Nothing creates more arguments and flame wars online than raging debates between Apple’s iPhone fan-boys and those of Google’s Android operating system.
It is widely accepted that Apple’s iPhone and IOS operating system were years ahead of anything else available when it launched seven years ago. At the time, it was mocked by the mobile powerhouses of the day – Nokia and Blackberry – but where are they now? Conversely, when Google launched Android, it was at best half-baked, but now the differences for the average end user between the two systems are limited.
There remain philosophical differences between the two tech giants. Steve Jobs was widely known for his obsessive and controlling approach, leading to Apple maintaining absolute control of its entire experience, from designing and manufacturing hardware and software, to having its own stores. Anyone who owns more than one Apple product will testify to how beautifully and effortlessly they work together.
On the other hand, Google’s historic stance has been very different, adopting a more open approach. It has largely chosen not to develop its own hardware, instead working with other manufacturers such as Samsung and LG to implement variations of Android. This has led to interesting anomalies, whereby Google’s major competitors, Amazon and Microsoft/Nokia have developed their own branded phones and tablets by piggybacking on heavily modified versions of Android.
Interestingly, in the battle for smartphones, both Apple and Google can justifiably claim to be winners. And this is where I draw parallels with another eco-system – the start-up ecosystems of Silicon Valley and the rest of the world.
Just like Apple, Silicon Valley is a tightly integrated and well oiled machine. But to benefit from it, you need to be an integrated part of it. There are many Silicon investors who will not even consider your start-up unless you are physically based there. During the last 50 years it has thrived and, much like Apple, it has produced very healthy profits, but it is subject to ongoing criticism about its arrogance. Combined with the US’ increasingly restrictive immigration policies, Silicon Valley might ultimately become narcissistic and isolated – creating a huge echo chamber.
Android is much more comparable to start-up eco-systems outside of the Valley. Whilst the entrepreneurial kernel remains consistent across these clusters, each implementation creates a different eco-system. However, it is their differences that we should embrace. Many of these clusters are still developing, finding their own niches and opportunities to innovate. As with Android phones, ecosystems come in a wide variety of sizes, forms and levels of sophistication.
There has never been a time in human history that the rate of change resulting from innovation has been so profound, creating opportunities in more industries and geographies than ever before.
Whilst Silicon Valley might be the pinnacle of innovation, it’s an Android world; startups and eco-systems are messy and fragmented, but their opportunities are enormous. In an increasingly interconnected world, it’s difficult to claim that no man (or eco-system) is an island.