I have recently been accused of being an Apple fanboy. I personally found it funny as, if you follow my writing you will know that while I like Apple’s products and approach I personally think Android will be the big player on the smartphone block.
Of course, my reasons for recognizing the dominance of Apple and Google platforms are usually different than most analysis. This weekend I was listening to an interview by Robert Scoble of two developers in the Bay area whose opinion boiled down to this: Android’s open and iOS is cool and thus they win. Robert’s argument, by the way, is that iOS and Android dominate apps and thus will dominate device sales.
As for me… my argument boils down to my college level strategy class taught by one Mr. Nelson Olf.
There are really only two sides to any market: the premium providers and the low cost providers. Apple, clearly, is the premium provider in every market they walk into. They maximize profit by protecting profit margin at the expense of market share. But in tech, just like in cars, there is always a premium provider. Think Apple as Lexus . On the low end it is all about volume and cost control. Google, by open sourcing, is playing this game perfectly. Think Google as Toyota. The last thing to consider is that there really is no middle ground, or at least if you are in the middle ground you are likely to get squeezed. And that, I’m afraid, is Microsoft, Nokia, RIM and HP. None are considered premium platforms any more and, while Nokia and RIM have traditionally been low cost providers, they are getting squeezed by the army of hardware companies Android has unleashed.
Unfortunately for those three (now that Nokia will be a Windows Phone 7 licensee) there are only two ways to compete: either reclaim the premium brand or undercut Google as the low cost provider. Both are unlikely with the current crop of OSes.
As for developers, let’s face it, we are followers. (And I am one of them.) What we primarily care about is revenue in our pockets and thus the platforms that have the best chance of delivering that. (We also care about what is in our pockets.) A year ago that was only iOS. Now it is iOS and Android. For Windows Phone 7, webOS, and BlackBerry OS/QNX to become relevant, they have to either 1) get developers interested in buying and using their devices as their own or 2) show platform numbers that will attract developers because they think they can make lots of money there.
For now, only Apple and Google are demonstrating either of these.
 The car analogy isn’t perfect. In cars there are multiple luxury (premium) brands: Lexus, Mercedes, Porsche, BMW, etc. I think the auto industry, though, is more forgiving of multiple players than tech because of developers. In tech developers act as a catalyst to drive consumers to one platform or another. We can only truly support a couple of platforms, making it unlikely that there will be more than two high profile players.