Rob Enderle Looks At Google And The Coming Collision Of MIDS and Smartphones

by Rob Enderle


The G1 is the second of a one two punch from Google to position themselves as the next Microsoft. The first was Chrome and you have to look at both together to get a sense for what they are trying to accomplish.


The Coming Collision between MIDS and Smartphones

Many of us believe there is a collision coming that will redefine the Smartphone PC space. Coming down from the PC side are Netbooks and MIDS (Mobile Internet Devices); and coming up from the phone side are Smartphones. The MIDS and devices like this Google G1 and iPhone are actually very close to each other in terms of capability but the MIDS are too large and these new Smartphones are likely too limited.

People are, however, clearly getting used to larger communications devices and the MIDS are expected to shrink dramatically over the next few years as both search for that optimal middle, which probably won’t remain static for any length of time.

This puts us about where we were in the late 80s with notebook computers with regard to timeline but well ahead in terms of technology and customer acceptance which suggests this wave will both build faster and hit more quickly than that previous wave did.

Google’s Strategy

Much like Microsoft rode the wave of PCs and Notebooks to dominance Google is positioning itself to ride this new Mobile Wave and take advantage of the fact that the cell phone platform market is actually more fragmented than the PC market was in the 80s. There is no dominant provider and Google hopes its power and presence (not to mention financial resources) will do what Microsoft failed to do in this segment and dominate it.


To do this they are cherry picking things from both Microsoft and Apple. They are platform and carrier agnostic like Microsoft and have improved the user experience, launched their own application store, and with Amazon, an integrated Media store like Apple. In addition they appear to have an Apple like marketing budget though they have never demonstrated an Apple like marketing capability (and you need both).

This is only the first of what is likely to be many phones and assuring the user experience across all of them and maintaining both reliability and ease of use will be incredibly difficult for them. But, they are moving in an area that has been woefully under resourced by Microsoft for some time and Apple, as a single vendor with a single product, can’t possibly scale up to the potential volume that a multi-billion customer market represents. No hardware vendor can.


What Chrome adds is an effort to trivialize the OS and allow application developers to develop their products on both PCs and Android phones at the same time. If Google’s platform scales they could actually reach a higher penetration number than Microsoft in a few short years and become the favored development platform. They are more liberal than Apple with regard to these applications and are using the Open Source mantra to attract developers over from Microsoft though, I expect, the developers they do get initially will make them additive because Google is just starting.


The strategy isn’t without risks and their execution to date on a variety of non-search products hasn’t been very good suggesting this will be an ugly birth. But, all births like this are ugly and they have the funding and manpower to accomplish the task if they keep at it long enough and if neither Apple nor Microsoft make significant changes to block them.

Microsoft has made their mobile platform a part of their recently launched $300M campaign but this platform doesn’t appear to yet be as strategic to Microsoft as it is to either Apple or Google and, as such, remains under resourced competitively but that probably will change as it is hard to believe Microsoft won’t see this coming.

Wrapping Up

Overall Google is attempting a coup against Microsoft but could take Apple out as collateral damage. It is not uncommon that a smaller player get hit in a battle between giants, however, in this case, Apple and Google are actually connected at a board level suggesting Google will move to license to Apple and thus protect them in the fight. There is no clear indicator yet that this will happen and right now the G1 in particular appears as much a risk to Apple, if not more, than it does to Microsoft.


Regardless of how this turns out we are clearly seeing a change not unlike the one that created the PC in the first place and changes of this scale generally mean changes in the hierarchy of vendor power. Before the computer AT&T was the dominant technology vendor and then it was IBM, after the PC this moved to Microsoft, now Google is making a play for the top spot.

Read more from Rob Enderle and the Technology Pundits group here



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