Mobile OS Duopoly: Apple and Google Extending their Power

I have for some time pointed out the negative impact on innovation of the appstore duopoly. Things are getting worse though. With the latest releases of iOS and Android the ability of third party developers to create great experiences are being further curtailed in the name of privacy and battery life. That might be OK if Apple and Google didn’t have their own apps that compete for usage such as maps or transportation, but they do.

Apple and Google are using the same playbook that Microsoft applied so successfully during the PC era: they are using private or automatically whitelisted APIs to make their apps work faster and better than what third parties can achieve. Their apps are of course also pre-installed on the devices for further advantage. 

But the real killer this time round is all the information that mobile devices are constantly gathering on user activity and . This information is central to building user centric services such as digital assistants. And so as always when there is too much market power, it is consumers who will lose out. As a enduser, I would like many more options for digital assistants and high quality productivity applications in my life than Google and Apple.

So what is to be done? I see two paths. The short term one is regulatory. The long term one is through competition from a true open source OS (yes Android is open source but Google has been sucking more functionality into the proprietary Google Play Services). Somewhere in between is the hope that another existing big company gets their act together on a mobile OS but I am doubtful there.