Android’s strategy is to provide both hardware and software diversity to spread Android globally and quickly. So far, it’s working. A hardware diversity strategy for non-niche markets (greater than 300M units) works – Microsoft used this successfully in the PC market. The question remains whether software diversity is a good long-term strategy for Android. Are they building brand loyalty and experience lock-in that will stand the test of time.
(1) Users don’t know they are carrying an Android powered device.
As part of Gigwalk recruitment we ask users to provide us with the type of phone they own. Here is the exact wording of the question
If you don’t own an iPhone, what kind of operating system is your device running?
That means that the vast majority of users don’t know they are using an Android device. I was curious so I dug deeper and asked some users who did not include the term Android in describing their phone what they thought Android was and here are some of the responses I got:
- Android is a place to buy apps
- Android is a specific kind of phone (but I don’t have one)
(2) No Experience Lock-In
Longer term this software diversity strategy hampers Google’s ability to lock-in users to the Android platform. One of the last remaining ways to lock-in users over extended period of times is experience lock-in. Getting a user to switch from Windows to Mac is hard as most don’t want to re-learn how to use an operating system – that is experience lock-in. The same thing will happen for mobile operating systems; as users develop gesture muscle memory around common mobile tasks (calling, texting, emailing, photos, etc.) they are not going to eagerly switch devices. By inviting hardware partners to customize the Android UI (e.g. HTC Sense) they are introducing software diversity into the ecosystem. This software diversity means their are no consistent experiences across Android devices. When a user upgrades their device switching from their HTC Incredible (Android device) to a Samsung Galaxy (another Android device) or Windows Phone is nearly as much relearning work for the user.