Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Strategies, Execution, and Environments

So Steve Jobs thinks fragmentation is a bad idea and will kill Android.

"We think the 'open' versus 'closed' argument is a smokescreen for what's really best for the customers," Jobs said. "We think Android is very, very fragmented and becomes more so every day. We think this is a huge strength of our approach when compared to Google's. We think integrated will trump fragmented every time."
Read more: http://news.cnet.com/8301-30685_3-20019997-264.html#ixzz12oaBxZUX

Hmm, he could be right.

On the other hand is it always true that something that has not worked before will not work again – even if it is executed better ? and even if the environment has changed ?

The issue is not fragmentation. The issue is the problems caused by fragmentation where different implementations become so incompatible as to cause headaches for users exchanging data or learning apps and for developers having to support multiple platforms. But fragmentation also has advantages: more choice, more market presence.

So has the environment changed enough to make the problems less onerous ?

One could make the argument that it has: The user data exchange problem is a non-issue in the age of web apps and cloud apps, specially on mobile devices. Who cares if this is HTC’s implementation of Android or Samsung’s ? - as long as you can browse, send Email, twitter, update Facebook and play Angry Birds. And with touch interfaces the differences are not all that great that the learning curve for a new device would be extraordinarily different from others – pinch and zoom works everywhere so what’s the problem ? As for developers, the tools are mature enough to make life a lot easier than it might have been in a fragmented world 5 years ago.

Can Google execute better ?

it is certainly possible. What if they execute so well on the base OS that significant variations are not needed on different devices ? what if they are able to work closely with a few key vendors to ensure fragmentation is kept under control ?

In a changed environment and with better execution, Google could get the benefits of multiple devices without the downsides of fragmentation. If they do, it would be a tough combo to beat.

It’s a toss-up, and one should never bet against Apple anyway. But the point is simply that something having worked or not worked in the past is not necessarily a perfect indicator of whether it will work again. A different environment or a different execution can change things dramatically.

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