While Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) founder Steve Wozniak no longer works in the day-to-day operations of the company, he still has strong opinions on how it should be run. The tech genius, who looks like a cross between perennial Hollywood Square Bruce Vilanch and '80s toy Teddy Ruxpin, has never shied away from sharing his opinion on the industry powerhouse.
His latest comments occurred at the Apps World North America conference in San Francisco where he told Wired magazine, "There's nothing that would keep Apple out of the Android market as a secondary phone market. We could compete very well. People like the precious looks of stylings and manufacturing that we do in our product compared to the other Android offerings. We could play in two arenas at the same time."
It opens up the world
Apple has been unwilling to offer a truly cheap iPhone as doing so would (possibly) dilute its brand and make it harder for the company to get customers to buy high-end (and high-margin) products. This strategy, while profitable, keeps the company largely out of developing countries and limits Apple's sales opportunities in markets that can't afford the iPhone.
Offering an Apple-esque phone running Android may be a double win for the company -- it protects the exclusivity of the iPhone but gets customers excited about Apple's style. In that scenario, the Android iPhone wins Apple customers who might then view buying an actual iPhone as an aspiration worth saving for.
Unlikely, but not impossible
In all its years as a computer maker as a distant number two to Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows in the operating system game, Apple never chose to make a computer running its rival's OS. Even though a sleekly styled Mac body running Windows may have been a hit in the business world and with people who needed the more popular OS, but wanted Apple's cool factor, Apple never tried it.
Windows, however, is a fixed platform owned by Microsoft. Android, though it's owned by Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL), is an open-source operating system that Apple (or any company) can use and adapt however it sees fit. Apple, were it to create an Android phone, would not have to make one that uses the current off-the-shelf version of Android. Instead, the company could build off the base, much like Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) has done and make a version in line with the look and feel customers expect from Apple.
How big a market is it?
In the last three months of 2013, comScore, as reported by AndroidCentral.com, said Android had 51.5% of U.S. market share whereas Apple's iOS had 40.6%. According to Apple's quarterly results, the company sold 33.8 million iPhones -- a record for the September quarter, compared to 26.9 million in the year-ago. Samsung, the leading Android phone maker, "ended the quarter the same way it began the year: as the clear leader in worldwide smartphone shipments," according to IDC, which tracks phone shipments. "The company maintained a sizable double-digit lead over the next vendor."
Adding an Android phone would not only open up more than half of the market to Apple, it also might take market share from Samsung.
Could it happen?
It technically could and Apple CEO Tim Cook has shown in the past he is not entirely bound by the thoughts of his predecessor, Steve Jobs.
In a 2010 earnings call, as reported by AllThingsD, Jobs spoke strongly against making a 7-inch iPad.
"The reason we [won't] make a 7-inch tablet isn't because we don't want to hit [a lower] price point," Jobs said. "It's because we think the screen is too small to express the software. As a software-driven company, we think about the software strategies first."
Such tablets, Jobs said, would be useful only if they came with sandpaper to file down human fingers to a quarter of their size.
Apple, of course, under Cook released a smaller iPad, but while that move shows that Jobs words are not gospel, it's still hard to imagine the company would completely shift strategy and build a device using someone else's operating system. And while that device could be a hit, it would be a hit that operates outside Apple's ecosystem.
As hard as it is to picture an iPhone running Android, it's even harder to picture one where customers must buy apps from Google instead of Apple's app store.
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Daniel Kline is long Microsoft. The Motley Fool recommends Amazon.com, Apple, and Google. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com, Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.