Apple is the only major tech gadget company that makes the whole widget, so to speak; hardware and software, fully differentiated by quality components, and iOS and macOS (and watchOS, tvOS; you get the idea). What of Windows and Android, two of the world’s most used operating systems? They are both crutches for manufacturers.
Here’s the problem in a nutshell and why Apple– with iOS and macOS– are the envy of Apple’s competitors. What’s the difference between an iPhone and a Samsung Galaxy S-whatever? iOS. What’s the difference between a high end
Dell (sorry, there is no such thing) HP or Microsoft notebook and a MacBook? macOS (previously OS X).
Now, to cap this off, what’s the difference between a $200 Huawei smartphone and an $800 Samsung Galaxy S-whatever? $600. They both run Android OS. What’s the difference between a $1,000 HP notebook and a $2,000 Microsoft Surface notebook? $1,000. They both run Windows 10.
See the problem? Android-based smartphones and tablets all run Android and Google Play apps regardless of the price of the device. PCs that run Windows 10 are note easily differentiated from other brands that run Windows 10.
PC and smartphone manufacturers envy Apple because iOS and macOS differentiate Apple’s products substantially enough that Apple gets the majority of the industry’s profits by hanging out at the premium end of the product spectrum. Every other manufacturer gets crumbs.
Samsung Saw It First
Giant conglomerate Samsung saw the Android handwriting on the wall first, and suffered because Android could not be sufficiently differentiated from less expensive Android smartphones on the market. That brought about Tizen, Samsung’s attempt to hedge its bet with Android and Google.
To achieve the independence and flexibility that iOS gives Apple, Samsung has thrown support behind Tizen, a Linux distribution incorporating a native C runtime. The company has used Tizen to replace Android Wear on its flagship smartwatch offerings, but so far has only introduced Tizen smartphones in limited runs.
So far, Tizen hasn’t made it mainstream and doesn’t provide much, if any, competition to Android, but the attempt at differentiating Samsung from Google’s Android hasn’t gone unnoticed by other manufacturers beyond Samsung who recognize that using Android is a crutch that leaves Apple free to take most of the industry’s profits.
Differentiation is a key component of product marketing, and Chinese manufacturers– Huawei, Lenovo, Xiaomi, and others have begun to follow Samsung’s lead to be more like Apple by starting a variety of programs to develop their own Linux-based operating systems to compete with Android and iOS, and even launch projects to develop their own custom application processors to avoid the crutch of using Samsung, Qualcomm, MediaTek and other chipmakers (as Apple has done with its own high performance A-series, ARM-based CPUs).
Will these attempts succeed? How many mobile operating systems can the world handle? Is this the year of Linux on the desktop?
All I see ahead is more fragmentation, and that’s exactly one problem that Android has already. Android helped to create many device manufacturers, but it doesn’t help them to make money.