Android: The New “Industry Standard”

Rod Canion: OPEN

I just finished reading this fantastic book by Rod Canion, former CEO of Compaq Computers. I had no idea that Compaq was directly responsible for the rise of PC clones—what the author calls “industry standard” computers—due to their successful reverse-engineering of PC-DOS from the original IBM PC. They were so successful that they ended up licensing their reverse-engineered DOS back to Microsoft, who redistributed it via updates to their own MS-DOS.

In the book’s epilogue, Canion turns to smartphones and tablets, crediting Apple with further iterating on the iPod and iTunes Music Store to deliver the first modern smartphone and app ecosystem. No argument there. With regard to Android, however, I was a bit surprised to read this:

Google was trying to create an industry standard much like the PC industry standard, no doubt hoping for the same powerful results.

With a current global marketshare of 76% (vs. 19% for iOS devices), it seems fairly obvious that Android has, in fact, done just that.

Notice how I wrote “Android”, not “Google”. Here’s why: Think about the many flavours of Android available from different OEMs…

Samsung’s TouchWiz
LG Optimus UI
HTC’s Sense
Sony’s Xperia UI
Google’s “Google Experience” Android (Nexus, Android One)

All of the above ship with Google services onboard. There are others that don’t…

Xiaomi’s MIUI with Sina Weibo Services
Amazon’s Fire UI with Amazon Services

Xiaomi shouldn’t be discounted here; the company sold 59 million devices last year in China alone, almost as much as LG sold worldwide! And if you add in CyanogenMod and other custom ROMs you end up with an almost immeasurable amount of Android variants.

We all know how Android got here, by Google giving it away for free, often less than free. And for the record, I don’t think Android’s commanding lead in the smartphone market makes the other major mobile platforms any less worthy—iOS provides an excellent user experience for those willing to pay for it, and both Windows Phone and BlackBerry seem to have found a sustainable niche in the market. But when I think about the little guys—Ubuntu, Sailfish and Firefox OS—I honestly wonder how they’re going to survive.