Is Android Disruptive?

The common thread among the Android fans is that Google is the agent of disruption of a hated operator business model. Since disruption is well understood (though not by many) it is fairly easy to evaluate this hypothesis.

The problem with disrupting network operators is that disruption can only happen when the underlying service/product they provide becomes “good enough” i.e. more than what customers can absorb. A new basis of competition emerges and we all know what happens.

Here’s the problem: since mobile broadband is by all accounts not good enough, it cannot be disrupted. Operators are very critical in building out this new mobile computing future and they are investing and will reap rewards. Bitpipe models will only emerge after 4G when there will be ubiquitous high speed networks and competition will shift away from coverage and more to price and convenience of plans.

What is happening instead of operator disruption is that mobile voice which is more than good enough is being disrupted. Businesses built around mobile voice (e.g. handset vendors who have not developed a viable business model around data) will simply evaporate and their profits will condense around entrants who have mobile computing platforms.

Google is moving on this opportunity but they are not executing in a way that ensures they control the future platform due to the their being on the wrong side of the modular/integrated dichotomy.

Android will disrupt but I expect it will take 10 to 15 years. The life cycle of a new global network generation rollout is about 10 years. We’re in the middle stage of the 3G cycle that traces its beginnings to early this decade. 4G will take another 10 years.