Ben Bajarin writes for Techpinions about Android eating the world.
There is only one company in the market right now that does not need platform assistance from a third party. That is Apple. Every other hardware company needs a third party to provide them with software to run on their hardware. Microsoft has been this company for most of the computing era. Google, with Android, has provided the Microsoft alternative to the mobile world. Hardware OEMs need this third party software support because they need a company to provide a platform and standards support for a wide variety of technologies.
However between the two, Android offers to hardware OEMs what Microsoft does not, the ability to differentiate. Ship Windows or Windows Phone and your product from a software standpoint is no different from your competitors. Which means your basis to compete is extremely limited to form and price. Android, on the other hand, allows hardware companies to take the platform which Google is supporting with standards and driver support and customize it in a way to offer some level of visual and feature differentiation at a software level. Microsoft is providing a standardized unified platform. Google is providing a standardized platform to create other platforms / ecosystems. These solutions are very different and enable entirely different ecosystems.
It sounds like good news but this does not consider the fragmentation that results from this. It makes it harder for developers to create apps that runs across the different platforms. Apple and Microsoft provide a standardised ecosystem that promotes app development. It is an important factor that led to the domination of Windows as a PC operating software.
Android is like Linux. Although Linux allowed for customisation of the experience, the platform fragmentation impairs the development of software that runs on the different Linux distros.