After my last post on the iPhone, there are still a lot of people arguing that Apple doesn’t have nearly the market share of a monopolist.
I’ll get to that, but first, there are also a fair number of fans who are hurt that Apple may in some way be “penalized” or taken to task for having built an insanely great product. In any such discussion, its important to remember that it isn’t illegal to have a monopoly. Many exist. It isn’t even “Evil”, in the Google sense. It is only when companies abuse their monopoly in some unfair way in order to take unfair advantage of it that problems start.
OK, with that shocking moral dilemma out of the way (phew, fanboys relax!), let’s look at some market numbers. It’s interesting to try to drill down further on the iPhone phenomenon.
A good place to start is to ask what a Smartphone is anyway, since Apple apparently has a relatively small share of the Smartphone market. The answer, so far as I can tell, is it is any phone that can do more than, well, be a phone. As I suspected, not a very interesting answer, and certainly the iPhone is a Smartphone, but it is a whole lot more besides.
Smartphone OS share is one source of that 25% market share and under number we keep hearing about the iPhone:
No monopoly there. But that’s kind of like looking at everything that has a microprocessor in it and saying because there are so many, PC’s and Mac’s have no market share.
How about the share of Internet traffic due to Smartphones? That’s much closer to what this discussion is all about, much closer to what makes iPhones different and what I think their real market is:
Wow, that’s a lot different picture, isn’t it? Some will argue that’s just a random slice and not a market. But Apple is monetizing that random slice like crazy in all kinds of ways, which makes it a market. Moreover, it is access to and participation in that market that the Apple/Adobe wars are all about. Lastly, Apple is making arbitrary rules to prohibit access by anyone that doesn’t use a very narrowly defined set of tools that happen to coincide nicely with Apple’s interests.
Mary Meeker provides another slice of numbers that tell us about Apple’s monetization of that market. First thing she says is that mobile will shortly overtake desktop Internet use and that it is ramping much faster than the desktop did. BTW, she attributes $8B in revenue for Q409 alone to this monetization, so its no small thing. There’s a reason Apple’s market cap has soared.
What kinds of share numbers have led to this monetization?
- iPhone has 54% of page views
- It has 51% of app usage
- 44% of all ads to Smartphones are served to iPhones, but Android is coming on strong at 42%
This is all no accident. Until the skirmishes with Flash, I don’t think many would have argued Apple was doing anything Draconian. They simple have a way better user experience that makes their users much more likely to participate:
- 65% of iPhone subscribers buy music versus 35% for Smartphones in general
- 61% buy games versus 48%
- 58% participate in Social Networking vs 43%
If there is a category where iPhone users don’t over achieve versus the Smartphone industry average, I haven’t seen it. Bravo Apple, we love your products!
With that said, this argument that we have to only use exactly the tools Steve Jobs likes because we might otherwise build crappy apps and damage the precious platform is just silly. We’ve been down this road before. It always starts out this way with Steve, and then eventually sanity prevails (or the market intrudes with competition) and the company backs off.
Macs started with no arrow keys because they were afraid the availability of arrow keys would allow crappy apps onto the platform. 18 months later, the arrow keys were back. Some will argue their absence was pivotal to the platform’s success, but that’s just silly.
The Mac was introduced with great applications that showed the way. A rush to deliver “arrow key” applications would’ve been a joke. The platform would never have been choked by them because the people who wanted that platform wanted it precisely because they wanted what the new Mac apps had.
If you don’t believe me, look at the early days of Windows. There was no end of crappy software hastily ported. Some of it had huge brand support behind it from the market leaders of the time such as Lotus (for spreadsheets) and Word Perfect (for word processors). It didn’t matter a whit. That software was crushed by software built right for the new platform.
Steve, you and your gang build great products for us users. But you sure don’t think much of our ability to select those products out of the noise. We don’t need a Big Brother to watch over us and tell us what to do. We just want more choices, and then we’ll make the right ones. Your customers are actually pretty smart about it. If you think about it, that’s a good thing, isn’t it?