Sunday, July 18, 2010

[Japan & Korea Missing Another Generation?] What does Apple's iOS and Google's Android OS mean for Japan and Korea?

edit: for clarity, 07/18

It seems every other day or so, there's some article that compares the sales of Apple iPhones with Apple's iOS to that of smart phones powered by Google's Android.

However, in phones, Google seems to have a winner on its hands. It will be hard for Apple to catch Android's numbers if the company can't even surpass their competitor's running weekly total at its yearly iPhone launch.
Anyways, I just ordered an iPhone 4 for my mother this past weekend and I'm sure in due time I'll have my hands one of my own as well -- preferably a white iPhone 4. And, no, white isn't a girl's color; it does require more maintenance though. But, anyways, as these articles continually compare sales, for some reason it reminds me of the original operating system war between Microsoft and Apple (and IBM among others) for personal computers. It seems Google is the Microsoft for phones this time around by commoditizing phones, whereas the Apple iOS is only on products with the Apple logo on it. (The best example here would be the Samsung Galaxy-S phone. The phone has the very same processoras that inside Apple's iPhone 4.)

But, unlike personal computers though, it seems the nice thing is that the apps for mobile platforms don't require all that much money to develop. So, regardless of which platform sells more the concern that my phone will become obsolete just isn't there. I guess this is something that is clearly in Apple's advantage as whereas Mac computer owners are stuck -- less so now than in years and decades before and particularly as Microsoft sells its Office productivity suite on Macs now -- with a much smaller choice of software, I doubt that the difference will be as noticeable if at all when Android powered phones inevitably leap frog Apple iPhone's in sales. So, as long as iPhones do keep selling, stories such as which phones powered by which platform really aren't that important with exception to the general trend that Microsoft's mobile platform seems to be dying.

What is interesting though is that once again it seems that Asian manufacturers are once again stuck manufacturing commodities again for another generation perhaps for perpetuity. Even if Microsoft's phone platform dies, Apple and Google seem to be marginalizing East Asian companies once again as chips, memory, LCD screens, flash memory, etc seem to just be nothing more than high tech commodities... I believe even Softbank -- the Japanese company that made a great deal of money by investing in Yahoo -- is profitting by selling iPhones in Japan. Of course, Research in Motion is Canadian and there's Symbian by Finland's Nokia.  

Japan and South Korea both had protected cell phone markets with super fast networks for quite some time now, but it seems the only types of companies that emerged to compete globally were hardware manufacturers. With exception to companies that catered to making cheap games and the like, where is the Japanese or Korean Apple or Google? Why isn't there one? It's all the more remarkable when considering that the United States has by far probably the most fragmented network -- competing CDMA and GSM networks -- deployed over an area that is very lightly populated compared with eitehr Europe or East Asia. With all the boasting about how consumers in Northeast Asia have for years been able to watch television or video chat on their phones, what has come of it?

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