Friday Grok: Everything has changed forever as Apple closes in on parity

Just as Android is slowly but surely pulling away from the pack

How long has it been since Wintel was synonymous with control and unchallengeable with orthodoxy? For the Angry Birds generation, it’s just a Wikipedia definition, or a check box in a job ad. Go on, Google it, if you can handle the irony. For many of us, though, it was a way of life — like food queues for an East German.

Wintel was the short hand expression we loved to use when PCs were still barely free of command lines, to describe the two great monopolies which underpinned the desktop age (RAM expandable to 16 Meg! Hold me back.)

That was before Netscape arrived, then Google, and Amazon and eBay and Facebook and Twitter. Before everything changed forever.

Now, the final death knell is about to sound for the era when Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Intel’s Andy Groves each commanded market shares of close to 80 per cent, and the Windows/Intel duopoly all but destroyed any notion of diversity in the technology ecosystem.

But of course as evolution tells us, life thrives at the margins, and no company was more marginal for a time than Apple.

<i>Business Insider</i> pointed out yesterday that at last Apple — the company that only survived due to a trust-busting investment by Microsoft — has finally eliminated the Windows platform advantage.

According to the BI story, research by Horace Dediu of Asymco looking at total unit sales of Windows vs Apple devices (not just Macs) found that Redmond outsells Cupertino now by less than two to one. Now, most people would be happy to pwn their competitors two to one, but as the report pointed out, there was a time when the gap was as 20 to one. It quoted the report’s author saying, “Post-PC devices wiped out of leverage faster than it was originally built. They not only reversed the advantage but cancelled it altogether.”

Parity, the researcher concluded, is perhaps as little as a year away. And the trend has only one friend. That’s why Microsoft is taking such a big leap with Windows 8.

You can read Dediu’s original post, called, “Building and dismantling the Windows advantage” by clicking here.

Dediu made the telling point that this is not just a game of moving boxes. “It’s a measure of leverage. The advantage of dominance is realised in an ecosystem which creates lock-in and additional economies in marketing. Ecosystems become self-perpetuating and there is a tendency toward monopoly. The stronger you are, the stronger you get.”

All the parts are moving and everything is changing and nobody knows how it ends. And in truth, it never really does.

Slowly, slowly, Android’s dominance grows

Android continues to dominate the US smartphone market, growing its share on the latest comScore figures to just shy of 51 per cent. Its main rival Apple also increased its share which measures a rolling three-month average. Apple is sitting on a little more than 30 per cent share. RIM continues to struggle dropping 2 per cent, 11.4 per cent. Among the manufacturers, Samsung tops the pops.

There’s a lot stats and tables here in this report from <i>Techcrunch</i>. Techcrunch also carried a report, tracking Android operating system usage, tracking how many devices accessed the Google Play app store. Google has struggled to get users onto the latest versions of Android, although that might now be changing. Google’s ICS is, according to the story, “accounted for 10.7 per cent of all Google play visits but … that in that time there were actually more ICS than Gingerbread devices added to the overall base — for the first time. In fact, it looks like ICS devices are actually growing in their overall percentage of all active Android devices, while all other versions are seeing declines.”

Finally, the war goes on between Apple and Samsung in the courts. In the last development, a US District Court Judge refused to lift the ban on sales of the Galaxy tab 10.1 until the end of the patent trial which won’t start until July 30.

Andrew Birmingham is the CEO of Silicon Gully Investments. Follow him on Twitter @ag_birmingham.

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