Although Android still commands 80% market share of new smartphone sales, the situation for smartwatches and tablets is starting to get a bit dire and Google does not seem to be particularly interested in doing something significant about this. With smartwatches, Apple Watch is by far the market leader despite Google and Android putting a lot of effort and beating Apple to the market during the early days. Google’s efforts in smartwatches are so tepid that both Samsung and Huawei have created their own wearable OS on which to base their devices on. Also in tablets, people are still scratching their heads about Google’s strategy for this market segment. We have seen Chrome OS-based tablets from Google which are also capable of running Android apps, but with very little promotion and also meager adoption by OEMs, one has to wonder what ideas Google has to counter the resurgence of the iPad and its evolution into a more capable device.
Given what we are currently seeing, it seems that Google will no longer be controlling what happens in smartwatches nor tablets, both of which still have a much better chance of becoming the next big thing in computing then say smart speakers.
In fact, Android might experience a bit of a squeeze. On the lower end, Apple Watch is evolving to become more independent of the iPhone and will be able to perform more and more tasks on its own. No doubt Samsung and Huawei will evolve their platforms in a similar way, if they haven’t already. On the higher end, simply through the benefits provided by Moore’s Law, Windows tablets from a variety of vendors will evolve to be more capable, less-power hungry, and overall a better experience then Android devices with a blown up smartphone interface. By being pressured from both the low-end and the high-end, Android will be confined to a large but nonetheless single segment of computing platforms – smartphones.
The hope for Google of course is that smartphones will continue to be just as central to computing as they are now, and that neither smartwatches nor tablets will encroach on smartphone territory. Whether this proves to be the case or not, I consider it noteworthy that Google no longer has a strategy to expand its reach outside of smartphones and this poses significant risk. Additionally, if we look at desktop browsers which arguably could also be called a platform, Microsoft’s plan to adopt WebKit/Blink for their next version of Edge will put them immediately on par with Chrome in terms of performance and rendering accuracy. On multiple fronts, Google is now in a defensive position in terms of platforms.