Google is about to overtake Apple, and Apple couldn't be happier

If Apple can make more money coming second, why would it want to come first?

No one could ever call me an Apple fan (their walled garden approach is something I could never get on board with) but the reports that Android is about to catch up and overtake iOS as the most popular app platform can be nothing but good news for Apple - and in particular their world-class marketing department.

Google’s Android has sold around 300m more devices worldwide than Apple, with Android seeing half a billion more downloads a month on its Play store than through Apple's App store. Not that this means much, though, as Apple continues to rake in more cash with their 30 per cent cut of apps sold than Google (who now take 27 per cent - up from 19 per cent in November 2012).

So if Apple can still make more money when being number two, why would they want to be number one?

The reason Apple historically sold so many products and had people queuing around the block was that it was the alternative to the mainstream. There is a magic associated with the Apple brand that being number one is eroding away. If Google takes this crown and becomes the everyday product that everyone and their mum uses, Apple could hold on to that special something that made people spend twice as much on them rather than settle for one of their many competitors.

As a company, Apple spent so long trying to break out from under Microsoft’s shadow that now it has, and it stands as the undisputed king of the technology industry, it doesn’t know what to do with itself. It doesn’t know how to market its products, or who to aim them at, so it veers wildly between trying to come across as the cool alternative for young creative types and trying to convince corporate clients that it’s a steady mainstay – as reliable as IBM, or the company previously known as RIM.

The Mac vs PC days of boring corporate suits being mocked by the cool, young music-maker seem a far cry from today as the US Department of Defence approves iPhones for military use and executives demand iPhones from their companies to replace their once beloved BlackBerrys.

We’ve seen Apple’s market value fall consistently every month since its peak, from just over $700 per share in September last year, something that is likely to continue if Apple remains on the road to becoming the Everyman’s Microsoft 2.0 in a tightly controlled aluminium case.

Apple needs a corporate behemoth to be second to, to outdo and feel superior to; it’s built into the company’s history and its soul. Like the rebel who becomes king and realises sitting on the throne isn’t much fun, Apple needs to be out, fighting its cause. Apple should be glad that Google has stepped up to fill that role in the mobile arena.

Photograph: Getty Images

Billy Bambrough writes for Retail Banker International at VRL financial news.

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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.