31 Comments

Summary:

Google Android is handily beating both Apple and Microsoft in the race to control the smartphone market. Yet, each company is responding to this threat in very different way, but with the same weapon: the open standards of HTML5.

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If the enemy of my enemy is my friend, then Google Android is creating a whole lot of friendships among the industry’s fiercest competitors. Google Android is handily beating Apple in terms of market share, with an impressive 44 percent share of the entire smartphone market, compared to Apple’s 26 percent share and Microsoft’s 3 percent share.

Apple and Microsoft, not surprisingly, are responding to Android’s threat in two different ways, but both are using HTML5 to compete on their own terms.

HTML5: Another wall around Apple’s garden

Those who, like I, hoped Apple would dramatically lower prices, increase developer outreach through open source and open standards, and otherwise emulate Google in order to grow its smartphone market share are going to be disappointed. The iPhone’s decreasing market share may be what Steve Jobs expected — or even wanted. Apple, after all, has built its business on emphasizing profit margins over market share. It builds a Ritz-Carlton experience, with no intention of ever competing for Holiday Inn distribution.

Yes, Apple is opening up to HTML5, but this is not at attempt to open up its system. Apple will continue to jealously guard a premium iOS experience for those developers willing to write in Objective C. Its adoption of HTML5 was purely a tactical move, meant to counter Adobe’s lock on web content. In order for Apple to maintain its control of its own ecosystem, it needs to keep other proprietary standards out.

Open standards open doors for Microsoft

Microsoft is taking the opposite tack, wanting to replicate its desktop dominance in mobile. While Windows OS is finally losing a little market share to Mac OS X, according to Gartner, Microsoft recognizes the need to win in mobile, which initially means catching up with Apple. The fastest way to gain app parity with Apple’s iOS is not by forcing developers to toe the Silverlight line, but rather by embracing an open web through HTML5.

Microsoft can always lock in customers down the road through proprietary cloud services that deliver data and more to otherwise open devices. But for now, unlike Apple, Microsoft needs a relatively open app story to make Windows 7 look less like a laggard. HTML5 provides a compelling means to this end, a more open approach than RIM’s attempt to quickly add apps to the BlacBberry by supporting Adobe’s AIR and its 3,000-plus ready-made applications.

Time will tell, however, if Microsoft can use HTML5 to wrest the mass-market crown from Google. Microsoft has already taken to the courts to try to slow Android’s momentum. Perhaps it should instead focus on besting Google’s developer appeal of openness. It’s not really in Microsoft’s DNA, but it may be the only way to make its HTML5 love-fest sound sincere enough to work.

Disclosure: I work for Canonical, a Linux vendor.

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  1. Isn’t that 44% about sales share for Q3 or Q4?

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  2. The last I heard the Windows 7 Mobile browser was halfway between IE7 and IE8. If that’s the case it doesn’t support HTML5.

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  3. Nate, this is why Linux has not made headway in the desktop space. You guys just don’t get it.

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  4. @David: The post focuses on mobile, but I initially wrote it as an examination of how HTML5 affects Apple and Microsoft, without a particular focus on mobile. That changed a bit in the edits.

    That said, Microsoft has explicitly come out recently to talk about how its Silverlight strategy “has shifted,” with HTML5 becoming the easiest way for it to share apps with iOS. (See Mary Jo Foley’s excellent piece: http://www.zdnet.com/blog/microsoft/microsoft-our-strategy-with-silverlight-has-shifted/7834.) For Microsoft, then, this is more than just a mobile strategy: it’s a cross-platform, desktop/mobile client strategy. And it just might work.

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    1. What this boils down to is a shortage of apps.

      Multi-touch apps.

      Microsoft doesn’t have enough of them, which is ironic, considering its developer, developer, developer focus.

      The new era is not the smartphone. Smartphones have been around for a decade. The era is multi-touch, just as the previous era was the GUI. The smartphone is but one device in the multi-touch era.

      Apple iOS and Android are the only ones succeeding in multitouch. All of their apps were designed for multi-touch.

      Microsoft, and everyone else (including Canonical) missed the multi-touch boat, and don’t have a large library of multi-touch apps. HTML5 is the future of the web, but I don’t believe it will compensate for the lack of multi-touch apps.

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    2. What?? Microsoft said they will use HTML5 instead of Silverlight for the WEB, NOT MOBILE!

      Silverlight will remain as a tool to make native apps for WP7. Also WP7′s browser has close to zero support for HTML5.

      You’ve been reading the news all wrong.

      “Silverlight is our development platform for Windows Phone,”

      “Silverlight will continue to be a cross-platform solution, working on a variety of operating system/browser platforms, going forward, he said. “But HTML is the only true cross platform solution for everything, including (Apple’s) iOS platform,” Muglia said.”

      Where does it say it’s a way to share apps cross platform?? They were referring to the fact that only HTML5 works on iOS, and Flash and Silverlight doesn’t. With iOS’ increasing popularity there is no point in continuing Silverlight for the web, especially when it’s share it’s even smaller than Flash’ share.

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      1. Quote from Lucian Armasu (above):
        “Microsoft said they will use HTML5 instead of Silverlight for the WEB, NOT MOBILE!”

        That just highlights Microsoft’s lost direction. When Microsoft is announcing its strategy for “the web”, that strategy does not include mobile!

        On 4 August, 2010 (recently), Microsoft held a press conference to announce the bizarre admission that it had “no concrete plans” to bring HTML5 to Windows Phone 7. Does Microsoft want to make itself the laughing stock of the industry?

        If anyone has any doubt whatsoever, that Microsoft management is completely inept and has no idea of the mobile market, then that announcement is all the proof you need. The second piece of proof is Ballmer’s decision to shoehorn its desktop OS into a slate. Competitors are rolling on the floor laughing.

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  5. What is wrong with Microsoft?

    Its strategy is apparently to go with HTML5.

    But there is only one phone platform that does not accept any HTML5 at all… Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7.

    Windows Phone 7 does not have HTML5, Flash, or even Silverlight in the browser. It can’t play any video from within the browser.

    So it is bizarre that Microsoft makes HTML5 comments, when it is the only one that cannot do HTML5 in mobile.

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  6. Just to jog your memory, Apple has stressed open HTML5 right from day 1 of the original iPhone. Android was never in the equation in this decision obviously. Sad state of commentary these days.

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  7. @Narayanan: True, but Apple never stressed it as much as it does now. That said, even now its enthusiasm is a bit muted. Why? Because there’s no sense in rocking the Objective C boat off its anchor until absolutely necessary. Apple knows it’s going to become niche again, but it would like to be a bigger niche than the Mac this time.

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    1. Rick Thomchick Friday, November 5, 2010

      Matt – You do realize that Apple introduced the tag, right? I suppose you are correct in that Apple has been mapping out the transition from Objective C to HTML 5…but that journey started 6 years ago.
      http://ln.hixie.ch/?start=1089635050&count=1

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      1. Rick Thomchick Friday, November 5, 2010

        …by “tag”, I mean the Canvas tag. I forgot to leave off the brackets :-\

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    2. Hmm, not sure about that Matt. Don’t forget that on day one of iPhone’s release, HTML was the *only* way to write apps for it.

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    3. Toby Schumacher Saturday, November 6, 2010

      From day one, Apple devs *hated* the fact they didn’t have access to native apps and could only write web apps. The original big push for jailbreaking was the ability to run native apps. I don’t know what you mean by “enthusiasm is a bit muted”. No company is pushing HTML5 as hard as Apple at least to the general public. HTML5 would only be an interesting demo if it wasn’t for the millions of iOS devices out there.

      Also, thanks for the cheap “Apple knows it’s going to become niche again…” Nothing like celebrating before you have “won”. Android fans think they are the new Windows. No, this smartphone war has just started, Android is the new CP/M. Just wait, Windows is the new Windows.

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  8. I’m really tired of these android vs iOS market share stories.

    android will be the platform with the biggest market share, period. not because people are no longer interested in iOS (quite the opposite), but because of a simple matter of scale.

    Apple is the only manufacturer of iOS devices, while everyone else (except nokia and rim) are moving to android. and as soon as chinese “white label” manufactures join the android bandwagon, it’s game over.

    in this scenario, there will be what, 100, 1000, 10000 different options of android devices for each iOS device model?

    how can iOS market share be decreasing if more and more iOS devices are being sold each month? this brain dead simple: because the market is growing.

    There’s noway Apple can win the market share game, because it doesn’t have the manufacturing capacity to fulfill the market in it’s increasingly growing speed and it will never compete on price.

    Apple and iOS will continue to thrive, sales and profit will continue to grow. Because Apple does not sell cell phones nor tablets nor computers, it sells the an experience. Apple is not fast food chain, it’s a 5 star bistro.

    I know the press needs this kind of headlines, but its getting really boring and pointless.

    The war is over, because there is no war to be fought when the outcome is inevitable. android has won the market share game, it’s just a matter of time an no one can do anything about it.

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    1. The facts remain that right now, iOS wins over Android… assuming you count non-phone devices (iPod Touch, iPad wifi).

      However, for profitability, who wins iOS or Android?

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  9. stan wiechers Friday, November 5, 2010

    “Google Android is handily beating Apple in terms of market share, with an impressive 44 percent share of the entire smartphone market,
    compared to Apple’s 26 percent share and Microsoft’s 3 percent share.”

    Well I would double check those numbers with some other providers, they seem wrong. This happens a lot.

    “Yes, Apple is opening up to HTML5, but this is not at attempt to open up its system. Apple will continue to jealously guard a premium iOS experience for those developers willing to write in Objective C. Its adoption of HTML5 was purely a tactical move, meant to counter Adobe’s lock on web content. In order for Apple to maintain its control of its own ecosystem.”

    HTML5 or very advanced HTML & JS was pretty much supported on the iphone before there was an android phone out and before there was an app market. Also Adobe has and had no lock web on content, not sure what you mean by that, like a large share of sites depending on Flash?

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  10. I’m confused. Microsoft and Apple are going to try to beat Google with HTML5? It seems counter-intuitive to me that two companies founded on the principle of closed systems are going to try to beat an Open system with an open standard? To me, that seems like an NFL lineman trying to beat a Chess Champion by playing him at chess. Recipe for disaster.

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    1. Indeed you are confused. Open technology standards and an open product ecosystem are two entirely different things.

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      1. On that I wasn’t confused. What confuses me is how Apple and Microsoft think they can beat Android using a technology that Google is just as capable of utilizing to their own benefit. It’s not a proprietary technology that can be locked down to just iOS or just Win7 devices. What is it that Apple and Microsoft plan to do with HTML5 that Google can’t do just as well?

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      2. Well, Mike, considering that Apple invented the Canvas tag, I’d say that’s one important area where Google has a lot of catching up to do.

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      3. Um, no Rick, it’s not. Just because Apple “invented” it, doesn’t necessarily give them an advantage. The Android browser already supports the Canvas tag. You are aware that both Safari and the Android browser (essentially Chrome) are both based on the same rendering engine aren’t you?

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      4. Yes, well aware of the Webkit engine, and also aware from glancing at your blog that you are squarely in the open-source camp, so I can understand your perspective and apologize if I come off as condescending. However, I do think your original comment was a bit snarky, and a little odd considering Apple is championing an open standard (HTML) over a closed, non-standard technology (Flash). I also find your definition of “open” to be a bit odd, especially in light of Google’s decidedly closed/siloed approach to cloud computing.

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      5. Actually, I’ve made a great deal of effort to NOT make snarky comments here (so far). My usual commentary is much more so. Apple’s version of “championing” an open standard is really only paying lip service to the word. Android supports the same open standards, as well as Flash, leaving the choice to the developers and the end users of the platform, NOT Steve Jobs. As to my definition of “open”, I would side with Andy Rubin:

        mkdir android ; cd android ; repo init -u git://android.git.kernel.org/platform/manifest.git ; repo sync ; make

        When you can show me a similar series of commands to build the iOS, then you can tell me how “open” Apple is.

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    2. Well the whole you can download our source once we are done developing it is not really opensource…. now is it… thats public source.

      If you find a bug you cant submit a patch to the source nor can you in any way get access to the dev branch of the source tree…

      Sadly you like many before you make a critical mistake when trying to understand Apple when it comes to open source…

      Apple likes it platforms closed and its standards open.

      Apple is quite open when it comes to standards, they support a wide range of them and was part in developing a good deal of them (h.264, HTML5, ColorSync and many more (mind you open is not free)).

      One major departure from the good old Mac OS 9 days is that many parts of Mac OS X is now open source. Apple was and is supporting a good deal of these open source projects that are important to them CUPS, WebKit, and many more. They have even released the source of core parts of Mac OS X like the Mac OS X kernel the http streaming server CalDAV server and others.

      So the point of this is to reveal that Apple is very open with regards to many projects that is important to its core business, althougt not all of them the key parts is not public.

      Compared to google that have many many open/public source projects… but what is not public with google ??? its core business the add/profiling services and page rank is NOT public nor open source along with all the stuff they do behind the scenes that is part of their key profit making processes (datacentres and so on).

      When you then compare Goole and Apple they both have open/public source projects but none of Googles open/public projects are part of their key money making processes they are ALL hidden. With regards to Apple they have made public or using open source projects for key parts of their competitive advantage over other OS vendors.

      Something Google is real happy about as they could just piggyback all the work Apple did in the Webkit project way way before chrome was a glint is Googles eye… Just as most linux people are real happy about CUPS printing that is now a Apple in house open source project.

      No Android is not part of the profit making processes although it is part of the add serving profiling systems that allow the hidden backend systems to make a profit.

      So when you look at the open/public source projects that Google bases its “open” chops on they are ALL NOT PART of the moneymaker systems and they are all the means to an end… To get you watching their adds and profile you down to the atom to be able to sell even more adds doing it. Apps like google gogles just plain scare the crap out of me as its basically a mainline into the generalized what do humans find interesting in any particular place… the holy grail of profiling.

      The handing off video playback to one of most entrenched closed systems of all time (yea its flash im talking about) is just a travesty that goes to show that Googles “open” varnish is wearing real thin.. why did they then do it if they are soooo open…

      Well IMO that move was dictated by the fact that WebM is a crappy format (SSDN optimisation is sooo last century and its not a standard compared to the iso standard mpeg4/h.264) and whats more important Youtube could not get the addserving/profiling mechanism on youtube working using HTML5 and h.264… so they fell back to good old trusty flash…

      And that is just how committed Google is to open®

      /Jake

      PS! Funny that in fact that firefox (the idealistic open source patent hating people) paved the way (by not playing ball on the h.264 issue) for an increased entrenchment of the adobe® flash® player… scourge of html5 and open standards – best intentions paving the way they usually do…

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      1. Jake, I appreciate the obvious effort you put into your response, so please don’t take it personally when I say that I could write a book with all the things you got wrong. I’m not going to do that because, quite frankly, I don’t want to. I’ll touch on some highlights.

        “They have even released the source of core parts of Mac OS X like the Mac OS X kernel”

        No, they took an already existing BSD platform, and started adding their own closed system on top of that.

        “Google is real happy about as they could just piggyback all the work Apple did in the Webkit project”

        As of February 2009, Google commits more to the WebKit project than Apple does.

        “Well the whole you can download our source once we are done developing it is not really opensource…. now is it… thats public source.”

        “If you find a bug you cant submit a patch to the source nor can you in any way get access to the dev branch of the source tree…”

        You may want to visit http://source.android.com and do some reading. I’d especially take note of the giant text at the top that says “Open Source Project”, as well as the section under “Contributing” labelled “Submitting Patches”. I think you’ll find them very informative.

        “No Android is not part of the profit making processes”

        It was reported by CNN that “By 2013, Android will be a $4 billion-a-year business for the company.” You may want to revise your statement.

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