Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Fear And the Mobile Market – Fear Is Driving Innovation and Deals and Shaping History

Greed may be a good thing (thought I disagree), so is fear.

It’s a very well-known fact that Apple wants to sell us hardware at a profit margin that its shareholders can respect.  It’s also a very well-known fact that Apple doesn’t want to do anything like owning contents or creating apps when it doesn’t have to – it lets others do the work for it.  However, there is one exception:  when Apple feels threatened.

It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that Apple will be replacing Google Maps on iOS with its own mapping implementation.  Apple has already bought two companies that we know of and I won’t bore you with what they do and how they’ll fit into Apple’s iOS and OS X ecosystems because no one knows for sure yet.

And with this new mapping app, Apple will displace Google on hundreds of millions of devices.  It’s perhaps the fear, which has now been realized, that Google went out and bought Android.  In the early days, the fear of being shut out likely came out of Microsoft’s past misbehaviors.  Pre-2007, which was before the iPhone and G1, it was just Windows period.

There really was no mobile market to speak of but primordial soup that spawned today’s mobile devices and ecosystems was bubbling hot.  And everyone knew riches could be made in the hundreds of billions.

And at that time, Apple and Google were best buddies because they were on the verge of shutting out Microsoft in the mobile market.  As history until now would tell us, nothing on the market could match Android and iOS.  Symbian did nothing for Nokia while Palm gave it its best with a crack team of former Apple developers and engineers.  Microsoft has begun to show life with Windows Phone and promises to shake things up in the mobile market with Windows 8.  As for RIM, well, it may not see 2013, at least, not in the same form as it exists today.

And all this could have started because of Google’s realization that while it provided a great search engine and many useful webapps, it was in danger of being made irrelevant if Microsoft won’t the mobile war or if Steve Jobs turned on Google – both scenarios were likely in 2007.

Imagine if Google decided against developing Android and decided to trust in Apple.  Siri is on the verge of changing search and Maps is on the way out.  If you thought Facebook’s stock price tanking is bad, imagine Google’s own valuation with Android.

And this is perhaps why Facebook is in such a bad shape now.  The $1 billion Instagram buyout was a move made out of panic and fear.  Not only does it fear of being shut out of mobile platforms, it also fear that inability to capitalize on mobile will be supplemented by other social apps.  Now, there is chatter that Facebook could be working on its own mobile devices.  I’ve even read some weird ones like Facebook buying RIM.

As mobile fans, we are better for the competition that Apple, Google, Microsoft, RIM, Samsung, and others are providing in the mobile market from devices to OS to apps.  I can’t say that it’s all because of fear.  However, the fear of being shut out or seeing history repeated has been a large driver here.

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