The reports are coming thick and fast now, and it looks like Android has finally caught-up with Apple's iOS -- the two now jointly hold the title of being the biggest OS on the Millennial Media network, according to data released early this morning.

Grow up

While this data will doubtless be held up to justify the utterly infantile (and inaccurate) reports that Android is 'beating' iOS in the market, it does show the OS making significant headway in the market.

What is key in understanding my contention that this isn't about beating anything is that Android is not a one-size-fits-all implementation: different carriers enable different OS features, different devices do the same. Android is a patchwork quilt in contrast to Apple's slinky, silky iPhone garments.

However, the figures do confirm Android's ad requests hit massive growth, up 2,182 percent since January. Apple's ad requests increased 32 per cent. (As measured by the Millennial Media network).

Some bullet points extracted from the report:

  • This is the first month that has Android tied with iOS as the largest smartphone OS on the Millennial Media network, with an 8% increase month-over-month and 37% impression share on our network.
  • Apple remains the leading device manufacturer on that network as it has for the last thirteen months and accounted for a 25% share of impressions on our network in October.
  • RIM ad requests increased 43% month-over-month.
  • Motorola became the number three manufacturer and held a 15% impression share.  Two new (Android-powered) Motorola devices, the Droid 2 and the Droid X both entered the top 30 sales list.
  •  iPad requests increased 112% month-over-month
  • Samsung saw the biggest growth on strength of the Galaxy S and Samsung Smooth devices.

We're seeing headlong growth across the smartphone sector.

Keep taking tablets

Meanwhile tablets are emerging as another battle ground, and while many looked to Samsung and its Galaxy Tab as the competitor to take on Apple's iPad, this is unlikely to be the case. Beyond technology-focused publications, initial reviews of the product seem lackluster.

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This will change. Android-based tablets seem set to carve a little from iPad's 95 percent current market share next year (Strategy Analytics), with IMS Research predicting Android devices will account for 15.2 percent of the tablet market next year. This will still leave Apple comfortably dominant in that market, of course.

iSuppli predicts 57.3 million tablets will ship next year, with the iPad accounting for 43.7 million of those units. Digitimes anticipates 100 million tablets will ship in 2013.

And, of course, smartphone shipments are expected to reach 800 million units in 2013.

Will Apple sell 144 million iPhones in 2013?

That latter point is where the interest sits. Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 launch has been a flop, removing all expectation of a five-point race for smartphone dominance.

At present, the industry is defined by Nokia, Apple, Android and RIM, with other players sharing fragments of the pie.

Strategy Analytics pegs Apple's market share of smartphone sales as 18.3 percent. This could become 144 million iPhone sales in 2013.

Given Apple operates a business plan that's different from everyone else, that huge chunk of iPhone growth is likely to translate into significant revenue for the company -- revenue it can plough into strategic acquisitions and product development.

Estimating potential revenue from this isn't too hard. We know Apple shifted 14.1 million iPhones in FYQ4 2010, generating some $8,822,000,000 for the company.

Should iSuppli's smartphone estimate hold, and Apple maintain its current hold on sales, Apple could see its annual revenue from iPhone sales reach as high as $80 billion. That's just huge.

This fractious garden

Firms dependent on the success of Apple's Android competitor must attempt to deliver profit in a competitive and fractured market. With multiple manufacturers offering an array of Android-powered devices, price and features make for cut-throat competition. Margins will inevitably become slimmer as economic gloom continues.

Google meanwhile can only hope Android generates sufficient advertising profits to make its business sustainable, and to justify further evolution of its OS.

This is where Apple's move to launch its own ads network creates such pain for its former ally. Apple's ads network is a premium network, bringing in the best -- by which I mean most high-paying -- advertisers.

While there are numerous reports complaining at Apple's over-controlling nature when it comes to the way it operates iAds, this has not stopped the company taking some high-class brands aboard its mobile ads train.

These are the firms with the biggest budgets and the most creative campaigns.


Removing massive segments of their spend from competing ads networks is bound to cause competitors some discomfort, and is likely to make for less compelling ads experiences, too. (Apple today announced it will launch its iAds network in Europe next month).

Apps are set to drive growth for whichever platform, and while Google is hopefully doing something to make the Android App store a little more usable, customers are currently attempting to manage a hideously complex app approval environment, as detailed in this report, "How to tell if an Android app is malware".

Android, meet Achilles

What we see at this stage of evolution may reflect massive growth for Android as the amorphous entity it is, but that last confusion for consumers attempting to install apps is representative of Google's Achilles' Heel -- it doesn't do usability. Apple does.

I do recognise I am not holding a popular position. At present the wish fulfillment fantasy that seems to be informing coverage of this battle for dominance seems to be the Microsoft vs. Apple war.

The analogy works up to a point, but is incomplete. For example, Microsoft charged for Windows.This is not a rerun of an old history, but a new episode, and we're still waiting for the sequel. 

Any big declline in the ads market will cause Google real pain, while iOS will remain profitable.

As John Dvorak remarked in a recent column. "It doesn't take a genius to see that Google is beginning to make huge judgment errors."

Congratulations are due to the company for building its huge marketshare.

Now it needs to work to make its platform interesting to consumers from outside of the technology sector. The ones who currently enjoy Apple's user-focused implementation of the simply "it just works" philosophy.

Mass market customers aren't necessarily that excited about the ability to change more settings on an Android device than they can on an iPhone. They just want things to work. Safely. Without too much thought. Not because they are stupid, but because they are busy doing other things.