Ever since Android started taking off, people have warned that Apple was going to lose the smartphone wars, just like it lost the PC wars.
In the 80s, Apple led the way with computer innovation for the Mac. But it was Microsoft that eventually took control of the personal computing market and never let go. Apple was relegated to a niche player, and almost died.
This time, Apple led the way with the iPhone, but Google’s Android is now shipping on 80% of all smartphones, relegating Apple to a niche player. Apple, with $US160 billion in cash, isn’t anywhere close to death, but for some people, memories of the 90s linger, and there is a concern that the same thing is going to happen eventually.
Apple CEO Tim Cook was asked if he wasn’t putting the company in the same vulnerable position it found itself in in the 90s by Daisuke Wakabayashi at the Wall Street Journal.
Cook rejected the comparison for two reasons.
First, he says the reason Windows left the Mac in the dust is that the Mac lost key applications. As a result, users went to Windows computers.
This time, Apple has an equal, or better set of applications. Apple has a million iPhone applications, and half a million iPad applications. On Android, Cook says there only 1,000 apps specifically designed for tablets. “That’s one of the reasons, although not the only reason, why the experience on Android tablets is so crappy because the app is nothing more than a stretched out smartphone app,” says Cook.
Second, he says Android can’t be compared to Windows because Android is far too fragmented.
“The other thing is that Windows pretty much was one thing,” says Cook. “Android is like Europe. Europe was a name that somebody came up with for Americans who didn’t understand that Europe was a lot of countries that weren’t like U.S. states. They were very different. Android is many things. How many people who use a Kindle know that they’re using Android? And you see what Samsung is doing by putting more and more software on top.”
On some level, what Cook says is true. But, the risk is that he’s talking about what’s happened in the last six years. What happens in the next six years when Android takes over 80% of the smartphone and tablet markets? Will developers still work on iOS? Or will that change.
Cook wasn’t asked. However, he was asked about market share. His answer: We’re number in most major markets, and where we’re number two, we’re going to try to change that.
“(Among true smartphones), we’re number one in the U.S., we’re number one in Canada, we’re number one in Japan, we’re number two in Western Europe, we’re number two in Eastern Europe,” says Cook. “We’re number two in Asia when you take Japan out. So in most geographies, in most major regions of the world, we’re one or two. Would I like to be one in the places where we are two? You better believe it.”