Apple vs Google – Benevolent Dictatorship Vs Free Democracy?

The smartphone market has expanded many times over in recent history, and from all indications it is in no danger of slowing any time soon. And while there are many players in the market, it might be interesting to note that the “politics” of smartphone control and development are not unlike that of real world politics.

That is, we have two distinct lines of thought when it comes to your friendly smartphone. The most popular smartphone, the Apple iPhone, is locked down (at least in the States) on both the carrier it will run on and the apps that will run on it.

Apple – a ruler of the masses and the apps

In this way Apple is like a benevolent dictator, and they gently but firmly mandate the what, where, and how of all things iPhone. Sure, they rule with a velvet glove, but anyone who has gone through the work of jailbreaking an iPhone from scratch (and not just running a kit) can attest to the iron intentions of this ruler. As in real life, communities of rebels have appeared to fight this uncompromising ruler.

Apple seems to have a vision of a Utopian society where everyone has a perfect device that pontificates as much as it innovates. In this vision, the smartphone ruler’s purpose is to decide for the masses what is good and kind to be on their devices, and they aim to keep the evil riffraff away from the innocent users.

Apple manages to rule all things iPhone through the AppStore and its approval process. Apple makes the decision of what apps are fit to be found in this perfect vision. If Apple does not give the thumbs up to a particular app, then it is discarded back into the wastelands. Those apps that are blessed by the powers that be go on to celebrate the largest single mobile sales arena ever created.

Google – Let Free Democracy Ring

In contrast to Apple’s benevolent dictatorship we have Google, who is providing the Android operating system to a free market. The market dictates the configuration, and the huddled masses are free to choose what implementation of Android they want to support with their buying dollars.

In stark contrast to Apple’s App Rule, the end user is free to choose what applications they want to install and run on the device. The trust is put in our hands to choose the device’s purpose and manner of use.

The People’s Choice: Benevolent Dictatorship

So, by looking at these different philosophies, you would think that the Google approach would be the best for both users and developers. However, that may not be the case. In fact, the capitalistic market itself appears to be choosing the iPhone and its dictator. The numbers for the first week of sales are interesting. From the Apple Insider website:

The 20,000 week one sales (of the Nexus One) are well behind the 1.6
million iPhone 3GS handsets sold in June.

1.6 million vs 20 thousand.  That is a large gap, and it is quite doubtful that Google will be able to make up the difference in the remaining month. Granted, the iPhone 3GS debuted in eight countries, but even factoring that in the numbers are still far apart.

In fact, the Google Nexus One sold much less than competing Android phones. The Motorola Droid sold 250 thousand in its first week, and even the myTouch 3G sold 60 thousand in its initial week. Put all of the Android sales together and still the market has a clear choice: it’s Apple.

Okay, so the free market apparently favors the benevolent dictatorship. But is that the best for the people? Well, from a developer’s standpoint, that just might be the case.

Benevolent Dictatorship Is better for the people

Consider this – a developer writing an app for the iPhone currently has one screen to write their program for.  While this might not seem like a big deal to some, anyone that has tried to support the many devices of Windows Mobile over the years will be loving this.

Another consideration for the app developer is the ease with which to distribute their program. There is one AppStore, and with a single submission you literally hit millions of potential customers.

This single submission system works great for the developer, and the numbers prove it. With over three billion downloads and more than 120,000 apps, the AppStore is by far the most successful mobile application service in history.

Democratic approach Is bad for the developer

With Google, the developer is left practically chasing a given device and not a platform. This is due to not only potential hardware differences in the devices themselves but also in the different versions of the Android OS. Even in its infancy the Nexus One runs a version of Android that is different from the Droid.

The market suddenly dwindles from the collective Android phones to the specific unit. Interestingly enough, the free market approach has just hampered the entrepreneur spirit of the independent developer.

Okay, so it is not exactly the best for the developers, but what about the users? Surely this open approach makes it great for all of the different apps available.

Well, there is the rub. Without a clear path to profit, a lot of developers will not produce apps for a given platform. Sure there will be specific applications for certain functions that many will find useful. And you will even have some big names that will produce for the Android just to have the limited competitors. But the massive numbers of apps for the iPhone (120,000+) will probably dwarf anything on the Android (16,000) for some time to come.

Google’s free market is destroying the Android branding

Ah, but you say that the Google brand will carry Android to a strong position. I have heard this argument before, but let me remind you of a fact earlier in this article – the Google Nexus One has sold less than competing Android phones in its initial week of sales.

This could indicate that the branding is being watered down thanks to the different places you can find an Android phone. The Nexus One is being marketed as “an” Android phone, not “the” Android phone. The typical buyer is confused, and they are left comparing technical notes without a kindly dictator assuring them that this particular unit is the latest and greatest you can find.

Google’s Free democracy is a wolf in sheep’s clothing

Now, so far I have been quite specific about Apple being the benevolent dictator and Google being the free market champion. But a quick look to the side of your browser page may paint a different picture. If you browse anywhere near the sites I tend to frequent, you may find a lot of Nexus One ads popping up in the Google Ads than before. And given the weak sales I certainly can’t blame the push in advertising.

However, what is happening to all of the existing ads that are being shuffled off to make room for the Nexus One ads? They are losing exposure time at not only Google’s expense. From a Webmaster’s World Forum:

Yeah, these terrible ads took over the top spots in many of my ad units. My earnings tanked the minute they appeared.

Google’s advertising arm is long, and they are dictating that ads for their own product will be shown for now. Even CNet draws attention to the fact that Google advertises its product right on the sacredly plain Google home page.

Wow, so even the champion of the people is a dictator when it suits the business model. That is, in order to produce and deliver a given product for a profit to the market, you must be a dictator for at least some part of the process. It just so happens that some carry it much farther than others in their pursuit of their capitalistic goal – profit.

The Verdict – benevolent dictatorship beats free democracy in all things mobile

Whether it is a point of political choice or personal beliefs, it would stand to argue that a free market, with the consumers having the choice, would be the best choice. But as we can plainly see, this is not the case. From Apple severely trouncing the existing free market approach, Windows Mobile, to shoving back the new kid on the block, Android, the people have spoken.

The people want someone to make the mobile waters safe. The people want someone to take them by the hand and lead them to the best choices. And this someone IS Apple.

  • http://michaelvittiglio.tumblr.com Michael Vittiglio

    I can see parallels between what you’re saying and what could have been said in the 80’s when comparing Windows/PC market to the Apple/Macintosh market.

    You neglect the fact that iPhone’s popularity only helps to spur competitors to make their own. Google has essentially sparred these would be competitors/manufacturers the task of building not only an operating system but a rich set of development tools, user recognition of said product which only grows with every device that comes out for it, a marketplace they don’t have to maintain and the freedom to alter the software to their liking. These products also do not need to be bound to any specific carrier.

    As for your assumptions about devices varying so much that it intimidates developers, to be frank it sounds a bit naive on your part and makes me think that you either overestimate how much each platform varies or underestimate the intelligence of the average developer. If what you assume is true then developers would never have seen developing for the PC as a good idea in the 80’s and Microsoft may not have become the household name it is today.

    Apple is winning today but only for the same reasons they won in the past. Popularity is a fickle friend and after a while people get tired of being like everyone else.

  • Max

    “The 20,000 week one sales (of the Nexus One) are well behind the 1.6
    million iPhone 3GS handsets sold in June”

    I like how a brand new phone and platform is being compared to a tested and proven phone that recieved an upgrade. I can already see the author writing this article on his/her Macbook Pro.

  • http://techyoyo.com arun kamath

    The best analogies I have ever read.

  • Bill

    Wow, ummm, way to cover your true intentions with misplaced facts and opinions. Fanboy in sheep’s clothing. lulz

  • http://www.awesomeandroidapps.com Brian W.

    Those nexus one ads webmasters are apparently complaining about have helped my revenue along quite a bit in the last 2 weeks. Mind you, it’s a mobile site about my Android apps, so it’s probably not a generally applicable observation, but here’s at least one publisher that’s not complaining.

    Raw app count is very blunt instrument. The vast majority of both iPhone and Android apps are useless, and it’s a stretch to say that the percentage of useful apps on each is the same. Take a look at the “intent to buy” surveys floating around. Android is up huge in the last couple months, and those numbers paint a picture of a much more competitive market.

  • Feldwebel Wolfenstool

    Apple is great, just simply great for Microsoft. If it wasn’t for their fruity clan, MS would be hauled into Court for being a monopoly, and busted up as fast as you can say “JP GETTY and STANDARD OIL”. Once again, thanx Steve, for providing an “alternative”.

  • JC

    I 100% agree with the commenter. You’re logic is slightly flawed and we’ve seen what happens with Apple’s closed mindset.

    Why are you comparing the latest iteration of the iPhone against NexusOne.

    Nexus One vs the first iPhone, the numbers aren’t so out of wack. But I don’t think numbers are you strong suit.

    I enjoy my mac, but when is the fanboy mentality going to be behind us?

  • Dominic

    There is a particular flaw in your argument in relation to the initial sales:
    1) The iPhone has undoubtedly been around far longer than any android phone, and thus many users are either too comfortable to make a switch, or too cheap to do so (at about $400 a pop for either phone it is an expensive game).
    2) There is no mention of sales on either o

  • Kinglink

    What is happening with the android platform is not what’s happening with the Iphone platform. Apple has always been a flash in the pan. Ipod is a great piece of work, and people still buy it at it’s obscenely high price. However Android has a different idea. The Android is going to continue expanding and become like Windows CE.. Every carrier will have a couple of them or more. Android App Store will continue to grow and people will bring their iphone apps to the Android in time as well.

    The difference however is that unlike the Iphone app store which is only available on one network (or jail broken phones) and one phone provider, Android apps are now available on multiple providers and phones and continually growing. You may have the Iphone for 200 dollars on AT&T but eventually you’ll have 4 other phones that are just as good, maybe looking sleeker depending on what you want, more features, and different price ranges.

    Remember the Android as a platform is new and only out for a year and doesn’t have apples obscenely high marketting budget. Droid was everywhere for advertising which explains it’s higher numbers. Given time these 200 thousand and 60 thousands will continue to add up.

    And let’s not forget the Iphone had a two year head start, but which platform has free voice turn by turn navigation? You have google pushing the software of the Android. Apple has always been a trendy dictator, but they are a dicatators, and likely if it wasn’t for the Android getting their Google maps navigation first, Iphone users would likely end up having to pay for that if they ever got it. Google will continue to pound away and prove that their android is the platform to have.. And unlike Apple’s iphone os, it is an option for other cell phone providers.

  • Z

    On your direct comparison of sales…

    “In fact, the capitalistic market itself appears to be choosing the iPhone and its dictator.
    ‘The 20,000 week one sales (of the Nexus One) are well behind the 1.6′”

    You argue that the gap between those numbers is because of the nature of the products and of their designers. I disagree. You have correctly characterized the the philosophies behind the phones, but I’d say such things have little to do with the success of the phones. The iPhone sells because it is an extremely popular, coveted, established brand. 3GS vs Nexus One: what that actually boils down to is (iPhone + iPhone 3G)*3GS vs Nexus One. The 3GS had behind it a very well-built infrastructure of gadget lust and rich, “in-crowd” trend-setting. The iPhone 1 really seemed to be the first functional full-touch screen phone to hit the mass market, and it is that legacy which propels the sales of the rest of the series. These people don’t want a smart phone, they want an iPhone. How many commercials did you see for the Nexus One? And over how many years? Apple wins because of their commitment to the Brand, a well-established kingdom that has been in the works for years, and the steam that they’ve generated from it. Apple for me represents the pinnacle of what is possible when a company takes full advantage of the nature of Consumerism.

    It’s because of all this that Google has an opportunity to be successful with their Android platform.

  • Mike

    Apple is benevolent?

    I would use words like Malicious or Greedy to describe Apple…

  • Scott

    “The Verdict – benevolent dictatorship beats free democracy in all things mobile”

    Except for the consumer.

  • http://thewongandonly.com Wong

    From technical point of view, Apple apps performs better since it is native code vs virtual machine. In the context of all things mobile, memory and processor has their limits. Just like the good old days…

    Apple wins because it just works (that said by someone who never owned an apple product)

  • matt

    You’re either a plant or an idiot who doesn’t know the first thing about the tech business. First, those sales numbers you quoted are not official in the slightest. Google hasn’t released official numbers so they’re guesses at best. Second you’re comparing said numbers to sales of the 3GS which was an UPGRADE to an already existing market for a product that had next to zero competition at the time. This is remarkably poor analysis to say the least.
    The fact of the matter is that the only true reason Apple owns this market currently is because they got the jump on everybody long before there was even a whiff of competition. And I say good for them. But – Apple’s cult like, utopian approach to technology where the customers (and application developers) are consistently treated as if they’re children who need to be told what to like and how to behave leaves a very bad taste in too many mouths. It may be true that a certain subset of the population can be tricked by a shiny object but that kind of marketing can only go so far. Apple may have got the jump in the market but they don’t have the legs to withstand competition that offers choice and treats customers like adults.

  • Bryant

    I think you’re forgetting the part where lack of quality controls equals potential hazardous information-stealing apps – e.g. the recent Android banking phishing apps stealing login info from users.

  • wow

    are you kidding? do you work for apple?

    this sounds like a chinese news story, and i’ve seen a disturbing amount of this kind of propaganda lately. i am a developer, and i can tell you that allowing any company to control the platform from the ground up is a horrible idea. i own both a mac and a pc, and the mac is only good for writing, audio/video recording, and a few other apple-approved tasks. this does mean that i use it a lot, but as a developer i would NEVER even consider choosing to participate in such a diseased, limited market. this model stifles innovation and limits what you can do with the platform to what the dictatorship has allowed you to do, and it will never survive.

    i’ll gladly spend the extra time learning proper multi-platform techniques in order to use the amazing open platforms that google and others provide, and i swear on my entire dead family tree that i will never voluntarily develop for mac, iphone, .net, or any other dictatorial platform ever again.

  • Rich Gannon III

    Are you kidding me? Did you not take the time to consider the Nexus One is only on T-Mobile right now? Did you not think that sales had anything to do with the provider it was developed for! Give me a break! I know personally I would have rocked a Nexus One if it was for Verizon! Hell I have to wait till spring to do it, but I will in fact do it. Jeez do your research properly before posting a stupid article!

  • Matt

    You’re either a plant or an idiot who doesn’t know the first thing about the tech business. First, those sales numbers you quoted are not official in the slightest. Google hasn’t released official numbers so they’re guesses at best. Second you’re comparing said numbers to sales of the 3GS which was an UPGRADE to an already existing market for a product that had next to zero competition at the time. This is remarkably poor analysis to say the least.
    The fact of the matter is that the only true reason Apple owns this market currently is because they got the jump on everybody long before there was even a whiff of competition. And I say good for them. But – Apple’s cult like, utopian approach to technology where the customers and applicaiton developers are consistently treated as if they’re children who need to be told what to like and how to behave leaves a very bad taste in too many mouths. It may be true that a certain subset of the population can be tricked by a shiny object but that kind of marketing can only go so far. Apple may have got the jump in the market but they don’t have the legs to withstand competition that offers choice and treats customers like adults.

  • Rami K

    Terrible article!

  • http://alishabdar.com Ali

    I disagree with comparing 20K slaes of newbie NexusOne with 1.6 million sales of veteran iPhone. It’s just not fare.

    But it is true that dictatorship works better (sad, but let’s face it) in many cases. Apple’s strict policies are pain in the … for developers but result in better apps (some might argue) and happier clients in general.

    We’ll see how Google’s democracy will translate throughout the time, and I hope they don’t treat NexusOne like a Google Code project.

  • Jimbob McGee

    Aside from the fact that you compare the 3Gs, which has already been out for quite some time and has tremendous brand recognition, you also compare a new product to apple in general, who they themselves have tremendous brand recognition. To top it all off, apple was first on the market with a true 100% trouchscreen device that actually gave people what they wanted with a touchscreen, whereas the nexus is simply competing with this existing concept. Of course sales are going to be bigger vs their competitors. Everyone always wants the shiny new thing on the block. The nexus isnt anything new, it’s simply another choice.

    IMO google has done a pretty poor job marketing this phone. Nobody is really talking about, and nobody thinks it does anything new or better than the iphone, other than unrestricted content. If the nexus succeeds, it will take time for it to do so. Once more software has been developed for users to play around with, and people start to talk about how much happier they are with googles version of the appstore, only then will people look at their iphone and say “this sucks, i want ALL apps, not just apps mommy and daddy at apple approve”. You have to be honest, it is quite infuriating to have some company telling you what you can and cant have on your own phone. Imagine if Microsoft refused to allow you to put certain games on your pc.

    Anyway, this is all coming from a happy iPhone user. But mind you, I am not happy because it is being run by apple. The phone itself is a nice piece of hardware with a great user interface and I was able to buy it cheap. If the nexus didnt gost over $500 brand new I would have gone with that.

  • http://iLikeMyGooglePhone.com Kiran

    I sometimes get a feeling Apple and Google are playing the mobile game together in other words, they are good friends in the backend and on the frontend they are competitors.

    Apple can easily pull a Nexus One given their patents, research and Google can easily pull an iPhone given their mobile experience. They chose to limits certian features (multitouch, network providers, background tasks, …).

    Well played APPL/GOOG!

  • Lindsay

    Dear retarded tech reviewers: comparing a new phone and new OS (and their sales) to a longstanding and well established competitor’s upgrade is… well… -retarded-.

  • Matt K.

    Your article does not take into account the early adopters that are stuck with AT&T / iPhone for a 2 year commitment.

  • Jeff Lewis

    Hm. This article is a pretty simplistic analysis.

    First off, the Nexus One is being sold through one significantly smaller cellco in one country. Everywhere else (where the phone actually works – it doesn’t work in Canada, for example) you have to pay the full unsubsidised price for the phone, making it about 3x the price of the 3Gs and almost 6x the price of the 3G.

    Second, the iPhone has been in production for almost two years and has had an unprecedented amount of press attention lavished on it. It was being shown on shows like Good Morning America. The Nexus One hasn’t received anywhere near that much side-press.

    According to various articles, the average iPhone user download about 4.8 apps a month and of them 3/4s are free apps. What makes it big is that there are a lot of apps (and it has to be noted – almost 2500 of the 110,000 apps are fart apps – yes, we counted… the single largest group of apps are ‘webscrapers’ – they put a UI on a website – the easiest possible kind of app to write… one fellow had over 1000 apps up based on a simple shell that he just adjusted for each site).

    Apple’s benevolent dictatorship is more about stopping companies from releasing apps that could take revenue from Apple (browser apps, iPod equivalents, etc) or might show up the weaknesses in the iPhone design (Flash anyone?) It works because most people are easily distracted by shiny objects and less because there’s any substance behind most of this.

    I notice you also leave off the third option: Windows Mobile – which not only is wide open in the sense that MSFT doesn’t dictate anything to you about what you can or cannot do – but also doesn’t force you to go to their app store to sell or buy your apps.

  • toyol

    D Salmons, looks like you love being monopolize by companies like Apple. Taking you by the hand and telling you how you should eat your burger, the type of burger you should eat, the ingrediates it has and how much salt you can have with it.

  • Zac

    Microsoft is a monopoly in the real world, achieved by very dubious means. Also it is an extremely profitable company. It survives as a monopoly to retain its power by there being little alternative available and is also backed up by the US government. In fact, when I go into a retail store there is no alternative, it is only Microsoft Windows. Being a highly profitable monopoly gives you the ability to lock out others.

    Iphone locked down? As a mobile device it works for me. I don’t have to be concerned about anything, it does what I need it to do with no fuss or maintenance. Can it be improved? Alot.

    A great majority of apps are useless? That is a reflection on the developers who put this junk out, not a reflection on the iPhone. There are heaps junk software available for Windows and some come with the added benefit of spyware, where’s the outcry there? And if Apple did censor useless apps, the same people would be complaining about that too.

  • poltyoi

    possibly one of the most biased articles i’ve ever read. perhaps the iphone is better than the nexus, but at least do a proper comparison. in other words, but at least TRY to disguise the fact that you’re an apple fanboy. terrible.

  • David Chu

    I like the Analogy Mr. Salmons.

    Another aspect of a benevolent dictator structure is that it is needed in order to innovate. If you want to bring new technology to the masses cost effectively, you have to simplify the supply chain. You also need clear vision from the top to get over the fear of pursuing new technological advances. There’s a great book called “The Innovator’s Dilemma” that talks about why large companies rarely innovate.

    The trade off as a customer is that you don’t always get all the features that you want.

    Google, on the other hand, strikes me more as an optimization company with their philosophy of fast testing. They’ve released some innovative products since their search engine such as Adwords, Maps API, Gmail and Wave. (I like Wave, but not enough of my friends use it). But these products were designed either when Google was still relatively small or in incubation. When looking at their other top shelf products such as Analytics, Optimizer and even Android, these products were copies of existing software and released for free.

    For the consumer, you’ll get a lot more variety but you’ll miss out on the really innovative leaps as the company will always be in catch up mode. Plus, you will always have to deal with the problems that extra complexity adds to any ecosystem.

  • http://rekzkarz.com rekz

    Actually, the market WILL eventually prefer Google — after a few more years of Google ripening their product.

    I am a great example for this discussion:
    When my Treo broke, I bought Android 1.0 & used it for a weekend. I returned it Monday.
    I hated the way the device worked & the keyboard was awkward, felt that much of the (supposedly) ‘cool’ software to dload was redundant, and the device had potential but was not well integrated.

    Then I bought an iPhone 3G. > 1 yr later, I still feel this phone is incredible. There are great apps, tons of apps, etc — and the phone is incredibly well made & designed. I got mine just before 3GS and ‘cut / paste’ were implemented.

    But to address the term ‘benevolent’ dictatorship:

    Apple is not benevolent. They are a corporation focused on profit. They take 1/2 of all app sales & iTunes downloads. You can’t dload for iPhone from other sources w/o cracking it — which is doable, but challenging. And the security factors are really annoying too.

    (One funny iPhone note — Google has actually improved my iPhone experience by enabling sync for contacts & calendar, + they provide maps & so on. How did they bypass the dictator?)

    So when Google makes a product that is almost as good, I’ll get theirs vs Apple’s.

    I hear Droid 2 is much better. Google moves very quickly for a software mega-giant. Hopefully they will make the best offering … soon!

    http://www.rekzkarz.com

  • Jose

    To the Google apologists:

    The first generation iPhone sold 1.4 million units in its first two quarters of its existence! That is, 1.4 million iPhones were sold between June and December of 2007. There were no preexisting iPhones before that.

    So, the statement that the iPhone was ‘already in production’ when it reached sales in the millions is a misrepresentation bordering on a lie.

  • stefn

    While I don’t agree with all your conclusions, I like your use of an analogy. Rather than political analogies, I’d suggest wider organizational analogies. I’m thinking about the “big boat” “little boat” we see in religion, politics, etc. In religion, some become big boat, less defined, embrace and extend, extraverted entities, while others are little boat, well defined, introverted types. Neither is good or bad. Neither guarantees success. Christianity gave up Jewish customs and gained the Greek and Roman world as a platform, so to speak. Conversely Judaism has endured as well. Buddhism has these forms. So does Islam. Apple and Microsoft took these different paths. Now Apple and Google are doing this tango.

    The bigger issues are size and decrepitude. Google is a relatively new org. So is Apple in the sense that it crashed in the nineties and was reestablished. Microsoft seems to big and old to change.

    Add Microsoft size success and it’s almost impossible to change an organization. Don’t wish your favorite org great success. It’s a curse.

  • stefn

    While I don’t agree with all your conclusions, I like your use of an analogy. Rather than political analogies, I’d suggest wider organizational analogies. I’m thinking about the “big boat” “little boat” we see in religion, politics, etc. In religion, some become big boat, less defined, embrace and extend, extraverted entities, while others are little boat, well defined, introverted types. Neither is good or bad. Neither guarantees success. Christianity gave up Jewish customs and gained the Greek and Roman world as a platform, so to speak. Conversely Judaism has endured as well. Buddhism has these forms. So does Islam. Apple and Microsoft took these different paths. Now Apple and Google are doing this tango.
    Add Microsoft size success and it’s almost impossible to change an organization. Don’t wish your favorite org great success. It’s a curse.

    The bigger issues are size and decrepitude. Google is a relatively new org. So is Apple in the sense that it crashed in the nineties and was reestablished. Microsoft seems to big and old to change.

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