The Androids strike back


No, I am not a Star Wars fan, although I admit to having lusted after Princess Leia once or twice.

This article is about a war altogether different: The mobile operating systems war! Don’t laugh, this war is about as important and fought as fiercely as many conventional ones before it. Yes, it’s a war alright, with winners, losers and casualties all ‘round.

Consider this:

The whole market for smart mobile devices is on track to grow to approximately 460 million units by the end of 2012. At current prices that translates to sales of approx. $200 Billion dollars! Many wars have been fought over for considerably less.

Apple, the topic of last month article, still looks like the knight in shining armour. It has experienced the biggest increase in market share, however, Android OS based devices have also grown strongly and are the leader of the pack by operating system. Apple (iOS) is now the leader by brand, having knocked Nokia (Symbian OS) off the number one pedestal.

Hewlett Packard, another mobile king wannabe, looks more like Monty Python’s black knight, deplete of legs and arms, still pretending to be relevant and ready to fight, but really only a shadow of its former self. Back in April 2010 HP had bought Palm, a mobile computer devices company, for a cool 1.2 Billion. The rational for the purchase was Palm’s “Palm OS”, an operating system specifically written for its mobile devices.

Fast forward to August 2011: After releasing its new TouchPad with Palm OS earlier this year, HP, the world number one computer maker, was forced to sell off their remaining 4800 TouchPad’s in Australia via Harvey Norman stores for a mere $98.00 (original release price $598.00).

Hubris and an attempt to rescue top executives reputations (damaged due to the expensive purchase of Palm) had let HP to enter the tablet wars with yet another operating system. Bad mistake: In September 2011 HP belatedly realised that its arms and legs had been ripped off by Apple, which continues to sell its touch devices like hotcakes at high margins. The damage apparently so bad that HP may be forced to sell off even its profitable PC division.

Enter the Android Galactic Empire: The only contender out there that looks like having a chance of stopping the rise of the Apple Knights.

The Android Empire, a loose band of mobile device and PC manufacturers, is being supplied with the necessary weaponry (the Android operating system) by none other than the Google Trade Federation. The resources of Google are reported to be googligantic* and observers predict a long and protracted series of battles.

It remains to be seen if the force is still with Apple to predict accurately future trends of the fickle mobile market. Steve (Skywalker) Jobs has retired from Apple and some say that his extraordinary talent will be sorely missed.

Meanwhile, back at the damaged battle star Microsoftica (the extend of the damage is disputed), Bill (Darth Vader) Gates is plotting his next move. Details are scant and disguised, as usual, by a lot of heavy breathing. However, most observers believe that the imminent release of Windows 8 is a sign that he has not given up on his dream of touch pad world domination.

Even Amazon (Jabba the Hutt) .com, buoyed by having struck fear into the hearts of Australian book store owners, is reportedly entering the war with a typically cheap shot (upgrade of its Kindle book reader).

As the war rages on, innocent bystanders have taken their position: The Apple Jedi Knight supporters will brandish their light-sabres in defence of Apple, just as long as Apple devices make them look cool and infer copious amounts of social status.

Android sympathisers will continue to point furiously to the open architecture of their beloved OS, apparently absolutely essential for a mobile device and well worth dying for.

What about last year’s market leader Nokia and their Symbian OS? Remember Princess Leia’s expression just before planet Alderan was destroyed by the Death Star? You get the picture…

*Googligantic – term commonly used for companies worth more than the GDP of a medium sized country.