Android's 'Campbell's Soup' Strategy

No sooner does one "flagship" Android phone launch than another seems to follow in its wake just a month or two later. This is largely because so many hardware makers are now using the platform to develop phones: HTC, Motorola, Samsung, Acer, Dell, among others to come.

The most recent example is the Motorola Droid from Verizon in the US. It was last's months "iPhone killer," already superseded by the new Nexus One (at right), which just appeared over the weekend (from HTC). Here's the latest from my post at Search Engine Land. I also wrote a long story here over the weekend as the news was leaking out.  

As an aside this is what we know about the Nexus One:

  • It's been approved for sale in the US by the FCC
  • It's a GSM phone
  • It looks like the HTC Droid Eris but with a larger screen and no "Sense" interface
  • It will be sold online directly to the public but T-Mobile has agreed to provide some sort of financial support or subsidy 
  • It won't be the "Google Phone" but reflects the greatest level of involvement to date of Google in the development process
  • It's running Android 2.1

Poor Droid; only a couple of months old and already passe, yesterday's news, old hat, used up, etc.

It's kind of ridiculous that each phone seems to trump the next and there's no apparent coordination in terms of software updates and hardware rollouts. On the latter point one wouldn't necessarily expect that given the multiple hardware OEMs. But Google seems to be quite fickle in its approach to the market, working with one OEM and then the next in turn. 

And now, Nexus One isn't even out and we may already have seen its successor, the HTC Legend:

Picture 73Even if this particular phone doesn't trump the still unreleased Nexus One in terms of specs and performance -- it's reportedly not as fast -- it illustrates that the Android handsets just keep coming. One financial analyst says there will be 50 in the market in 2010.

So what the heck is going on? First you've got a bunch of OEMs competing for attention. But at a higher level I believe Google understood that by creating a strong OS and making it free (or mostly free) it would see this kind of frenzy in the market.

It's a kind of "shelf space" strategy -- hence the Campbell's Soup reference. Many of the varieties of Campbell's Soup are not widely purchased; we might call that the "long tail of canned soup." But the plethora of flavors means that the company takes up more shelf space than competitors. 

This is what's starting to happen in the handset world: more Android handsets at more carriers means that competitors are pushed out or pushed to the side, literally and figuratively. There's also the frenzy of media coverage that surrounds Android, specifically the Google vs. Apple narrative that's emerged. 

I suspect the iPhone will hold its own. But as I said previously what's not getting discussed in these stories is the way that Android is grabbing all the coverage and mindshare from Windows Mobile, Palm, Nokia and even RIM. Only the iPhone continues to star in its own articles and blog posts.