The Android OS is evolving much faster than the ecosystem can handle. Chris Sauve displays this point beautifully in his analysis of Android fragmentation and the impact to developers. Android’s release cycle is annual. Ice Cream Sandwich, released in Q3 11 still has less than 1% adoption nearly six months post launch. Jelly Bean, the next iteration is scheduled for six months from now.
Carriers and operators control the release schedule for these system updates. They take time to test the new OS’s impact on the network and also to make modifications to the OS for customer differentiation. There is no question about Android’s success – Asymco forecasts 1B Android devices will be deployed in about 18 months. But how much do new OS versions matter for customers/end users?
These data indicate new OS versions don’t matter much. Even Gingerbread devices have enough price/power/utility to compete with iPhone or Windows Mobile or other alternatives. The same is true of Mac OS releases. Mountain Lion will have some benefits to Snow Leopard, but I think the OS needs of most users are satisfied.
Other differentiators are content – apps, movies, and music – and price. But on the whole, these are roughly comparable between Android and iOS. We already know how the market share will shake out. Android will win the bottom 60% of the market. And iPhone will always be a premium product. This was the strategy all along for Google and Apple.
What do you think will be the differentiator for mobile phones and operating systems in the next 3 years?