Apple's Nightmare: The Arrival of the 'Good Enough' Device

Tomorrow is Nexus-One/Android day at Google and tech bloggers and journalists are practically convulsing with anticipation. The dominant tech narrative (and drama) is no longer Google vs. Yahoo and Microsoft in PC search, it's become Google vs. Apple and the battle of the mobile handsets.

Previously comScore reported that Verizon's advertising blitz surround the Motorola Droid had paid significant dividends for Android brand awareness more generally -- and, specifically, future purchase intent: 

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The "genius" of Google's position and strategy is that it's getting partners and third parties to spend money to build the Android brand, whose adoption benefits Google arguably more than any other party, but certainly more than the carriers. Now ChangeWave provides data that confirm Android brand awareness translating into future purchase intent. According to ChangeWave:

21% of those planning to buy a smart phone in the next 90 days say they'd prefer to have the Android OS on their new phone – a monstrous 15-pt jump in just three months.

To put this in context, three months ago Android OS was tied for last place in consumer preference among the major mobile operating systems. But since then it has surged into second place ahead of all competitors except the iPhone OS X (28%) – which remains the number one choice for operating systems, although down 4-pts from previously.

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This is an amazing development for the new OS, just a little over a year old. As you see from the chart immediately above, the US smartphone market is becoming about three sets of devices. It's increasingly a three-way race between the iPhone, BlackBerry and Android.

Palm is once again in an extremely difficult position and is being marginalized quickly. While the Pixi has possibilities as a feature phone upgrade, the Pre (which I own) is all but done without some major improvements. Similarly, Windows Mobile (absent a fantastic Windows Mobile 7 upgrade late this year) faces a similar challenge.

But the arrival of the Nexus One and the proliferation of Android devices across US carriers presents Apple with an imperative: get out from under AT&T exclusivity now or stall in the face of the "good enough" device in Android. 

The new flagship Android handset, the Nexus One, is faster and has some features not found on the iPhone but it's still not a superior device overall. But the public won't care very soon. Those who've switched carriers to get the iPhone have already switched. That trend has run its course. Those that refused to or resisted won't switch now; they've got options. 

So what if Android isn't the iPhone; increasingly it's "good enough."