Why Apple and Google Need Each Other

28 Comments

In the world of technology, drama is a valuable commodity. Disruptive change may happen in the minutiae of software code or the gradual execution of a business plan, but we see its effects in the dramatic narratives of companies rising and falling, or getting locked in combat with each other. Which is why the rivalry between Google (s goog) and Apple (s aapl) is such a compelling story.

It’s so tempting to get drawn into the ego battles between Steve Jobs and the Google triumvirate while placing bets on who will win that it’s easy to forget a deeper truth about this rivalry: Google and Apple need each other.

They both have a deep desire to stake out claims on the mobile web, but the mobile web is in a nascent stage. In order to develop, it needs to have both rigid structure and a sometimes reckless creativity. Structure is necessary to provide a strong foundation and a set of standards everyone can understand. And creativity is essential to bringing the innovative potential of the mobile web into full bloom.

This dichotomy was present when the Internet began to develop in the early 90s. Many people who came online then did so through America Online’s (s aol) walled gardens, a safe little enclave where consumers and content providers alike could create the rules of a new medium. Then the web itself took off and sites like Yahoo (s yhoo) and GeoCities offered a much more creative environment to explore what else could be done.

Now it’s happening again, only with Apple and Google. Apple’s stern and unforgiving approach to the iPhone offers the structure this new medium needs to succeed. Cupertino’s control-freak tendencies stretch from enforcing adherence to ever-changing app guidelines to banishing plastic screen protectors from its retail stores.

Google’s approach is nearly the opposite, much more open and free-wheeling. Its Android OS, based on the Linux kernel, has so many versions available the company is struggling to consolidate them. The Android Market is such an unregulated affair that it’s hard for anyone to count the number of apps on sale.

Google’s culture has built into it a tolerance for the failures that come with creative experiments. Its 70-20-10 rule seems rooted on that spirit of tolerance — how many companies require employees to spend time on something that may never fly? — and Google has floated so many failed ideas it’s hard to keep track of them all. Apple, by contrast, starts with an instinctive idea of how consumers will experience its products and fits everything, even the ecosystem of apps that extends beyond its corporate walls, into making it work.

It’s in the tension between these two companies and their respective cultures that the mobile web is being forged. But as America Online found out, the walls eventually come down as consumers grow more comfortable with the new medium and desert the walled garden. That would suggest the balance will tip in favor of Google.

But I would be surprised if Apple isn’t anticipating this evolution. Right now, iPhone owners are experiencing the mobile web through the 150,000 or so apps it offers through the App Store. But Apple has also backed HTML5, which allows a smartphone browser to have rich app-like features without requiring any new software to be downloaded. Just as people stopped downloading AOL’s software and switched to browsers, we may well abandon most of the apps on our phones today.

Both companies will continue to play a major role on the mobile web, but I doubt either will ever gain the upper hand. This dramatic tension between Apple and Google may be around for a long time. So executives at both might as well get used to it.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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28 Comments

guru47

It’s ridiculous to suggest that they can’t live without each other, but TTTT, without Steve Jobs directing things from the top, Apple would probably launch a few more things that fail.

JS

“Collaboration of google and nokia makes much more sense …..reach major markets in all mobile segments …rather than stuck with minor player like apple”
Both companies had no vision for the future mobile interface until Apple got in the game. Google has no experience in platforms, UI, Customer support, operating systems or hardware. Which was pretty evident when the nexus one hit the street. They have already lost customer data & also remove apps from their store. What no out rage from the tech geeks? Apple has over 30 years experience in all those arenas & a deep portfolio of patents. This is such an ignorant point of view it borders on ridiculous. Google with it’s miniscule, fragmented platform has already had a malware app to download on it’s app site (with no real anser on how they will avoid this in the future). Google was a trusted partner of Apple’s & stabbed them in the back. Do no evil…BS. Google’s mobile foray is not open & anyone that believes that is lost. Consumers do not care about the same things a very small percentage of tech geeks care about. They want the device to work & be easily managed apps & all. Google doesn’t get this & neither do technophiles.

http://treestman.posterous.com/why-is-my-android-phone-so-much-different-tha

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/03/31/android_tethering/

Werner Egipsy Souza

Don’t forget Yahoo!
Yahoo the content king, Google the content finder and Apple the viewer/deliverer!

Why can’t it just be this way, Wonly!

asus

You know this is all pretty funny. IIRC Apple didn’t even have native apps for the first iPhone release. They wanted to push developers to create web-apps with html/javascript. But users and devs revolted and Apple caved. Now that the pendulum has swing the other way, people are upset… You can still develop “web” iphone apps you know. They work fine.

Google created their own mobile platform to box out Microsoft. They saw what happened with the Mac, and knew Apple always being the technology leader would only ever serve the top end of the market and early adopters. They saw it was going to be Windows mobile (meaning bing) on 2/3 of everything else, and that wasn’t good for their search business. So they threw together a mobile phone linux version that defaults to google services. Problem solved. Unfortunately they “borrowed” a few ideas along the way, and rightfully so, Apple is pissed. Just as Apple was pissed when Bill Gates “borrowed” the Mac paradigm after working with Apple closely as a developer.

Honestly, my issue with Google is that with the exception of search, they really don’t seem to have much focus or refinement in their products. I mean sure, they all work pretty well, and they are “free” (in exchange for your seeing ads), but none of their UIs are particularly well done and many of them seem pretty “me too” in spirit. Given how many smart people has, I’d expect more game changers.

In the end though, you are right, Apple and Google need eachother. Apple, being a minority player in the PC market needs open web standards to succeed so that the internet will work with something other than Windows. Google needs open web standards to succeed so that any device platform can access their search/ads in a uniform way – whether it be a PC browser, phone, TV, etc… This is in stark contrast to Microsoft, who needs the only standard to be Windows based protocols so that they can tie everyone into Microsoft only products and keep the Windows juggernaut going. But see, Microsoft makes money from selling software – not hardware like apple, or ad based web services, like google. Apple and Google have more in common and against Microsoft than people are focusing on now. Hopefully this will blow over…

iphonerulez

I’m all for Apple destroying Google in the mobile ad arena. Why? Because instead of Google focusing on their search engine and ad clicks, they had to mess around with Android which they think is going to be able to flood the market with cheap handsets. Google doesn’t really give a damn about the Android platform, it just wants lots of smartphones carrying Google search and advertisements.

Apple should just break Google’s back with it’s own search engine and ad click business. Apple seems like it’s going to use Bing to somewhat slow down Google. Google’s greed is going to be the death of that company. Considering how poor Nexus One sales were, you can tell that Google knows little about marketing or customer support for it’s own flagship smartphone. No doubt Android smartphones are going to flood the market, but I can’t wait to see that OS continue to fragment and eventually it’s going to blow up in Google’s face. Google should have stayed out of the smartphone business and now they’re going to pay for their folly.

I hope Google continues to serve the geeks with their totally open platform and there’ll be so many versions of Android and interfaces, nobody is going to know when they’ve got the latest firmware for their particular model. The majority of low-tech users will be so confused they’ll ultimately have to look elsewhere for a more stable platform. Android is just a patchwork quilt of an OS that will never be fully polished.

A S

Last I heard, Steve Jobs was scared that Android would kill the iPhone. Hence, the first move: lawsuit against HTC.

Jon O'Brien

Google isn’t getting greedy by moving into the mobile arena. They realize that in the coming years as wireless broadband becomes more accessible and faster, that more and more people will be using mobile devices. This is a matter of survival for Google. Given that, to say that “Google doesn’t really give a damn about the Android platform” is simply ignorant. As an owner of a nexus one, and previous user of an iphone (a great device) I can say that it is on par with the iphone and exceeds it in what I perceive to be the most important area: cloud services.

Speak recognition (all though it is used on the iphone too) is better implemented on the nexus one with aid of a dual mic set-up. Greater use of the service (because of android adoption) has seen its accuracy (from my personal use) get consistently better spurred by the larger data set of voice samples from more users. This past week I was showing it to a friend and pretty much sang the lyrics from Snoop Dogg’s, Jin and Juice, “rollin down the street, smokin indo, sippin on gin and juice, laid back …with my mind on my money and my money on my mind)” and it had it there on my phone word for word.

With one touch access to the universal search bar I can dictate a search query or simply say navigate to …” “… and it will infer my location via gps and know find what I’m searching for and give me audible turn by turn directions seconds from pressing the button.

Gmail on android works perfectly and fully and anyone who’s used Google Voice to manage their calls knows and love’s the flexibility that it provides to user’s and businesses.

The Iphone is great, but the android has all the features and ease of use (my opinion) that the iphone has but took it a step further with server-side computation, cloud services, and expanded functionality.

The relatively poor sales of the nexus one, thus far, have no connection with google’s commitment to the platform. It can be attributed to the fact that it launched on a smaller carrier like T-mobile, with online only sales, and internet only marketing. It was only made to be an example of what an android phone should be at that time so that other manufacture’s would up their ante. If it was widely released and adopted then it would have scared away competition. As I see it, the move was similar to their 1GB/sec broadband announcement, they just want to show people what a good product can be so that other companies step up their game. This friction will be good for both apple and google. If apple would just continue to spend their money on R&D and not lawyers.

pagux

you gotta be kidding …there is no way apple and google can and should work together ….google doesn’t needs apple in any way …..only point of android is to more people on internet and search and use Google services so that they sell more advts …weather they do it from iphone or android is irrelevant ..army andriod devices is predicted to overtake i[hone in 2012..regarding html 5 apple is only supporting bcos its has to (no flash on iphone/ipad remember) …html5 will make/is making most of native redundant (remember google voice ion iphone and companies like app accelerators ) ….we need a company to kick the butt of control freak monopolist like apple …We need competition … God forbid opposite forces collabrate …even if they they will collaborate on what ?? but android on iphone devices ?? maybe default search engine ? which is already google

Collaboration of google and nokia makes much more sense …..reach major markets in all mobile segments …rather than stuck with minor player like apple

ChampagneBob

Apple is about to pull the plug on Google search on its computers, iPods, iPhones and the new iPad….. this is a big deal.

Bing will be the default search, Microsoft will license multi-touch on Apple’s terms and they will work together on inter-operativity.

Google, along with many others, have to respect patents, look and feel and concept….. the line is being drawn now for the transformative change using simple mobile devices, tied to the cloud, using protected apps that are safer and easy to use for specific purposes.

Heavy lifting will run off the cloud or local servers that are avaliable directly eliminating middle providers like cable, TV, print media, etc.
Welcome to the new age of computing…..

Adrian

Apple has decided to kill flash.

They can just as easily decide to kill HTML5.

Ultimately the consumer will decide, unknowingly, how much freedom they’re willing to sacrifice. If the present state of “privacy” an any indication, the answer is alarmingly clear.

Rob

Interesting battle with differing goals. Seems to me Apple wants dominance to make money selling refined hardware supported by an integrated ecosystem that also generates a moderate income stream; Google wants to dominate online advertising for its income. Google has a beta in every venue, trying to steer advertising to its channels. Unfortunately most Google trial balloons never reach a level much above “good enough.” Most of its products seem unfinished.

Louis Wheeler

I see no drama between Apple and Google; Neither confronts the other directly because they are serving different market segments.

Do both have operating systems? Yes, but each is carefully targeted not to attack the other. Mac OSX is designed to sell Apple’s premium hardware. Google’s Chrome OS is designed to protect from sabotage by Microsoft; That way Google can continue to make money from ads. It is a bonus for Google’s customers that the Chrome OS will be less susceptible to malware than Windows.

Google’s initial entry into hardware will be a Chrome NetBook. Apple’s iPad is unlikely to draw many people from the NetBook market; most of its users will never have had a computer before.

Since there are billions of feature phone users who can convert to smart phones, it is unimportant that Apple and Google have phone OS’s. Each company will draw different market segments. The company being hurt by this is Microsoft’s Phone 7 because Google directly competes with it.

A S

Point no. 1 – this article only talks about why the mobile Web supposedly needs Google and Apple. It doesn’t really talk about why Apple and Google need each other. So, the title is somewhat misleading.

Point no. 2 – the mobile Web doesn’t really need the dictatorial restrictions of Apple. If Apple were to stop existing as a company tomorrow, there would be almost no adverse effect on the mobile Web. It would flourish just fine. If Google were to stop existing tomorrow, the progression of the mobile Web would slow down. But it would still flourish in the long run.

Just imagine this – if all Apple products were to magically disappear from the world this instant, it wouldn’t be such a great loss. But if all Google products were to disappear, finding content online would be extremely difficult until another search engine became as good as Google.

Eideard

It’s most likely the personalities under scrutiny are liable to bump into each other somewhere with some privacy – and share a bottle of wine while discussing common issues and answers discretely, friendly, well away from the emotional baggage assigned to them by journalists.

PaulG

“very clever opinion. I am in favor of google btw. :-)”

In favor of Google? The Google that mindlessly decided on it’s own with Google Buzz that no one needs their privacy or should have that option to decide? Until people started screaming about it that is.

I’ll err on the side of common sense and some protection and go Apple all the way instead of the type of corporate recklessness of a Google or the cluelessness of a Microsoft. What some people see as Apple’s over zealous behavior (i.e. restricting certain apps on the App Store, etc.) I see as protecting the consumer and to try not to kill the mobile web Golden Goose with total tech anarchy. Obviously though THEY will have to exercise common sense in not getting too carried away with their policies and skirt censorship issues. I know questions of “who guards the guardians?” inevitably will come up but Apple seems to be the most trustworthy of all the disparate “evils.”

A S

The Google that mindlessly decided on it’s own with Google Buzz that no one needs their privacy or should have that option to decide?

I wish people who don’t have supporting facts would just shut up talking about Google Buzz already. From day number 1 that Google Buzz was launched, absolutely no private information was ever made public without explicit consent of the users. The only information that Buzz ever published was information that people had already chosen to make public.

All this talk about Buzz publishing private information has about as much truth as the death panels in the healthcare bill.

rd

All Apple has to do is destroy google
ad business in iPhone/iPad ecosystem.

Google can have the Web but it cannot
dictate anything in the app business.
It is not the Internet and they didn’t
create it. Apple is going to raise
the cost of free ride that google is enjoying.

stefn

Yes, let’s not personalized any corps. Good to remember, given the recent Supreme Court decision, that corporations are not people. In fact, they have more rights than people do and they live forever. Kinda like the Frankenstein monster. And they view us humans as a form of Soylent Green.

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