John Gruber

Chess or checkers? Gruber on Apple's mobile ecosystem edge

March 17, 2014: 4:31 AM ET

The dean of Apple bloggers offers a new metaphor from the trenches of the app wars.

Gruber. Source: Wikicommons

John Gruber. Source: Wikicommons

FORTUNE -- Tech pundit John Gruber, best known for his Daring Fireball blog, launched a mobile app last summer, and it seems to have given him new perspective on the smartphone market. Or at least a new metaphor.

The terms most often used to describe the competition among Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG), Microsoft (MSFT) and Samsung are drawn from the military. The smartphone and tablet wars. The battles for control.

The problem with such analogies is that they assume the combatants are playing on the same field. Describing iOS v. Android as an "app war" for example, doesn't explain why iOS users spend more money, install more apps and browse the Web more, even though they're outnumbered.

"The elephant in the room," writes Gruber, is that "people who choose iOS devices are better customers than people who choose Android. Or inverted: iOS (and iOS devices) are designed to attract better customers."

Or to put it still another way, one that seem to have turned into a meme over the weekend:

"It's not fair to say that Apple is playing chess while Google, Samsung, Microsoft, and the rest are playing checkers. It's more like they're all playing chess, Apple is winning, but there's a large contingent of the tech and investor commentariat who think the game is checkers and thus are deeply confused."

LINK: Daring Fireball: The ecosystem chess game.

Below: MacDailyNews dug deeper into what Asymco's Horace Dediu called "The Android engagement paradox."

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