One thing I have not seen much of in discussions of the ongoing tablet/phone wars if the issue of branding.

In some ways, even with their open platform, Android is like Microsoft. I do not say this lightly, but from the standpoint of the consumer experience in shopping for phones. Most of the clients I run into, when looking for phone are either looking for an iPhone, or they’re looking for an ‘Android’ – and want to know which make and model is the best.

Sure, some want, specifically, a “droid” or “htc” – but for the most part, even those who are aware of them due to the many commercials care less about a specific phone maker than whether or not the phone runs Android, and what features are available on any specific handset.

This is at first blush analogous to the situation with PC’s in the late 90’s where, outside of the Mac camp, everything ran windows, and manufacturers had to really struggle to differentiate themselves from a cheap white-box computer bought at the local computer shop. The manufacturers can’t compete much on features, some models do try to compete on build, but mostly the handset makers try to compete by what “useful” changes they can make to the UI.

The carriers, of course, are still trying to dictate what people can and cannot do on their networks.

I’m not sure if they are succeeding. Because of several key differences in the phone market, the gradual erosion of the handset makers, but more importantly, the phone carriers ability to dictate what features will be available, is a good thing for consumers. And we are already seeing signs that, between the iPhone and the Android, the wireless carriers are losing their ability to dictate terms to the handset makers.

Interesting times, as the phone companies struggle to stay relevant as more than just a commodity connection to the world, and the handset makers struggle to stay relevant in a world where Blackberry is waning, and most of the mindshare belongs to Apple and Google.

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