Why Apple’s iPhone Will 'Drown in a Sea of Androids'

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Editor's note: This story earlier mischaracterized quotes by Jean-Louis Gassée. That has been corrected.

Google's Android mobile platform may still follow Apple's iPhone in the smartphone race, according to fresh Nielsen data released Monday, but that advantage may not last long.

Specifically, unless Apple starts licensing the iPhone to other handset makers, the platform could get lost amid the many Android competitors.

That suggestion came up in a blog post on Sunday by Apple France founder Jean-Louis Gassée, who described what he called a "doomsayer's" view of the iPhone's long-term prospects, with which he disagrees.

"By refusing to license the operating system--iOS, in this case--the iPhone will drown in a sea of Android smartphones," Gassée wrote on the Monday Note blog on Sunday. "We've seen it before: Apple is repeating the mistake that allowed Windows clones to scuttle the Mac."

Gassée himself argues that the iPhone will remain profitable nonetheless. "Today, Apple reaps close to half of all smartphone profits...That dominance probably won't last, but in a sea of Android clones, Apple is likely to remain the most profitable smartphone maker," he writes.

Nevertheless, I can't help but think that many of the points that Gassée disagrees with are valid.

'Apple's Arrogance'

Apple's iOS currently enjoys 28.6 percent of the U.S. smartphone operating system market, followed narrowly by RIM's Blackberry with 26.1 percent, and Android with 25.8 percent, Nielsen reported today.

Just as the "doomsayer" argument goes, Apple's "arrogance" did beleaguer the Mac platform and could threaten the iPhone with a similar fate, I believe.

Whereas the very promising Macintosh computer could have provided much sharper competition to IBM's PC, Apple's decision to keep control of the device kept its market share small, I believe, and doomed it to a marginal role.

So it could go with the iPhone. Though it's enjoyed a first mover advantage in the smartphone arena, the Android floodgates are now open, and promise to make the iPhone a niche device for Apple enthusiasts.

The Power of Choice

In short, while Gassée may aim to counter such arguments and assert the iPhone's continuing profitability despite its small market share, many of those "doomsayer" arguments are true.

The iPhone will clearly out-earn any single Android device in the short term, but Android's diversity will win out in the long run, relegating the iPhone to niche status.

With what's surely the most closed ecosystem in the market, Apple is doing all it can to keep Android's influence at bay. It's "lawyering up" for an increasingly litigious approach, for instance, and it's also fighting any Android-related apps submitted to the App Store.

Ultimately, however, Apple imposes too many restrictions in its condescending approach, and it offers too few choices to have the broad appeal it needs to dominate in the long run--namely, choices in hardware, carrier, apps, content and experience. It also leaves much to be desired when it comes to security.

Apple will always have a contingent of fanatics that support its every move. But with its current strategy, it can't compete with the diverse and powerful platform that is Android.

Follow Katherine Noyes on Twitter: @Noyesk.

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