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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?

New Statesman
Photograph: Getty Images

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.