Apple Death Knell #57: Android Will Eat Apple’s Lunch

Believe it or not, it’s time for another Apple Death Knell! Writing for Investor’s Business Daily we have one Brian Deagon, a self-described “journalist who’s covered tech since the dawn of the PC era.” He tells us that in 2012, the jig is up for Apple.

The Apple Death Knell Bell

The Apple Death Knell Bell

Mr. Deagon put together ten predictions for 2012 that include Google+ going nowhere, Twitter “tottering” (simply because the company continues to do what it has always done), Steve Ballmer being ousted as CEO of Microsoft (that one seems at least possible), and Groupon losing market share (ditto).

He also predicts that BlackBerry will go the way of Palm, that Ultrabooks will be a big deal, something about cloud computing, and a couple of other things that you can go check out if you really want to.

Number one on his list, however, is the prediction that, “Apple will lose its cool factor.”

As with most of the entries in our Apple Death Knell Counter, Mr. Deagon’s reasoning is all but non-existent. To wit:

With the iPod, iPhone and iPad, Apple (AAPL) redefined markets and defined cool. But what’s left? The iPhone is boxy, flat and feeling stale. The Samsung Galaxy smartphone seems cooler. With Google’s (GOOG) Android platform now the fastest-growing mobile OS, Apple’s software advantage will diminish. Smartphones and tablets will become commodity items and Apple will be eaten by the collective Android gang. Apple’s next big hope is the TV market, a tough nut to crack and where Samsung is king.

To recap, he argued that Apple defined cool with three products and therefore has nowhere to go. In addition, the iPhone is old hat—yesterday’s news, even—and Apple has ceded the design high ground to Samsung.

The first point is specious, at best. I’d personally call it embarrassing. If you want to make the argument that Apple has designed itself into a corner, feel free, but you should probably offer a few facts, or at least some anecdotal evidence for making that argument.

The second point, however, requires denying reality. The iPhone 4S is a hot ticket item and demand still outpaces supply almost three months after it was introduced. While “boxy, flat, and stale” are subjective, we have objective proof that many, many people don’t share that subjective opinion.

Moving on to his other points, we’re told that because Android’s platform is growing faster, Apple will lose its software advantage. There are three aspects of this statement that I found very annoying.

The first is the notion that Android being bigger means that developers will abandon iPhone. Android has been bigger than iOS for a while now, but there are still more iOS apps out there. And, despite the fact that Android is the bigger platform, iPhone owners download more apps. More importantly, they buy more apps. That will keep a disproportionate amount of developer effort on the App Store as long as it remains true.

The second is that both iPhone and Android have enough apps for both platforms to be more than viable. My personal opinion is that iOS apps have higher quality, but even assuming that’s true, there are lots of great Android apps to keep people happy. As long as developers make money, they’ll make apps for both platforms, and there is zero chance of either of those platforms undergoing a significant enough upheaval to change that in the foreseeable future.

The third thing that annoys me is this: Apple’s App Store has had more apps from the get go, yet Android was able to gain share to become the largest smartphone platform on the planet. Should the day come when there are more Android apps than there are iOS apps, will people stop buying iPhones? Of course not.

The lack of apps didn’t stop people from buying all those Android devices in the early days, and despite being behind all these years, it hasn’t stopped them since, either. Why would it spell the end of the iPhone if and when the balance of app power flips? It’s an absurd argument for Mr. Deagon to make.

And then we come to the Death Knell itself, “Smartphones and tablets will become commodity items and Apple will be eaten by the collective Android gang.”

It’s this kind of in-the-box thinking that lands most people in the ADKC.

Let’s start with the flippant commodity comment. A quick show of hands: who can name another commodity industry where Apple competes profitably?

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to name two of them: PCs and MP3 players. In both markets, Apple has shown that it can hold its own. Sure, it might be different for the smartphone market, but with no supporting reasons, I call balderdash on anyone making this kind of argument. Apple has shown that it can compete profitably in commodity markets with quality products that people want.

Will Android continue to be bigger than iPhone? Of course. But will “the collective Android gang” eat Apple? No. It’s absurd. Both platforms will continue to do very well, and for the foreseeable future. And while they are doing well, I believe that Apple will continue to earn the lion’s share of cell phone hardware profits and that Google will do well selling ads on all those Android devices (and a lot of iPhones, too).

I’ve been arguing for years now that Google and Apple are not competing in a zero sum game. Apple’s goals and business model are different from Google’s. Both companies can win without the other losing.

The worst thing about this article is the title, which is: “Apple, Google Seen Stumbling In 2012; Amazon, IBM Up.” It’s an editorial, and the person doing the “seeing” is the author himself. The title makes it appear as if the author is reporting what others are saying. That could have been his editors, of course, but I’d be pissed about that title if I were Mr. Deagon.