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Former CEO defends Google using Caribbean tax shelter

While Q3 smartphone sales numbers are slightly deceptive as the much-anticipated Apple, Inc. (AAPLiPhone 5 was yet to launch, it's hard to deny that Google Inc. (GOOG) brightly outpaced its rival in unit sales, with Google's Android taking 72 percent of the market, versus a mere 14 percent for Apple.  In a new interview, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt says that equated to 1.3 million Android smartphones activated a day, a key to Google outselling its rival 5-to-1.

I. Google v. Apple == Microsoft v. Apple Computer?

He compares his company's war against Apple to Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) successful campaign against Apple Computer back in the 1980s and 1990s.  He remarks to Bloomberg, "This is a huge platform change; this is of the scale of 20 years ago -- Microsoft versus Apple.  We’re winning that war pretty clearly now."

To Eric Schmidt, the sales triumph is vindication of Google's decision to give away Android to third party OEMs, versus Apple's policy of zealously possessive in-house efforts.  Comments Mr. Schmidt, "The core strategy is to make a bigger pie.  We will end up with a not perfectly controlled and not perfectly managed bigger pie by virtue of open systems."

Eric Schmidt
Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt claims Apple is repeating its own painful history.
[Image Source: The Sydney Morning Herald]

As for his company's and the general economy's outlook, he says he sees signs for optimism in the Chinese recovery.  But he warns that the so-called "fiscal cliff" -- a series of automatic tax increases and spending cuts -- could kill a similar emerging recovery in the U.S.

He warns, "It will be tragic for the country if the sum of the government can’t resolve this.  You can think of what’s going on as one set of special interests versus another, and a big fight and they all have to feel like they’ve been heard."

He sees Europe as another soft spot, saying that region will struggle to recover as southern nations like Spain, Italy, and Greece dangle on the edge of financial insolvency.

II. Schmidt on Gov't Regulation, Taxes

Mr. Schmidt defends his company's decision to shuffle $9.8B USD to a shell company in Bermuda to escape $2B USD in taxes from countries like the U.S., UK, France, and Australia.  

He comments, "We pay lots of taxes; we pay them in the legally prescribed ways.  I am very proud of the structure that we set up. We did it based on the incentives that the governments offered us to operate.  It’s called capitalism.  We are proudly capitalistic. I’m not confused about this."

Gimme Shelter
Schmidt says nothing's wrong with Google using a tax shelter. [Image Source: Hook Worldwide]

On the topic of spectrum crunch, which AT&T, Inc. (T) and others have bemoaned, Mr. Schmidt says it is a real problem, but that smart antennas may be able to help.  He comments, "[True] all the modeling says the existing strategy will run out of cellular bandwidth in 2016 or 2017.  [But] today you get dedicated bandwidth on your phone, and your phone doesn’t say, ’Ah ha! I can go over here or over up here.’ Smart radios can do that."

Google+ was also plugged by the former chief executive, which calls a "viable competitor to Facebook", thanks to its 100 million active users.

Source: Bloomberg

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Uncle Eric lost in the Hall of Mirrors
By Tony Swash on 12/13/2012 7:04:57 PM , Rating: 2
In the past it seemed to be so simple. Market share led to platform 'victory' which led to commercial success.

The steps in the process of platform 'victory' seemed simple:

Step one: sell more units than competing platforms

Step two: grow platform market share

Step three: the bigger platform market share makes your platform more attractive to third party vendors

Step four: developers, OEMs, retailers, peripheral makers, content sellers all flock to your platform because that's where the money is

Step five: as a result of Step four your platform becomes more attractive to customers

Step five: sell more units

And so a virtuous feedback loop is set up which grows the platform with the dominant market share and marginalises the minority platform. Most of the money flows towards the platform with the biggest market share. The minority platform suffers from less investment and support which drains away to the majority platform and disincentives are created for those considering using the minority platform.

It seems simple but it doesn't seem to work like that in the mobile device market.

Somewhere around Step three in the mobile markets the dynamic seems to break down. All the evidence from multiple sources and using numerous metrics show the same thing. Android is a worse platform than iOS by a very large margin. Metrics like web browsing, developer income, OEM and OS profits, advertising income, digital content sales, educational, government and business adoption rates, web commerce transaction rates, peripherals support, all show Android doing a lot worse than iOS.

A platform is just that, a platform upon which other things stand, and if those other things do not stand on a platform then it is not a successful platform. It seems that in general and for reasons which are not fully understood but which are very well evidenced the average Android user actually uses Android far less as a platform to do things (other than making calls and texting) compared to iOS. Android is a poorly used platform, iOS is a very well used platform. It is also clear that the average iOS user is willing to spend far more on apps and other digital content and more willing to shop online using an iOS device than the average Android user, this makes an average Android user far less important to those seeking to make money on a platform.

It is clear that even though Android (using the usual very broad definition of Android) is significantly outselling iOS the latter is not suffering from any adverse effects. The iOS commercial and value ecosystem is vastly more healthily and much larger than the Android commercial and value ecosystem. Android is not 'winning' because Apple is not 'losing'. It seems that in the mobile device markets you can have a minority market share but still have the most successful platform and the most successful business.

This is disappointing for those who want Android to 'win' and for Apple to 'lose'. By collapsing the various steps listed above and by fetishising just the first two steps ('sell more units' and 'grow market share') it seemed possible for a while to create a belief that Android was in fact winning. But in the new mobile markets things don't seem to work like they did in the old PC markets and as much as one may long for it, Apple do not appear to be losing. In the new mobile markets things are both different and more complicated.

This looks at the stats for iOS and Android platform usage

This is an interesting take on Android as a platform:

as is this

RE: Uncle Eric lost in the Hall of Mirrors
By sprockkets on 12/13/2012 7:13:45 PM , Rating: 2
You know, why can't you be that normal poster about his nikon camera?

When you post anything about apple or google, you go ape sht for some reason...

By ritualm on 12/13/2012 7:34:30 PM , Rating: 2
Tony makes creationist nutters sound reasonable and intelligent. Mind blowing.

RE: Uncle Eric lost in the Hall of Mirrors
By Tony Swash on 12/13/12, Rating: 0
RE: Uncle Eric lost in the Hall of Mirrors
By Paj on 12/14/2012 8:01:01 AM , Rating: 3
The problem with your arguments (like many here on good old DT) is that it only applies to the US. Indeed, iOS use in the US is higher than Android. But a look at the worldwide stats shows a different story - a clear decline for iOS over the last year, where Android is going strong.

This is attributable to Androids lower price of entry, and greater customisability.

RE: Uncle Eric lost in the Hall of Mirrors
By Tony Swash on 12/14/12, Rating: 0
By nafhan on 12/14/2012 3:55:03 PM , Rating: 3
First of all, the metrics I've seen tend to be focused on US e-commerce, which will usually be skewed more towards iOS than if you looked at the rest of the world.

Secondly, a lot of Android devices are crap to browse on - low end phones on inexpensive VERY limited data plans. That certainly doesn't mean that these people and their possible future purchases don't matter, though. That's an important mind-share and market-share to get for the future.

Third, (this is more personal observation) those on midrange or higher Android phones, I think, tend to have pretty similar usage patterns to someone with, say, an iPhone 5. I personally find the Galaxy SIII to be much nicer to interact with for things like web browsing than an iPhone thanks to it's larger, higher res. screen. The "mid range and higher" people are probably where the majority of the Android "hits" on websites come from.

For the near future, I think the percentage of mobile web browsing originating from Android phones will continue to increase at a rate that exceeds iPhone usage increases. A huge part of this is that the cheap "throw away" smart phones are starting to get good enough to actually be pleasant to use for these types of activities.

By Paj on 12/17/2012 8:28:45 AM , Rating: 2
No, I dont think I did. I agree that the data from the US supports your arguments. I also agree that market share != profitability. Certainly, the App Store is likely to be more profitable for developers.

But this logic doesnt apply to everything.

If we could side step the tribal affiliations for a moment it would be interesting to hear people's ideas as to why there is this profound disparity between platform usage. In particular I would like to know from Android users what may be deterring them from using their Android devices for surfing the web, shopping online, buy apps, clicking on ads, etc

The stats I posted show that more people are using Android browsers for web browsing on a worldwide basis - which directly refutes your point that more people are using iOS for web browsing than Android.

This in turn could reasonably mean that, worldwide, mobile advertising would be more lucrative on Android, as a greater number of impressions for any given ad campaign could be made. This is how advertising is sold.

Also, saying that Android users dont buy things is incorrect, considering that Amazons entire business model is based on content sales - which uses their custom version of Android built into the Kindle range.

By retrospooty on 12/14/2012 8:45:07 AM , Rating: 3
"say where you think my argument breaks down"

Oh oh, let me answer... It's because no-one takes you seriously... You argue and skew info in favor of Apple all the time, 100%, no matter what the situation. There, I guess that wasnt so complex was it.

If you could just once in a while say something that wasn't totally biased and call Apple on their crap or point out some negative thing about their products and/or something positive about a competitor it would go a long way toward anyone even bothering to read you posts. You are like the boy who cried Apple. It's too much Apple Apple Apple, therefore no-one believes anything you write even ifyou do have a point.

Make sense?

By nafhan on 12/14/2012 10:52:24 AM , Rating: 3
I think your problem might be that your conclusions are based on what you would like to see happen rather than what's actually going on in the world of technology.

I mean, you did make the case that the Android platform/ecosystem is doing poorly, when the opposite actually seems to be true - it's growing at a tremendous rate. Google is doing very well with your "Step Three" at this point. The Play store had something like a 300% year over year increase in sales. I'm not seeing the indicators of failure.

By ClownPuncher on 12/13/2012 7:19:43 PM , Rating: 2
I want to eat your skin.

RE: Uncle Eric lost in the Hall of Mirrors
By Dorkyman on 12/13/2012 7:36:55 PM , Rating: 2
So you're saying Android versus Apple percentages don't matter because the mobile market is so different from the PC market.

But what if the markets aren't so different and Apple is just being overtaken as it was 25 years ago?

If Android one day has 90% market share and Apple 6%, will you be making the same argument?

RE: Uncle Eric lost in the Hall of Mirrors
By Pirks on 12/13/2012 9:07:40 PM , Rating: 2
If Android one day has 90% market share and Apple 6%, will you be making the same argument?
If Android still has peanuts in terms of profits it brings Google and Apple still grabs lion's share of profit in the market - will you stop trolling then?

By Dorkyman on 12/13/2012 9:26:51 PM , Rating: 2
Yes. But only if.

RE: Uncle Eric lost in the Hall of Mirrors
By nocturne on 12/14/2012 1:50:49 AM , Rating: 2
You're missing the entire point.. Google may give Android away, but it gets far more back in advertising and analytics. They could care less about making a phone OS, they just saw a new market to be taken advantage of. Hell, they could give devs all of the store profits, and still be making billions from the platform. Even better, by offering their apps on Apple, even for free -- they even make money from iDiots.

RE: Uncle Eric lost in the Hall of Mirrors
By slunkius on 12/14/2012 6:02:09 AM , Rating: 2
so what's your point? should apple give away iOS for free and go into advertising business? different strategies for different companies. for now looks like apple is winning (in $$$ department, but that's the point of business). regarding future we can only guess. if someone thinks he knows which company will win 100%, i think he would do better in stock market than on message boards.

By nocturne on 12/14/2012 11:53:12 PM , Rating: 2
Actually read, people.. I'm not extolling one over the other, just trying to quell the thought that Google doesn't profit off of Android. That's just ridiculous! And of course Apple does too! In different ways entirely, though.. like comparing Apples to Googles..

If I was a gambling man though, and you asked me which, if either, would be gone in 30 years.. My money would definitely be on the 'most valuable tech company in the world'.

RE: Uncle Eric lost in the Hall of Mirrors
By Tony Swash on 12/14/2012 7:24:34 AM , Rating: 1
You're missing the entire point.. Google may give Android away, but it gets far more back in advertising and analytics.

Except it doesn't. All evidence very strongly points to the same conclusions.

First that advertising revenues on mobile devises per user are significantly less than advertising per user in a traditional desktop browser. As more users switch away from accessing the web via desktop browsers and switch to mobile devices and increasing access via apps Google faces an erosion of it's revenue base.

Google knows this and it's response has been two fold, one to drastically increase the density of advertising on all it's web properties (check out the proportion of ads above the fold on a Google search page) and the other is of course Android. The Android strategy does not alter the fundamental shift in ad accessing rates on mobile devices but Google hopes that by selling many more Android devices than the number of desktop PCs that were sold in the old PC markets it can make up the drop in ad income per user. However the Android strategy has hit problems where numerous vendors of devices have taken Android and stripped out Google services (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, many of the big Chinese handset vendors). The huge disparity in profits amongst Android OEMs which means that that Samsung takes almost all the Android OEM profits means that Samsung could one day decide to also fork Android and dump Google, the recent comments from the iPhone using Samsung executive show that Samsung is aware it needs to do more in developing it's own content ecosystem lock in and not cede that terrain to Google.

Secondly Google's Android ad revenue strategy is also undermined by the differences in platform utilisation between iOS and Android that I have already mentioned in my first comment. Even though Android devices are outselling iOS devices by a significant margin and even though the owner of Google is an advertising company and thus have a very high stake in promoting and securing ad revenue via the Android platform all the evidence shows the same thing: iOS is a better ad platform. Look at this chart showing the percentage of ad traffic and revenues across various platforms as of October 2012

The chart comes from this article

This data (and there is plenty of other data sources showing the same pattern) shows that iOS trounce all other platforms in ad income and that Android, for all of it's hundred of millions of devices sold, can only manage a 17% of ad revenues compared to 58% for iOS.

So the notion that Google is racking in revenues on the back of all those Android device activations is not tenable. Android remains a cost center for Google.

By maugrimtr on 12/14/2012 8:25:28 AM , Rating: 3
Your analysis is bull****. So long as Googles revenue from advertising across the Android ecosystem exceeds its cost to develop Android, then Google is making profits.

As usual, you declined to contemplate REALITY. Increases in mobile device traffic will reduce desktop traffic. Google's use of Android ensures that those mobile users are primarily diverted to Google's ad platforms. The alternative is to refuse to adapt, cede the market to Apple/Microsoft, and lose significantly more ad revenues to competing platforms.

You are a manipulative chancer, Tony. You take reality, locate some half-assed articles, and twist and torture it until it fits your imaginary world. The problem is people are catching on. Android is beating Apple's market share consistently and Apple's share price is nosediving off a cliff.

RE: Uncle Eric lost in the Hall of Mirrors
By nafhan on 12/14/2012 12:04:13 PM , Rating: 2
What exactly is your point?

A company like Google that's irrelevant on the mobile web. Is just irrelevant. Even if the profit margins are terrible on mobile compared to desktop, even if they have to build their own mobile OS, etc. It doesn't matter. The point is, they cannot afford to miss out on the mobile market. Google knows this, and Android is their way of making sure that they don't.

Also, there's this thing called strategy... you don't have to make money on every service or product you sell in order for that product to contribute in a positive way to your business.

On top of that, I think, in the long term, companies that primarily make money off of hardware sales (rather than software, services, or advertising). Hardware is getting marginalized. I think this is what Apple should be most worried about.

By nocturne on 12/14/2012 11:59:58 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly! And exactly why I said I doubt Google truly cared about developing a phone OS, and more or less just saw a market it needed to expand into out of necessity.

I shudder to think how much money Google has made off of me over the years.. without paying a single dime for any service, or buying a single one of their product derivatives. Between search clicks, analytics, adsense, browser activity, etc.. sure it's at least 5-6 figures. Quite incredible, if you really think about it.

By maugrimtr on 12/18/2012 8:21:43 AM , Rating: 2
Tony doesn't make points. He creates illusions.

RE: Uncle Eric lost in the Hall of Mirrors
By makius on 12/13/2012 9:49:10 PM , Rating: 3
I for one enjoyed your comment. I thought your argument was well thought out and written in a clear concise manner. Nor was it malicious or inflammatory, which is greatly appreciated!

I realize it was just your opinion and while I may not completely agree with you, I think you make a valid point. So I thank you for sharing your thoughts and I hope you don't get down-rated too much. Cheers...

By BifurcatedBoat on 12/13/2012 10:52:47 PM , Rating: 4
Apple's current success is temporary. In the long run, the platform dominance of Android will bring everything in line. Apple had a headstart, much like they did back in the Mac vs. Windows days.

But, then as now, they blew it by being too greedy, and trying to control everything. Microsoft was willing to take a part of a larger pie, involving many other companies.

If Apple had decided to license out iOS to other device manufacturers in the early days, there probably wouldn't even be an Android today, and they would be set in terms of steady revenue for the next 20 years.

They were far too greedy for that though, and wanted all of the profit for themselves. So that opened the door for someone else who was less greedy to come in, and ultimately Apple will head down the road toward irrelevancy once again.

By bupkus on 12/14/2012 12:33:09 AM , Rating: 2
Taken from the movie Pirates of Silicon Valley
Steve Jobs: We're better than you are! We have better stuff.
Bill Gates: You don't get it, Steve. That doesn't matter!

RE: Uncle Eric lost in the Hall of Mirrors
By nocturne on 12/14/2012 1:45:25 AM , Rating: 3
Tony's argument..

Android overcomes Apple 3-2.. Apple is winning. Android sells 5-2.. Apple is still winning. Android pounds them down to 5-1.. and somehow, Apple is still winning.

I'll have some of what he's having..

By xype on 12/14/2012 3:14:27 AM , Rating: 2
Compared to Google, Apple IS winning. Compared to Android, iOS is perhaps not, but that battle is far from over. Does that actually help Google in any way?

Samsung is making a profit with Android, not Google. I have yet to see an example in history where a company not earning money was a good thing in the long run.

And before anyone tells me how much more money Google _will_ make with ads once everything is said and done—wouldn’t they have to make that money by now? They’re ahead of iOS, are the not? When is that grand scheme going to start to pay off for them?

Larry Page said "I think we're in the early stages of monetization. The fact that a phone has a location is really helpful for monetization." not long ago—so, when is it going to start mattering?

RE: Uncle Eric lost in the Hall of Mirrors
By retrospooty on 12/14/2012 8:55:46 AM , Rating: 2
I think Tony actually gets the concept of investment and that Android inst the same model as the world is used to and that it will pay off massively in the future. He is fairly bright so he cant possibly miss all that he seems to be missing. He just specifically tries to skew things toward Apple... For whatever reason.

RE: Uncle Eric lost in the Hall of Mirrors
By Pirks on 12/14/2012 12:39:35 PM , Rating: 2
He doesn't skew, he just points out cold hard facts. Like the fact that Google is still not making money from Android, and who knows when they will and if they will. Well, of course, people with less intelligence than him, like you and Mick, the guys who "predicted" sale of RIM this year, these kind of guys won't comprehend this logic. Too hard to understand for them.

RE: Uncle Eric lost in the Hall of Mirrors
By Rukkian on 12/14/2012 4:43:45 PM , Rating: 2
I am not saying you are wrong, but afaik, there have been no financial reports from google saying the are loosing money from Android. They may be, they may not be, hard to tell at this point. There are many indirect ways they could be making money.

I would like to see some hard financial data (not from an apple tard website) showing they are loosing money. Are they making less than apple, sure - but that only really effects stock holders. As an end user, I like the company that I buy products from not raping me just to make a few extras bucks for their coffers.

As long as Android stays relevent (no evidence it will go away any time soon), and continues to completely out-innovate apple, sooner or later all but the complete itards of the world will probably come around imo.

By retrospooty on 12/14/2012 5:31:08 PM , Rating: 1
Exactly... Google plans are beyond Tony. They dont inform him nor do they care LOL. As if everything in business makes money the 1st few years anyhow. It's called investment. You put in now to get back later. Outselling the next closest competitor 2.5 to 1 in 2011 with an inferior product (Android 2.3x). Now in 2012 its 5 to 1 . Now that they have surpassed Apple with a better OS, the gap will grow, and grow. Especially with Apple stagnating on the innovation front. Google is firing on all pistons these days and Apple is just milking their previous achievements.

RE: Uncle Eric lost in the Hall of Mirrors
By retrospooty on 12/14/2012 5:25:28 PM , Rating: 2
Coming from you it means nothing. Your mentally 12.

RE: Uncle Eric lost in the Hall of Mirrors
By Pirks on 12/14/2012 9:32:36 PM , Rating: 1
haha, nice to hear that from pussy who trolled RIM and lied to everyone that it's going to be sold this year. troll me more, whiny pussy hehe. like your funny whining about RIM "losing" (or Apple "losing" or anyone else "losing") means anything in real life.

RE: Uncle Eric lost in the Hall of Mirrors
By retrospooty on 12/15/2012 4:10:06 PM , Rating: 2
LOL, OK, I was wrong, maybe 11.

As you well know, they DID try to sell it but couldn't find a buyer but whatever. It has nothing to do with anything here. AS anyone would clearly look at this thread and see that you are trolling me ya nitwit.

By Pirks on 12/24/2012 6:41:18 AM , Rating: 2
they DID try to sell it

RE: Uncle Eric lost in the Hall of Mirrors
By estarkey7 on 12/14/2012 7:09:31 AM , Rating: 3
A good post, by the way. It was sensible, logical, with no religious like bias as most iPost - I commend you for your logic coming from a self described Android fanboy.

In my opinion, the main loser I see in choosing Apple is the consumer. The reason for this may not seem apparent, but is evident for the very reason that Apple is more profitable from it's phone business. You see, Apple has to make money on the front end back end and the side (that being translated to the subsidy from carriers, the princely sum paid by end users, and the reaming imposed on developers, both HW and SW, respectfully) in order to justify selling their phones and iOS at all. This is the traditional business model: Make something at one price and sell it for a higher price all while charging a tariff to allow devs to get in on the fun.

Google's business model is completely different. It's the same model used by magazines and newspapers: Sell end product at a loss, but make up that loss by monies gained in advertising. Google can afford to almost pay you to buy Android when they go to every other business in the world and say "Hey, want to advertise directly to 2.4 million moms between the ages of 22 and 26 in Ohio and Florida that drive gray Toyota Camary's? We got that covered in Spades!" or what every demographic that a business directly wants to target.

Google understands that ultimately the thing that consumers want most is a choice, not a mandate. And in giving them that choice there is an abundance of leverage to capitalize on the periphery.

Can you imagine the market share iOS would have if Apple opened up their hardware platform to other manufacturers? And I'm not saying Apple should do it for free by any means, as I feel a steep premium should be paid for a ticket to ride. But Apple will only do that as a last resort to survival because they could not continue to exist (in their current form anyway) outside their monopolist business model. If Apple took on Samsung, Acer, Dell, Lenovo and HP and licensees their market share would jump 20 points minimum in a year! Devs would make a killing, consumers would have competition and iOS and Apple compatible products could make a real go at the enterprise market. But Apple's ego will never let that happen!

They are fine with charging an iArm and iLeg to a continuing shrinking piece of the market because no other method makes business sense. Remember, iPhones have only been around since 2007, and they have had a good run at it for that time. But it the long run, I feel Android will continue chipping away at market share which will cause a shift in interest on the supporting infrastructure devs provide.

By bupkus on 12/14/2012 10:26:50 AM , Rating: 2
Can you imagine the market share iOS would have if Apple opened up their hardware platform to other manufacturers?
I can imagine the share holders would string up both the CEO and the Board of Directors.
Depending on Apple's sustainability this won't occur until Apple's shares drop to < $100.
Apple TVs or iRobots may stall that eventuality although Apple may reinvent itself.
I really don't want to see Apple fail. I think it has a remarkable history but can anyone remake Apple in Steve Jobs' shadow?

By djc208 on 12/14/2012 8:51:47 AM , Rating: 2
Great post, but I think you're missing one big point. Apple lives in the boutique world, the same one selling designer clothes and Starbucks coffee. They are as much about attitude as they are about quality (real or percieved). They always have to be careful to try and ballance their image with their desire for market share. Cadillac, BMW and others have tried "cheap" luxury cars, and inevitably it does more to hurt the brand than help it.

Apple may want to be the end-all and be-all of smart phones, but like the computer market they will not be willing to go where the majority of the market is. They may have been one of the first to turn electronics into a consumer/fashion device from a tool/toy, but they don't want to be the budget computer/phone choice any more than Starbucks wants to start selling $0.99 cups of coffee.

Apple's fear is that Android or MS is pushing them to do more to compete, which means more money to keep up/keep ahead and less for profit. The Maps issue is a good example of this. How much money and bad PR has it cost Apple to try and compete with Google and MS on maps? The other is that while neither may ever get the polish that Apple has, they only have to get close to seriously erode Apple's market.

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