Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Consequences of Choice: Why the Android will lose to the iPhone, and others

This post is mainly an analysis of the consequences, and its implications. I will try to tell why the Android will lose to the iPhone among others. The premises for my argument are two talks that actually make you think:
Although I recommend listening/reading through them, here is a gist. Choices are not liberating but lead to confusion. They tend us to avoiding them altogether. And if someone can play with our choices, they can in fact playing with our decisions, i.e. give us a false sense of control.
Now my take on how this could affect different things is what follows...

For those who don't know, Android is an open source operating system backed by a consortium called the Open handset alliance with Google being the main contributor. It is like Linux where anybody can modify and build upon the Android itself or just build applications for them. more or less it is a democratic system.
On the other hand we have the iPhone with its proprietary hardware and software developed by Apple and its notorious application approval system which is far from being democratic. Now without considering any other aspect like coolness, head start etc., and only on the basis of choice it would seem that an open ecosystem like Android would be the favorite candidate for being successful but that is not to be the case.
At any point in time when someone wants to buy an iPhone, he can simply go and buy one. At any point in time there is only one iPhone that is being sold. You can say you have a choice of capacities but that largely collapses when afford ability comes into picture. Now when one wants to buy an Android phone, they need to first choose if want an android from Motorola or Sony Ericsson or HTC or lately from Google itself and a plethora of others. After this first volley of choices comes the next one, each of them has multiple androids on sale and the choice is only bound to grow. Now this is not even taking into account the different user interfaces these companies are developing or the possible code fragmentation and such. When faced with a multitude choice people are more likely to delay, avoid or all together do away with the choice and people have done it before.
One can say the iPod, again an apple product, as example. It can just play music while there were other cheaper mp3 players that could also tune to FMs, be used as a pen drive among other even before the first iPod was sold. But iPod still outsells other despite being featureless (read due to being choice-less). Now I want to give another example that is not as obvious as the iPod. The growth of Google compared to yahoo. when I go to all I can do is search. I search for what I want and get on with it. Now if I go to, I can check mail, weather, horoscope, news, do shopping, play games, check out the assorted ads on the site and a lot more, other than search for information. this not only overwhelms but sometimes makes you forget why you went there in the first place. You can even attribute the dismal performance of Linux against Widows to this because as soon as you say Linux you get the choice: which flavor of Linux.
On a side note, I think Apple is one company that actually understands/researches human psychology for its own benefit and Google seems to have chanced upon this concept but not yet actually realized it.
When I initially started this post I just wanted to talk about the android and the iPhone, but the more I thought about it the more I realized how pervasive this phenomenon is and technology business is just the visible tip of the iceberg. For example I setup my first blogger account way back 2008 and I did nothing more. Then I setup another blog and again no posts... until now. For more than two years I kept postponing and avoiding writing my first post because I was lost in the universe of choices I had and couldn't make up my mind what to write about. But now, in a way, my confusion itself has become the topic of discussion here, which has broken me free from the recursive loop of procrastination!!!
So I have decided to reserve my conclusion to further explore the Consequences of Choice. So watch out for my next post: 
The Consequences of Choice (Part 2): Why China is overtaking the US and leaving behind India.