The Apple ads center visually on products themselves. The Apples ads just linger on showing the Apple hardware and software in use. Apple believes that the products speak for themselves and all Apple has to do is show the products in action. Basically, the ads just say, “Here’s our stuff. Isn’t it neat?” This works because the Apple products are finely tuned by a focused and discipline design, production and support system. There is a definitive iPhone, a definitive iPad and a definitive iOS operating system.
The Android ads by contrast don’t show the actual devices or Android itself in use. They are not Android specific at all. They might as well be snippets cut from some Sci-Fi movie or video game. The actual Android products are largely hidden. Instead of showing the hardware and software in action, they instead nearly try to associate the Android brand with cool and exciting Sci-Fi imagery.
Most Android ads, regardless of who makes them, fit this pattern. Android devices are seldom seen, when seen they seldom hold prolonged focus and are seldom seen in use. Basically, the ads say, “Look at the girl in leather fighting robots! That’s cool right? So, Android must be cool too!”
The two different ad styles reveal the problem with fragmentation that Google faces in making Android a trusted, respected and widely adopted OS brand.
I post to StackOverflow, a site/community for answering technical programming questions. One of my highest rated answers addressed the question of which mobile OS a startup should target. Back in Oct 09 I observed:
As near as I can tell, Android isn’t actually a platform but more like a loose standard. Each phone vendor can customize it to a high degree so there doesn’t seem to be a means by which you can write a single app and know it will run on all Android phones. That will cause major market fragmentation so even if Android takes off big time that doesn’t mean that every developer, especially small developers, will be able to sell to the entire installed base.
Long term, open platforms (like contemporary PCs) present major problems for small developers. There is no intellectual property protection so developers who don’t have large institutional customers they can sue can’t prevent piracy. Security will become a major issues as black hats target people’s phones. There will be a huge number of crappy or actually fraudulent apps cranked out that make end users leery of buying software from a vendor they don’t recognize. This means small developers will have a hard time breaking into the market.
One of my professors in college told me something that has proven true in my 20+ years in the computer industry: The major strength of every design is also its critical weakness and vice versa. The very things that make open platforms attractive to developers and customers are also the same things that will cause them major problems. The very things that turn developers off about closed platforms are the things that provide the greatest benefit to developers long term. Having a closed platform’s vendor vet every app slows down acceptance and limits choice but improves overall quality, security and consumer trust. And so on…
My predictions of two years ago (a long time in the computer world) have largely come to pass. The Android market has fragmented into different software versions and wildly differing hardware. While this provides benefits, it is also creating problems for Android users, developers and Google’s marketing department.
The fragmentation means that neither Google nor anyone else can make an Apple-like Android ad because there is no real, integral “Android” OS to show off nor any impressive hardware specific to the Android platform. They have no hardware or software they can make the sole star of an ad so instead they are reduced to running ads that merely create positive emotional associations with the Android brand.
That same lack of focus that frustrate the guys in marketing makes it hard for developers and hardware manufactures to create functional and strongly branded software and hardware for the Android platform. That weak branding in turn makes it makes it hard for end user to understand exactly what capabilities any particular Android device has or what software or accessory hardware will work with it.
None of this means Android is or ever will be, a failure. I fully expect Android to be a major, if not the major mobile platform. However, I don’t think Android will ever be viewed as the best mobile platform. The inherent tradeoffs and compromises necessary to interoperate with so widely varying hardware and software means that Android will always be the “eh, good enough,” mobile platform.
By contrast, Apple and those who develop for Apple platforms, will always have the luxury of fine tuning their products to standardized hardware and system software which themselves are equally fine tuned. The focused Apple model will always provide a higher level of developer and user experience than Android’s scatter-shot model. That’s why I think Apple has little to worry about as long as it keeps its quality up.
I don’t think we will ever see an iOS/iPhone/iPad “killer” simply because no one else seems capable or willing to make the design and ecosystem tradeoffs that Apple makes. The common impulse always seems to be to go for quantity instead of quality even though people will pay for quality. In order for another company to get to the level where the company’s products seriously threaten Apple’s dominance and/or profitability, they will have to deny the common impulse and make the same design and ecosystem tradeoffs that Apple makes.
So, far, there are no signs that anyone will.