I’m not sure what this whole argument between John Gruber and Joshua Topolsky is about. The comparison of iOS and Android between Mercedes and Honda is a perfectly valid one – iOS/Mercedes are better and more luxurious products and therefore richer people buy them! What John Gruber dances around and what Topolsky thinks is outrageous is just obvious. Mercedes makes better cars than Honda; they charge more; if you have lots of money you buy a Mercedes, if not you buy a Honda. There’s nothing wrong with Hondas – I love my Civic! But I can’t afford a Mercedes. If I could I might buy one. It’s a better car! I might also choose to drive a Mazda and take more vacations, but that’s just me. The iPhone created a market; is a very, very good product; and is a status symbol. Therefore, lots of rich people are buying them! But the fact that Android exists is great. If there were only iPhones then lots of people who have smartphones thanks to Android otherwise wouldn’t have them! They are opening the power of mobile email, internet browsing, GPS, etc, to a new market.

The difference, it seems to me, between cars and smartphones is the network effects of app development. Once you’ve bought the car, you do have to gas it up and maintain it. But a smartphones power is only truly unlocked with the addition of powerful, innovate third-party software. If most of the users with high levels of disposable income choose one platform for whatever reason then you’ll probably see most development move towards that platform and then it’s hard to break the cycle. Even if Android was demonstrably superior in every way as a platform it would still take some time for it to lap iOS because of the coordination problem between developers and consumers. Apple got there first, and as it happens I think they make the better product, but even if they didn’t they got the moneyed customers and they got the developers and it has nothing to do with the class of the users it just has to do with the wealth.

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