By Tim Baker
There’s an all-out war brewing and it’s about to get really nasty. I’m not referring to the situations in Afghanistan, North Korea or Iran; the turf where this war takes place will occur on screens all around the world. Computer screens, mobile phone screens and even television screens. This is a war on Google fought by Apple and Microsoft.
Over the past few years, Apple and Google have had a very publicly rosy relationship. The heavy integration between Google Maps and the iPhone was a mutually benefical win for both companies. Apple was able to bring mobile location services to a level unlike any other handset manufacturer had done prior while Google finally had an outlet to take over the mapping market that was dominated for so long by MapQuest.
The inclusion of a YouTube app on the iPhone and the ability to upload directly to YouTube from within the OS on the iPhone 3GS is just another example in a long history of these two companies working together in a close partnership. Safari’s default search engine has been Google for as long as I can remember while the map data from the most recent version of iPhoto is provided by – you guessed it –Google!
The Cult of Apple has adored Google for quite some time, almost embracing them as an extension of the company they worship in an almost God-like fashion. This outpouring of love and admiration coupled with Google’s “do no evil” attitude and constant innovation had been a match made in Heaven.
That was, until just a short time ago.
The first sign of trouble in paradise was made public when Apple refused to allow the Google Voice app into their app store. Denying apps had been nothing new to Apple and had caused them some bad press throughout the blogosphere, but for the most part those stories fell out the public interest after a day or two. This was different; this was Google. This was like stabbing your brother in the back and running off with his wife. Unlike most rejected apps, this one had a giant behemoth behind it that was refusing to take “no” for an answer. The entire saga turned into a he said/she said pissing match that resulted in an FTC investigation and the eventual departure of Google CEO Eric Schmidt off the Apple board of directors where he served for three years.
Some will claim that the announcement of the Android OS in 2007 was the first sign of bad blood between the two companies, but I don’t see it that way. I would classify it as a tiny little blip on a seismograph. The iPhone was already leaps and bounds ahead of other devices at this point that a little competition in the mobile space was good for everyone. Also, a lot of people in the tech world were very underwhelmed by what Google first showed off with Android, an OS that has come a long way since its first unveiling.
Since Eric Schmidt left the Apple board of directors, the gloves have really come off between the two companies. Apple and Google have both been on buying sprees as of late with Google acquiring AdMob and Apple countering with their acquisition ofQuattro Wireless. Apple also recently purchased the music streaming service LaLa, a company that Google was also attempting to buy, as well as a mapping software company called Placebase.
Yes, it’s getting ugly between the two companies, but what about the 300 lb. gorilla in the room –Microsoft? We all know that Apple and Microsoft are fierce rivals and that will not change any time soon, but this whole situation between Google and Apple allows for some interesting opportunities for Microsoft.
The Zune is a commercial failure, Windows Mobile is bleeding market share to Apple, RIM and now Android, and even Internet Explorer is feeling some heat from Firefox and Chrome in the browser wars. The Xbox 360 aside, things haven’t been as great for Microsoft these past couple of years as they would’ve hoped.
This is where it is going to get really interesting. Can Apple and Microsoft put their proverbial guns down and fight the common enemy? I believe so – at least to some extent. There’s already rumors that Apple may make Bing the new default search engine on the iPhone, but I don’t see it ending there. Google is killing Bing (and everyone else for that matter) in search, their Google Docs are getting closer and closer to Microsoft Office every day and now that Google is entering the OS market with Google Chrome OS, Microsoft is scared, and they have every reason to be.
While I don’t expect Microsoft and Apple to buddy up as close as Google and Apple have in the past, at least this year, I do think we’re going to see some very interesting collaborations between the two rivals. Perhaps we will see an official Microsoft Office suite for the iPhone or Tighter integration between the Mac and Microsoft Exchange. Maybe some of the great things about Bing, including the travel search and maps, will find some integration into Apple’s offerings. These are all small but doable things that I would not be surprised one bit to see occur in 2010.
What the Apple fanboy nation lacks in numbers it makes up with in loyalty. If Steve Jobs convinces his followers in ever-so-subtly ways that Google is not their friend anymore, there is going to be number of people that turn on the company. Will it have a huge effect on their bottom line? No, not at first, but what it will do is legitimize Microsoft as a partner, giving them more ammunition in their never-ending battle with Google.
Microsoft doesn’t have the same stigma with the younger generation of Apple lovers today as it did back in the 90’s. When Apple announced a partnership with Microsoft, which basically kept them from going bankrupt, the entire hall of people booed and hissed. It’s not like that today. iPod and iPhone lovers grew up using Windows machines in school (and still do). They have very little malevolence towards Microsoft, especially when so many of them have an Xbox in their living room. The culture is different now and Apple teaming up with Microsoft has the potential to cause seismic shifts in the technology landscape in the coming years.
Regardless of where you stand, this is going to get very interesting. Lucky for us consumers, there’s a good chance we’ll come out winners of this battle in the end when the dust settles.
If it ever ends, that is.