It's lonely at the top, as the old saying goes, and that appears to be just as true for technologies as it is for people. Take Android. During its meteoric rise to the top of the mobile operating system heap, it was frequently cheered on as an underdog. Now that it's on the verge of domination, however, we're seeing more frequent FUD, such as warnings that the platform is "bad for business."
My theory is that this phenomenon is related to buyer's remorse, once a market choice has been made, we can't help but question if it's the right one. Fortunately, in the case of Android, I think it's clear the market is making a good choice. Android is good for businesses and it's good for users. Here's why.
As I've already noted elsewhere, Android's primary distinguishing feature is the choice it affords its users, and that's particularly valuable in a business setting. On the hardware side, there are multiple vendors and form factors to choose from, so, too, are there multiple carriers, each with its own value-added twist on the operating system.
The upcoming HTC handset from Verizon, for instance, is expected to distinguish itself by being a "world phone" with GSM and CDMA support, thereby providing a nice option for business travellers. Diversity and choice mean there's something for everyone. How could a one-size-fits-all approach possibly fit any business well?
Then there's the app factor. Whereas Apple's App Store mostly offers the apps Apple has deigned to accept, the Android Market works more like a true capitalist system, whereby it's up to developers to create what consumers demand.
Apple may say it's softening its stance, but it remains to be seen what that actually means. Meanwhile, Android is more likely to give users in business and beyond what they actually want, rather than what Apple thinks they need.
Little wonder, then, that employees are demanding Android. Not only does it let them pick a device and carrier they like, but it also lets them customise their experience with a variety of custom ROMs and widgets. Android is also far superior for multitasking, a critical feature for getting work done. And, of course, it has long supported Flash, which is part of roughly 80 percent of web content.
And what user, in business or otherwise, doesn't like to be treated well? Apple's response to the Antennagate issue was so shabby as to warrant a warning from Consumer Reports. That kind of attitude tends to be common when one company has a monopoly. By virtue of the diversity and competition built into the Android arena, however, users are bound to be treated better. That's how a free market works.
Want to attract and retain the best employees? Then you'd better make a diversity of mobile platforms available, including Android. Life may be incrementally more difficult for the IT admin, but that's simply the way the world is going. It's also not unlike the multiplicity of desktop environments that have come to be present in many workplaces today.