I have been writing recently about how the real mobile war is not between Android and iOS but between smartphone vendors and the carriers. So the natural question coming out of Apple’s Verizon deal is whether this will change the dynamics in this war.
The short answer: no.
Apple is the exception that proves the rule. When it comes to the smartphone world, only Apple is more powerful than the carriers. Google is subservient in this space due to the way they distribute Android. Anyone can use it and the carriers are happy to do just that. Other licensees could put their foot down but won’t. Motorola, RIM, Samsung, LG, HTC seem to be too reliant on the carrier distribution models to fight AT&T, Verizon and the rest. Microsoft’s distribution model has the same problems as Android’s — relying on licensees makes it beholden to the licensees, not the consumers. Besides, Windows Phone 7 is inconsequential right now as Microsoft’s discontinued Windows Mobile operating system is still outselling the new OS. (HP/Palm could follow Apple’s lead but is a massive wildcard right now.)
So what does the Apple-Verizon relationship mean? Nothing at all in the short term but everything in the long term. If Apple becomes the 80% market share winner then the carriers will bend to its will. If Apple becomes the 20% market share winner then carriers will continue to treat it as an outlier, letting Apple do what it wants as the carriers wield the Android shield.