HP, RIM, Intel, Google, and Microsoft — the anti-iPads — are all running in separate directions to create closed ecosystems that compete with Apple’s iOS iPhone and iPad. I hate to shout “the emperor has no clothes!” in polite company, but that anti-iPad strategy is going to fail individually and collectively. With competition like this, Apple is getting smugger all the time, and with good reason.
It doesn’t have to end with Apple taking most of the marbles forever. All the anti-iPads have to do is work together a little to build a better ecosystem than they have today.
For this discussion, there are three elements to the ecosystem:
- A common set of third-party applications and their developers
- Markets where those third-party applications can be purchased and downloaded
- Cross-platform operating system features to support the applications
Right now, HP (WebOS), Intel (MeeGo), Google (Android), and Microsoft (Mobile Windows) are all creating walled cities of non-cooperation. That strategy is collectively doomed because there is no single ecosystem on the horizon that is going to excite the global market enough to seriously challenge Apple in the next three years — a market of 100 million tablets growing to 100 million a year before 2015.
But working somewhat together, the anti-iPads have a plausible chance.
Here’s how I’d put it together:
- All anti-iPad gadgets have to natively run Android applications.
- Make it easy for developers to cross-post their applications to the competing application marketplaces (“app store” being the trademark of Apple), so that each anti-iPad store will have lots of goods
- Make sure the Android code runs decently and behaves similarly across devices. Don’t mess with Angry Birds fanatics.
- ARM and Atom are the two microprocessors of record.
- It’s OK to have different UIs and features, as long as the mass-market of Android apps run well.
The reason for choosing Android is it’s way ahead in numbers of real apps, is attracting developers, and is viable. I declare Android apps the common feature of winning gadgets.
I am embarrassed that this prescription sounds so simplistic. But it’s a “united we stand, divided we fail” moment. Unless the anti-iPads come together with a common set of customer-attracting content and an ecosystem to obtain and use it, they’ll fail to achieve the success their individual strategies intend.
And let’s be blunt: there’s a pot of gold on the line for the entire industry to divvy up. Billions of dollars. So a winning smile and a losing strategy is not going to cut it in this battle.