Opinion: Let’s Get Ready to Rumble: Google takes on Apple

*The original post can be found on Border Stylo, makers of Glass.

So the two-year contract with your mobile service provider is up and it is time to get a smartphone. Exciting weeks lie ahead as you read through phone specs online, ask your techie friends for reviews, and visit retail locations to play with the latest gadgets. Never has the decision to purchase a new phone seemed so transcendental. Gone are the days when phone selection was limited to five models from two manufacturers, and one always chose the free one. Competition and choice make consumers happy, and these days, we are swamped with options. But behind the plethoric veil of gadgets there is a more fundamental decision that must be made first: Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android.

When it comes to operating systems and technology standards, sometimes less is more. I was happy when Blu-ray conquered HD-DVD in the latest consumer electronics war. I never really understood which technology was better, but once they finished duking it out, I could finally buy a high-definition DVD player without worrying. Like two heavyweight pugilists, Apple and Android are going through a similar struggle and it seems like it was go 12 rounds.

Unlike Google, Apple has maintained an overprotective business strategy and opts to keep their mobile operating system (iOS) proprietary instead of licensing it out to phone manufacturers. Does this remind anybody of their approach with computers’ OS in the early 80s? Microsoft pushed Windows to most major computer manufacturers while Apple continuously tried to create a superior product only they could use. Undeniably, this was a poor business decision. While Microsoft colonized the computer landscape, Apple was close to extinction and became a niche player used mainly by people in academia. Yet, thanks to Steve Jobs’ now heavily documented turnaround and restructuring of Apple, the company is now the second most valuable in the world (worth close to $320 billion, which is $100 billion more than Microsoft). But before we pop the champagne bottle and celebrate Apple’s success, it is important to see how their business strategy will play out in the mobile space since mobile, as we all know, will rule the world.

Will Apple pigeonhole itself as a niche player again? Will Apple license its software in the future? Will their media infrastructure help them weather the storm and come out on top?

The upcoming months will shed some light on the future of mobile. Recent reports of Android surpassing Apple in terms of mobile phone shipments may be an early sign that the tide is turning. I recently switched from BlackBerry to Android given that I speculate Google will come out on top.

Content in the form of media and apps is the driving force behind smartphones. On the media front, Apple has established an early lead with the iTunes platform, but as cloud computing and streaming services go mobile, Apple’s media advantage will fade away. In the app space, Google has encouraged a decentralized marketplace and this will allow specialization throughout the distribution chain. Rumor has Amazon working on an Android app store that is expected to launch in the near future. Why would Google allow and even encourage competition with its Android Market? Because their goal in mobile is not to monetize apps, or at least I don’t think it should be.

Remember, Google’s main revenue driver is their search. Therefore, their main objective with mobile should be to become the default search engine on every mobile phone on the planet. The best way to do that is to make sure they are the operating system on your phone. So an unofficial partner like Amazon that knows how to create user-friendly marketplaces will help Android grow and increase Google’s chances of monopolizing mobile search for good. Maybe in the not-so-distant future Google will be demonized in the tech community like Microsoft was. So much for their informal corporate motto: “don’t be evil.”

I’m clearly making a lot of assumptions and I may be jumping to conclusions, so keep in mind that’s just my take on things and I can be wrong – Steve Jobs certainly hopes so. As far as actually choosing a phone? Go out and play with as many phones as you can. Just know, you’ll also be placing an early bet on your favorite contender.

Fernando Elizalde


4 thoughts on “Opinion: Let’s Get Ready to Rumble: Google takes on Apple

  1. I do have a similar opinion to yours, and i really hope for google to be the last man (OS?) standing after the dust has cleared. Apple has always gave the impression to care about money as its #1 target, then to its position in whatever competition its going through (windows for pcs, android for cellphones etc). As opposed to google, which so far has always gave us the impression that it cares more about advancements in technology, seconded by customer satisfaction. I feel that if there were no competitors to Apple, it will just keep its products the same way they are, barely changing anything. Plus, recently I have become more of a ‘google fan-boy’, after they’ve released their Chrome OS, together with their other services such as Android, and the best email service out there..gmail, and of course their all-so-mighty search engine! as well as a ton of other technologies and programs/software that just ease my life and make it more futuristic…unlike apple, as i’ve got nothing tech-y from them that they’ve developed on their own, except maybe the iTunes (note that most popular iTunes apps/games are being developed for android too, whether in the black ‘free’ market or not)

    1. Thank you for your comment. You make excellent points. It seems that Apple has become more of a marketing machine than a technology company. The biggest evidence coming in 2007 when they decided to drop “computer” from their name. Still, they continue to innovate and push the envelope but it seems that in the mobile space (and even in tablets now) they are losing ground.

      1. Thanks for the compliment, I appreciate your views, really.
        Indeed, that alone proves how much Apple has designated marketing as its first priority! I actually feel bad when I see how the Iphone 4 (for example) had more sales than, let’s say, Samsung Galaxy i9000 S (it’s direct competitor in 2010)
        I agree that the Iphone is good, but it has certain fatal limitations that can best be resembled as a really beautiful woman with the perfect body, mind, habits and talents…but is paralyzed. That’s what Apple did to the iphone, they hit the spinal cord of it.
        Plus, Apple bluntly wants to control you and restrict your activities to what they want you to do (skynet much?), unlike google’s android that allows you for more editing and creativity as well as great flexibility for both professionals and amateurs.
        I don’t know much about tablet computers, as I barely have time to keep up with my internet activities, but I’m interested to know what competitors are out there for the ipad (i know there’s the galaxy tab, blackberry, and motorola…probably LG and the others have ‘hopped in the car’ too, but I have no idea about that yet), so please enlighten me;

      2. By no means am I a tablet specialist and the truth is that Apple currently dominates the market (I think the last report I saw claimed the iPad2 accounted for 80% of the market). Still, I believe this market will follow the mobile space based on operating systems. Some of the newer Android tablets are being well received but it may take some time for the tide to turn. When it comes to the Blackberry tablet, I personally think that will be an epic fail.

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