Blog Post

Google’s browser-based cloud to be challenged by Apple’s apps

The difference between Apple (s aapl) and Google (s goog) is even clearer after today’s announcements. Apple is all about the apps. Google may have a stronger footing in the cloud today, but its browser-centric approach to client applications leaves room for Apple to improve things, especially in the mobile realm. Apple is playing to its existing strengths regarding hardware/software integration, but now it’s bringing that game to the cloud, too.

Google’s app-less cloud for tablets

To Google, the iPad is just a larger display surface for ads. Just looking at what Google has done on the iPhone compared to iPad, there’s a definite commitment gap. Unlike Google’s continued commitment to apps on the iPhone, the company seems content to let the web stand in for iPad-specific options. This strategy is not new; it’s very reminiscent of Oracle’s (s orcl) Acorn and Sun Microsystems’ JavaStation. One of the reasons these solutions failed was because they assumed the browser was a good enough application delivery system, and not just a dynamic content delivery system.  It’s a failure Google is destined to repeat if it isn’t careful.

Apple’s iOS/OS X updates and the iCloud

Apple’s decision to distribute OS X online via the Mac App Store, make the rebranded MobileMe free, and open the cloud even more with enhanced online music services in iTunes, are clear and decisive steps for a company with its sights set on a networked wireless future.  For a company not previously known for a strong cloud presence, Apple has really stepped up its game, especially if you include some of the new enhancements to iOS, including better notification support, single sign-on with Twitter, and the new iMessage service. Like Google, Apple is now heavily invested in the cloud. But Apple isn’t creating web-based access to these services. Instead, it’s enabling the core SDK for developers, and when appropriate, making rich native apps of their own. Making the cloud an invisible backend component of local apps is a great way to get consumer buy-in for a concept that may not be widely understood. It’s definitely easier to understand than the idea of a web app, which is easily confused with a plain old website, and for good reason.

Apple’s blended iOS/OS X app-based approach to the cloud has the benefit of being cross-platform, while avoiding feeling like a “best fit” solution like a web app often can. And while the user interface is distinct for each platform, the code base that developers write to interact with the cloud can be shared across all three. This creates a much deeper experience for the user as they move from platform to platform. It will be interesting to see if Google’s ‘We’ve got a URL for that’ can compete with Apple’s consumer-focused app strategy.

19 Responses to “Google’s browser-based cloud to be challenged by Apple’s apps”

  1. Lucian Armasu

    The more things we see coming from Apple, the more it becomes more obvious that Apple doesn’t care about the rest of the world and other ecosystems, even if that ecosystem is the Internet. They just want all their customers to be locked in their own ecosystem of iDevices.

    Facetime, iMessage, iCloud, iTunes Match, they are all used to create a closed ecosystem and as an Apple user you won’t be able to ever choose anything but an Apple device if you want to use one of their services or get your music onto another device with iTunes.

    This is interesting, too:

    • You are correct. Apple is a closed solution from the consumers perspective. There are integration points based on open standards for peripheral devices, but for the most part, it has been designed from the ground up as a closed solution.

      This desire to cross sell is true of many products in our complicated modern lives. Cable providers and to some extent traditional phone carriers all want your cable, on-demand, broadband, cellular, messaging and landline business. Not to mention they are also looking to gain a piece of your app and media purchases as well. The same is true for financial products and offerings.

      With Apple, it is more like buying a family car. You are making a 2-3 year investment in technology for the family. Rather than look at all of the pieces and parts individually, look at the whole. Most are not going to buy a kit car and assemble the parts individually. If you want everything in one complete package then Apple is making that happen.

      I may be able to build an awesomely fast car West Coast Customs style, but is that for everyone?

  2. No pun intended, but, you’re comparing apples with oranges.

    “iCloud” is a total misnomer, bordering on deceptive practice.

    It is wifi *only* ( doesn’t use 3G at all ) and it *downloads* multiple copies of the same file to each device – that is NOT “sync” nor is it “cloud computing”.

  3. Google’s Cloud Strategy seems more user friendly and easy to browse options…the latest android version come with great features and its lot more easy to connect to any social media app, Gmail, Gtalk, Youtube Videos and lot more..

  4. Yuvamani

    Calling this cross platform is a little wrong

    It works only on new newer ios devices and only some not all functionality is available on Windows. and as you pointed out none of the functionality is available through a web browser.

    Let me put this into perspective personally. I own many legacy iOS devices iPod touch 1 and 2 iPhone 2 and 3G and 3GS. I also own macs and android tablets and phones.

    Of all these devices icloud works only on the macs.

    Surely there is a case for the browser

  5. Tim F.

    Apple (1) just made several apps much stickier (and across platforms.)

    I rarely used Address Book on the Mac. Because of the iPhone, it is now fully populated. I didn’t use iCal; I think I probably will now.

    Apple (2) raised the walls higher around their garden (again, across platforms).

    And I’m not suggesting that’s a bad thing. In many ways its potent for Apple and good for me as a user. A web interface for some “away” access or sharing is missing, but it’s the moving goal post of a drawback (used to be tethered to Mac iTune). One can imagine version 3 of iCloud adding sharing and iCloud remote-AirDropping in the future for specific MIME types/apps. (In fact, I wonder what iCloud sharing can be shut off or disabled in preferences or per file now in version 1.)

    There’s still room for web solutions, dropboxes, and other platform-agnostic solutions — but Apple can meet most of my needs with the new OS updates… DropBox and the web for edge cases and sharing with Windows and Android users.

  6. Google is also a lot like Adobe…
    Adobe (as I recall), when they when’t cross-platform, created their own dev environment. Not a problem at the time but now it doesn’t allow them to really take advantage of the advances in the underlying OS tech (core-image, core-animation, etc). This ties Adobe’s hands and makes for common denominator apps. The browser does the same to Google.
    I’m betting Apple can innovate far faster then web standards, etc. Just look at the typography mess in html/browsers – it set the design/type business back 100 years.

  7. Google’s cloud is much better, more connected- Gmail, YouTube, Calendar, Maps, etc., across a whole range of devices. Apple’s got what? games? that malware called iTunes? 130 million iBooks? that’s probably how many Kindle ebooks gets sold in month. Apple TV- still a hobby

  8. netwiz

    While I agree that Google’s app strategy, for tablets has to change, what about apple? Since buying an I pad, I’ve bought quite a few songs from iTunes. But I’ve now sold my iPad in favor of a honey comb tablet. Will apple release iCloud for android, and is the apple ecosystem enough for iCloud are better questions.

    It may be enough, but lets not forget mobile me too quickly.

    • I have thought long and hard about this very topic, and it bothers me to no end. But keep in mind that Apple is not the only platform subject to lock in and obsolescence. I have a decent size LP collection, a larger Cassette Tape collection, and a mammoth CD collection. I have many, many, many PC based software titles that have no running PC to be installed upon (100% Mac). I have old Nintendo cartridges, Palm OS programs, Playstation games etc. More old content for various media, computer and gaming devices than I care to admit. I am not exactly sure how many times I have purchased Tetris, Pac Man and Bejeweled to date.

      Apple’s iTunes and iPods have been the longest running and most stable platform to date that all of my purchased content and media has received continuous hardware and software updates to. And it is still growing strong. I feel better about my iTunes investment than any other media investment I have made.

      While I here what you are saying, I never expected Microsoft’s Xbox to play my old Atari cartridges. And I certainly don’t blame Atari for that.

    • Well you’ve got the Android cloud now to hold you over…. I’m not sure what that is besides Google Apps, but that is the ecosystem you’ve joined. Apple isn’t the only one or the first one. Windows, Google/Android, Blackberry, Sony, Apple, even Nokia. They’ve all created their own ecosystems, some more successful than others. I thought Geoffrey’s response to your post was especially good. I have a lot of Syquest and Iomega disks if you’re looking for any.

      You can always transfer those iTunes purchases to your Android tablet. Your music player on Android should play both AAC and MP3. I would hope so anyway.