In the PC era, everyone (except Apple) ran the same operating system (OS) and, therefore, the same software. So PC manufacturers could only differentiate themselves based on one or more of: hardware specs, price, etc.*

This mentality has carried over into the smartphone (and, now, tablet) arena. However, these areas are different from the PC world because these devices don’t all run the same OS, and, therefore, don’t all run the same software. It’s actually the software that people want; it’s the software that allows people to do what they want, whether it’s update their status on Facebook, check their mail, play Angry Birds, or whatever.

This is why app stores are so important, and why attracting developers to write software for a particular OS is so important.

Apple obviously gets it; they should, they’ve been here before. The other phone manufacturers don’t, perhaps because they weren’t competing on software in the “feature phone” era. And the PC manufacturers, such as Dell, HP and Lenovo, that are trying to compete in this area, still seem to be operating as if the OS/software combination was available to all.

Maybe HP, with their acquisition of Palm, gets it too.

As for Microsoft and Google? Google thinks it is in Microsoft’s PC position, and Microsoft thinks it should be, and one day will be.

But no-one is likely to end up with a Microsoft-like share of the smartphone/tablet/ebook/music player market. The general consensus seems to be that three or four OSs will share domination for the foreseeable future.

* Ok, not all PCs ran the same software—there were minimum specs for the newest software at any one time—but you know what I mean.