Competitive Angles Have Crystallized

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2009-12-12 Print this article Print

"So these recent moves are consistent with legitimate strategies from both companies, and the properties did seem to end up with the firms that needed them the most. Lala is closer to Apple's media core, and Apple has largely cornered the mobile media market; Google is the leader in online advertising and has clearly cornered that market. Both are affectively assuring their respective near monopolies." 

The Google Voice debacle set this cold but warming confrontation off like a wildfire. Last summer, Google submitted a version of its Google Voice phone management app to the Apple App Store, but Apple rejected it.

Apple said it denied Google Voice because its features compete with iPhone's feature set, but Google Voice cannot connect calls. That is set to change after Google bought softphone maker Gizmo5, which will enable Google Voice to connect those calls. This is yet another step where Google is moving closer to Apple's turf; but the rabbit hole goes deeper.

Google offers Android as an open-source, mobile operating system alternative to proprietary platforms such as the iPhone, and the Android-based Motorola Droid is selling well. But rumor has it that Google is building its own phone to sell, similar to the way Apple distributes the iPhone. This so-called Google Phone will feature Google Voice, allowing to Google to do on an Android phone what Apple barred it from doing on the iPhone.

Google and Apple are also vying for mobile application dominance. Google recently launched Google Maps Navigation, a free GPS application for some Android phones that obviates the need to buy a GPS device or application to run on Apple's iPhone.

This GPS app is not yet available for platforms other than Android. Meanwhile, Apple, which uses Google Maps on its iPhones, acquired mapping software maker Placebase this year, and it is believed Apple will try to replace Google Maps with this technology.

There are other areas where Google and Apple are crossing swords that don't involve phones or Google Voice. Google built the Chrome Web browser and Chrome Operating System. The former competes with Apple's Safari browser, while the latter will be a computer platform alternative to machines running Apple's Mac OS X.

The competitive fronts have crystallized, Enderle agreed:

"The way Steve [Jobs] handled the firing of Eric Schmidt from his board was very personal, and I think that has focused Google more solidly on Apple and Apple more solidly on Google.  Much like Google's initial focus on destroying Microsoft appeared largely driven by a personal dislike for that company that cut across its executive leadership, these recent moves appear to be tied to a personal dislike that has grown between the CEOs.

"We often talk about excessive power and the connection to 'evil' behavior, but, in my experience, excessive power can also result in avoidable battles between two companies that aren't natural competitors."   


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