Google Competition

By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2010-12-27 Print this article Print


Google Competition

Apple had already moved onto other things when, at a Sept. 1 event in San Francisco, Jobs revealed a new line of iPods, a revamped Apple TV, a music-oriented social network called Ping, and two revisions to the iOS mobile operating system. With those releases, the company's strategy seemed clear: extend its strength in multitouch applications to devices beyond the iPhone 4. In addition, both Apple TV and Ping hinted at increased Apple interests in both cloud-based services and social connectivity.

A little under two months later, on Oct. 20, Apple unveiled a refresh of its MacBook Air. The two new versions-offered in 11-inch and 13-inch models-relied on SSD (solid-state disk) storage technology. "We've taken what we have learned with the iPad," Jobs wrote in an accompanying statement, "solid state storage, instant-on, amazing battery standby time, miniaturization and lightweight construction, to create the new MacBook Air."

Announced alongside a preview of Apple's next OS X update, Lion, the new MacBook Airs suggested that Apple is committing itself more than ever to mobility--pushing the limits of how far it can strip down its product lines in terms of size and weight. The next OS X will feature Mac App Store, with full-screen apps that mimic the functions available for Apple's mobile devices.

The revamped Apple TV seemed to target Google TV, effectively opening another competitive front between Apple and the search-engine giant. Throughout 2010, with Google Android gaining such momentum on smartphones, analysts began chattering about a besieged Apple, something that must have set the latter's executives' teeth on edge. The upgrades to iOS also seemed designed to buttress Apple's defense against Android.

On Sept. 8, Apple released the first of those updates, iOS 4.1, which bundled new applications, such as the multiplayer-centric Game Center, iTunes TV show rentals and the Ping social-networking service. The second update for later in the Fall, iOS 4.2, would extend a range of features to the iPad.

But the surest sign of Apple's focus on Google as an opponent came Oct. 18, when Jobs made an uncharacteristic appearance on the company's quarterly earnings call.

"[Google CEO] Eric Schmidt pointed out that they're activating 200,000 units per day," he told media and analysts, referring to Android. "By comparison, Apple has activated 270,000 units per day, on average."

Jobs also opened fire on the tablets poised to enter the market. The "painful lesson," he said, will come when those competitors realize that their "tablets are too small and increase the size next year, abandoning developers and customers who jumped on the 7-inch bandwagon." A variety of early tablet entrants, including the Galaxy Tab and Research In Motion's upcoming PlayBook, will feature a 7-inch screen.

Seemingly unable to help himself, Jobs waited another month before blasting a salvo at the competition. "Once again, the iPad with iOS 4.2 will define the target that other tablets will aspire to, but very few, if any, will ever be able to hit," he wrote in a Nov. 22 statement posted on Apple's corporate Website.

The iPad's end-year share of the tablet PC market totaled 95.5 percent, according to research firm Strategy Analytics, although the general expectation is that that percentage will dip as more competitors come online. Meanwhile, the iPhone's rumored appearance on Verizon in early 2011 will likely affect Apple's share of the smartphone market, where it continues to battle RIM, Google, and Microsoft's new Windows Phone 7. However those battles turn out next year, of course, Apple will likely try to maintain its strategic stance as a first mover.

Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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