Now I'm no statistician, but when I was in college I had to take a class in Economic Statistics. During that class, the professor said that one of the most important things to learn about numbers was how to manipulate them to say what you want them to say, because many people have an unfounded belief that numbers can't lie. I've had a healthy dose of skepticism towards charts and graphs ever since.
For example, when I read the headline "Developers That Have Developed For Each Mobile Platform" I find myself wondering what "Have Developed" means. I suspect you're supposed to come away from this chart thinking something like "Android has more developers than iOS" but that's not really what the chart says, is it? Just because they "Have Developed" for iOS doesn't mean they still are; just because they "Have Developed" for Android doesn't mean they still are.
How many developers "have developed" for both? How many tried both and settled on iOS? How many tried both and settled on Android? We're also supposed to remember that "two years ago, Android was nowhere." Something else happened two years ago: the App Store was just about to open for business.
Henry is also convinced that because Android has attracted more developers, this will inevitably lead to more people using Android phones. That's not necessarily a supportable conclusion. Certainly there are a lot of Droids in user hands; maybe that's because when they go into Verizon stores the salespeople are pushing Android. Why? Is it a) they don't have the iPhone to sell, b) they get a nice chunk of commission for selling Android, and c) much of the time, Android phones are buy-one, get-one-free? If you asked the average person on the street if they had heard of the iPhone, my guess is that they would say yes. If you asked the average person on the street if they had heard of Android, my guess is that they would say no.
Henry also thinks that it is "wishful thinking" to believe that Apple can maintain its extraordinary profit growth by being a premium seller. He says "There just aren't that many premium buyers in the world." The interesting thing here is not to look at Android vs. iOS, but Mac OS X vs. Windows.
Henry's main point is that Windows is everywhere and Mac OS X isn't (implication: this is a bad thing) and the same thing could happen to the iPhone/iPad (implication: that would be a bad thing). I happen to think that he's on to something with the "Android is the new Windows" comparison. After all, Windows will run on just about any PC out there -- well, for various definitions of the term "run" -- from the $300 netbook to the $500 laptop to the ubiquitous Dell towers that you are likely to see at many businesses.
PC hardware developers have to depend on volume sales to make up for what are mostly bottom-barrel prices, and few of them are seeing great sales. Apple, on the other hand, recently increased the price of their cheapest computer (the Mac mini) by $100, and has been seeing record-breaking sales, even in this economy. Which company would you rather own? Which company would you rather have stock in? Do I need to make several charts and graphs showing Apple's profit and cash-on-hand versus other companies? I suspect that most of you already know what it shows: Apple is far ahead of the competition. Apple may not have any desktop/notebook computers under $500, but they pretty much own the marketshare of the "over $1000" market. Henry says there "aren't that many premium buyers in the world" but Mac sales prove that "conventional wisdom" wrong.
Add to that the iPad sales data, and suddenly it looks like there are not only a lot of premium buyers, but there are a lot of premium buyers who are also early adopters.
Let's not forget that the iPhone 3GS is now available for $100, and the iPhone 4 is available for $200. This is not 2007 where Apple is selling unsubsidized iPhones. Back then, anyone who owned an iPhone was an oddity, a standout. Now you can wander into Walmart and walk out with an iPhone along with the 12-pack of tube socks and Doritos. The iPhone has been out for 3 years and the 4th hardware release saw enormous crowds gathering around. Henry thinks those crowds are going to dwindle in the future, but so far they only seem to be getting bigger.
The whole argument ("Next year's Android is going to be so much better than this year's iPhone") reminds me largely of what we heard about the iPod from 2001 until 2007 (when people started paying more attention to the iPhone). This year's iPod was too expensive compared to Competitor X who was just months away from releasing an "iPod killer" that would be better, cheaper, and do Wi-Fi. But a funny thing happened on the way to overtaking the iPod: Apple kept making it better. For each step the competition took, Apple took two. The products were well-marketed, but more importantly, they worked really well, and really easily. Year after year the iPod beat everyone else. Then Apple came out with the iPod mini, and the shuffle, and the nano, and suddenly instead of being on a brink of extinction, the iPod owned so much marketshare and mindshare that I wonder if the average non-tech person could even name another MP3 player brand.
So what did Apple do? They made the iPhone, which was a huge success. Then they made the iPad. Does anyone think they're done? Anyone think that Jobs isn't going to go to his deathbed (hopefully in many, many, many years) with his eyes and heart looking for "the next big thing"?
Look, I've got plenty of criticism for the way Apple has handled the App Store, from rejecting apps to limiting tools that developers can use to make better apps. But even if Henry is right and Android becomes the next Windows, I'm not sure that hurts Apple. Instead it relegates Android to being the commodity OS that everyone runs and no one likes, running on hardware that people consider basically disposable, and producing little income for anyone who isn't at the top of the pile. Meanwhile the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad remain on the top of the heap, pulling in top profits and a controlling percentage of mindshare, while Android developers struggle to figure out how to develop applications for a legion of cheap devices which are all expected to run the same software.
Oh, and if you really want to stick with charts and graphs, check out this one from the AppStoreHQ blog showing a comparison of 43,185 iOS developers and to 10,199 Android developers, and note the part where they mention that nearly 15% of the Android developers have iOS apps. Or checkout this graph from Appcelerator showing 90% of developers are "very interested" in developing for the iPhone, 84% are very interested in developing for the iPad, compared to 81% and 62% for "Android Phone" or "Android Tablet" interest, respectively.
Or maybe you'd be more interested in the money developers make. If so, I'd point you to another chart, but I suspect that all you really need is the title: Android Market Payouts Total 2% of App Store's $1B.
So, Mr. Blodget, feel free to keep publishing that same article as many times as possible, especially if they keep paying you for it each time you have to come up with a new headline. But I suspect that Apple isn't going to lose much sleep over it.