Apple, Microsoft to Unite vs. Google When Hell Freezes Over

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2009-12-21 Print this article Print

David Coursey over at PC World has introduced a potentially incendiary topic: that Apple and Microsoft could join forces to take on Google.

The idea is fascinating, though Coursey doesn't quite sell it. After reading it, one feels as though Coursey doesn't believe in what he wrote.

One example he uses is that of the iPhone app for Microsoft's Bing search engine, noting that Google has tailored search, Google Maps and other mobile apps for the iPhone.

No doubt Apple and Google's relationship has grown colder, or even venemous on some levels.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs kicked Google CEO Eric Schmidt off of the Apple board. Newer Google mobile apps such as Google Goggles and Google Maps Navigation have not been ported to the iPhone, though they don't work on anything but Android at the moment either.

Still, I'm not convinced these factors have put Apple and Google at Defcon 1... yet.

But with Windows Mobile sinking and Bing a meager 10% factor in search, I'm not sure Apple would be inclined to throw any lifelines to Microsoft, which needs the help.

Apple frankly doesn't need Microsoft's help. Apple lives to serve the consumer and if consumers want Google applications, Apple will give them to them, or at least let them use them on the iPhone, Macs or the mythical unicorn that is the Apple Tablet. Apple would be foolish to shut out Google entirely.

Coursey himself noted that any boost Apple might give Microsoft to challenge Google online is nominal because Bing's services are not as comprehensive as Google's data glut.

Then he calls his own argument weak, which they tell me is counterproductive if you're making a point you want people to endorse:

I know this is, today, a weak argument. Yet, if Microsoft and Apple decided to go after Google together, the battle could become quite intense. The two might also be able to spark the antitrust action that would put some limits on Google's ambitions.

He then argued that Microsoft tops Google in privacy, pointing to Mozilla community director Asa Dotzler's urging that users should choose Microsoft's Bing instead of Google because the company has a better privacy policy.

That is pretty weak and shallow. I'm also not sure what Apple could help Microsoft do any better than it already has in the realm of lobbying folks on Capitol Hill and in Google's own backyard that the company must be monitored by antitrust regulators.

There's something unseemly about Microsoft and Apple talking dirty about Google to the feds. Read Aaron Swartz's Googling for Sociopaths for context.

Coursey then notes how competition has grown between Apple and Google between iPhone and Android, Chrome and Safari and Chrome OS and Mac OS. Yes, but that isn't grounds for Apple calling any favors in from Microsoft. Coursey argued:

On the basis that "my enemy's enemy is my friend," Apple and Microsoft could find that competing with Google requires both their efforts, with Microsoft able to provide Web applications that Apple doesn't want to build.

I've always enjoyed the my enemy's enemy is my friend concept of cutthroat competition, but again the evidence just isn't there to support an Apple and Microsoft union versus Google. Despite the biting Mac vs. PC commercials, the Apple-Microsoft battle isn't nearly as exciting as it once was.

True, Apple and Microsoft have a common enemy in Google, but from a cultural and philosophical perspective, Apple and Google are kindlier frenemies.

Yes, they compete, and the war will get savage between iPhone and Android, but I don't see Google threatening Apple elsewhere in the near term, even with the arrival of an unlocked, super speedy Nexus One smartphone.

Talk to me in a couple years if Google netbooks are kicking butt and taking share versus Apple and Microsoft, but for now it's an iPhone vs. Android battle.

Will Google permanently block certain apps from iPhone the way Apple's App Store has blocked Google Voice and forced Google Latitude to be a Web app for iPhone? It's unclear, but I doubt it because it would undermine Google's open Web strategy, weakening Android's appeal and raison d'être.

But I don't see how Apple will turn to Microsoft to gang up on Google. It's not like Apple would bolster Windows Mobile vs. Android. And does anyone really believe Bing will take off on the iPhone?

It's not like Microsoft and Apple can combine search engines to tackle Google's main money machine -- Apple doesn't have a search engine (that we know of) and Apple certainly doesn't have an advertising vehicle to stand on outside the iPhone.

What would either company really gain from working together versus Google?

Do you see Apple and Microsoft ganging up on Google? If so, how? I'm interested in how that battle front might take shape. |

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