iPhone Power: Why Apple Wins the Smartphone War

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Overwhelmed by the iPhone effect and unable yet to match the Apple gadget on features, prospects seem bleak for many smartphone makers. Android as an army may have a rapidly growing slice of the market, but the speed of its advance is no more than smoke and mirrors -- there's no future if handset manufacturers can't see the money.

I'm not convinced Android's fragmented market is pouring profit into handset maker's coffers -- though it doesn't cost them anything to install on their devices.

Mythically open

Carriers also enjoy the openness they enjoy with the Google OS -- they can activate and block whatever features they like, making for some confusion for consumers.

[This story is from Computerworld's Apple Holic blog. Follow on Twitter or subscribe via RSS to make sure you don't miss a beat.]

Despite the claims of Android openness, the only end users who can truly enjoy that sensation are the ones with the technical skill required to jailbreak their device to activate features not necessarily embraced by the carrier or manufacturer.

What this means is that for most of us, Android is only just as open as the iPhone -- you only get to do what you want with either device when you jailbreak them.

It's time to move away from this "open" hype. Really. The hubbub around 'Open' Android reminds me of the scene in 'Monty Python, Lilfe of Brian' in which the mother of Brian yells at a crowd, "He's not the Messiah, he's just a very naughty boy." In the interests of humor, here's the clip.

Android is not the smartphone messiah. There's also trouble ahead.

Jumpin' Java

Google currently stands accused of directly copying Oracle's Java code within Android. So far as I can tell, Oracle seems to be gathering ever more compelling evidence to support its position.

While Google calls the accusation, "baseless", what will happen if it loses the case? Will Oracle then be in a position to sue device makers?

At least device makers -- who are increasingly beginning to recognise that they are not software developers -- can compete by deploying the free OS.

So what?

Google's Android business dispenses with the troublesome and expensive process of hardware production and support and goes straight to the high profit virtual center of smartphone evolution: ads, location data, user data and personalization.

The reason the OS is freely-licensed is because Google knows there's no money in the heavily subsidized and highly competitive mobile handset market. And the OS makes a landgrab for where the future virtual economy sits. Handset makers just provide the hardware.

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