As the digital media revolution advances, a strange battle between control and freedom is surfacing.
Historically speaking, Apple has always tended to be at the forefront of technological innovation, yet Android (the mobile operating system owned by Google) is rarely far behind. Despite this, it is maintaining a significantly large market share (over 80% in 2015) in the smartphone market.
The reason for this is simple: despite the widespread success of the iPhone, Google never set out to mimic it. Instead, they focused on differentiation (Hola marketing students).
By focusing on the creation of a new operating system, rather than mimicking Apple’s rigid design, Google appealed to a different market landscape altogether. Remember the long tail distribution?
Apple represents the limited variety segment (the head) with wild popularity, whereas Android (the long tail) appeals to all the tiny niche markets with little individual popularity, but which trumps market share when combined.
The long tail paradigm is the reason both of these operating systems continue to succeed. The interesting part is, in a world where gatekeepers and control are slowly disappearing from the media, why does Apple – a company built on control and closed standards – retain so much appeal to today’s consumer market?
It’s like you’re a mail order bride, who climbs out of a stuffy shipping container into a new life (is that how it works?), only to be forced to ‘forsake all others’ for a chubby, rich, white dude you’ve just met; you literally have no choice but to confine yourself within the Apple realm. It’s a glorified prison sentence.
As soon as you purchase an iPhone you are instantaneously limited to Apple earphones, the Apple App Store, specific chargers, the iTunes store, and a whole bunch of other hardware and software. They’re comfortable to use, and their gatekeeper, stalkerish, Big Brother-esque status maintains a decent quality throughout Apple software.
Android is the polar opposite. It’s an open system; the control, creation and management of software is user-generated. Anyone can create an app. It’s the epitome of smartphone freedom. Of course, the downside to user-curation is the lack of predetermined quality.
In the end, that’s all it comes down to: quality vs. freedom. It’s the same battle the legacy media is slowly losing to the internet. Team quality has bred the (arguable) most valuable and profitable brand on the globe, while team freedom has harvested a massive market share. Can the two exist in harmony forever? The next decade or so will be interesting.