While we see the iPad garnering much attention during its official launch, Android fans are rejoicing. Given how many good reviews there have been for the iPad, this may sound kind of strange. However, sometimes being second best can still be the basis for a fantastic business. I call this the “Burger King Phenomenon”, where a business strives to follow in the footsteps of a market leader. The reason this can occur is that leadership in a market and innovation are extremely expensive.

McDonalds is a leader in process and market research. They continually research locations to find the best spot to build a new restaurant. They also created an amazing process that allows almost anyone to manage one of their locations. They can create this process because there is little customization to their burgers. If you order a BigMac it only comes one way, with whatever McDonalds decided it has for toppings. McDonalds spends millions to research the best locations and optimize its processes.

Burger King takes a different approach. They wait for McDonalds to open a new restaurant, then they look for a location that is near it. Their main slogan has been “Have it your way.” So, when you order a Whopper you can get it with cheese or without. You could always ask the servers to remove the onions if you do not like them either. By allowing the market leader to go through the research and development, they can focus purely on making their product better than the competition.

Apple and Android are following the same course. Apple is the market innovator. They created a new breed of smartphone, the iPhone, and now a new tablet, the iPad. They made this innovation through the use of closed systems and processes. They have a maniacal level of control over what is allowed on their devices.

Android is taking the Burger King approach. They let Apple do the core research and then create something similar but more open. Before the iPhone, how many smartphones had good touchscreen interfaces? The iPhone showed how that type of interface should really work. The Android system creates a similar feel, but you can also install almost anything on your Android phone. Because it is an open system, they can launch several different phones with many manufacturers. Tablet devices are already heading in the same direction.

By having several manufacturers using Android as their operating system, it allows Apple to lead the market in sales while still competing for overall market share. Android gives the consumer options and that should be a good thing. Granted, Android will be playing a game of catch-up for a while, but the market share is growing rapidly. Given the size of the smartphone and tablet markets, does it really matter if you come in second place?

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