directions.
— Jeff Belk is a principal at ICT168 Capital LLC, focused on developing and guiding global growth opportunities in the Information and Communication Technology space. He can be reached at [email protected]. Special to Unstrung