Apple’s competitors are likely circling the wagons and preparing for quite the fight when the iPad drops late next month. Amazon has been highlighted as the company with the most to worry about in many of the articles written about the subject thus far, but Microsoft is probably also sufficiently nervous about the effect the device will have on things like netbook sales.
Google is the one with the most to worry about, though, according to a new report (subscription required) posted at GigaOM Pro. Google does have a significant interest in the netbook market, like Microsoft, thanks to its upcoming Google Chrome OS, but that isn’t the reason they need to be scared. The real reason is the demise of the web.
Paul Sweeting, in the GigaOM Pro piece, contends that the reason the iPad poses such a threat to Google is that it rewrites the rules of content delivery, eliminating the avenues through which Google makes money via search and advertising. As I’ve written about elsewhere, Apple’s aim is clearly to control not only the content that appears on its devices, but also the conduits by which that content arrives.
Apple promotes a tunnel vision version of the Internet, with content funneled, separated and kept specific to the app you happen to be using. It’s a cellular model of consuming Internet-based content, and it is attractive to the consumer in the same way a walled Japanese garden is attractive to the appreciator of nature. The garden is safe, predictable, contained and aesthetically pleasing. Raw nature can be all of these things, too, but it isn’t necessarily so all of the time.
My only question, and the one which Sweeting poses without asking directly is, is that something I want to happen as a consumer of media? Do we want to “settle” the web, so to speak, by allowing Apple to pacify it, distill it, and then sell it back to us through tightly controlled channels? It may seem alarmist, but it isn’t. It’s what Apple has to do to grow its consumer base as a mobile device maker.
In an ideal world, from Apple’s perspective, Cupertino would have exclusive control over all major media distribution. The company desires that, or as close as is possible in the real world, because by controlling the distribution of content they can also control which devices consumers have to use to consume it. That, in turn, means hardware sales.
It sounds bleak, but it might not be all bad. Apple seems committed to providing quality content in innovative ways, so maybe handing them more control is the right move. What do you think? Is convenience, ease of use and quality of finish worth the trade-off required in terms of autonomy?