Monday, January 26, 2009

The Relationship Between Google and Apple

There is a very interesting relationship between Apple and Google, two of the most recognized and most powerful names in the technology industry today, and this relationship is more complicated than some people might think.

Apple and Google cooperate on many different things, such as Google Maps and YouTube integration into the iPhone. Eric Schmidt sits on Apple's board. At Macworld 2007, after Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone, Eric Schmidt got up on stage at Macworld 2007 and talked about how in an environment like this companies can "merge without merging" adding, "we thought we might call the combined company AppleGoo."

The relationship is more complicated than it might appear- even with the cooperation, Apple and Google still openly compete in other areas. Google's Android mobile phone OS competes with Apple's OS X on iPhone, many of MobileMe's features are replicated by Gmail, and most recently, Apple introduced the beta that shares many of the same features as Google Docs. The major difference when comparing these competing products is Apple's closed environment where you have to pay for what you get and Google's open environment which is ad-supported, but free.

Google opens up Android to any carriers, handset-manufacturers, and developers who want to build a phone based on it, but Apple keeps tight tabs on OS X- only (reluctantly) allowing third-party developers to make (Apple-approved) applications for it which are distributed by Apple alone. Apple controls every aspect of bringing the iPhone to market, controlling both hardware and software- the whole experience. Apple has an exclusive deal with AT&T as the iPhone's carrier, where Apple negotiated unprecedented control over pricing and distribution. Only until recently, the iPhone was only available through Apple (retail or online) or AT&T. So far Apple is the clear winner in the phone area, and the closed, controlled experience that Apple provides is a far better experience for the end-user. Google just couldn't do what Apple does in terms of providing that same experience. Google doesn't have the hardware, design, and operations expertise that Apple does- Google is simply doing what is best for Google, and overall Apple is definitely winning in the phone space.

MobileMe provides a premium e-mail service that comes with contact and calendar syncing and storage that is tightly integrated with the Mac and the iPhone (but still works with PCs as well) that comes for a price- $99 for a year's subscription. GMail is definitely another premium e-mail service, but which comes without the added benefits of as tight of integration with the desktop and mobile. Google Calendar also replicates some of MobileMe's calendar features as well. Apple encountered more than a couple speed bumps in deploying MobileMe, and some features that they had advertised still aren't available yet. GMail is free and definitely ahead in terms of number of users, and although neither company would give up numbers in terms of revenue for either service, GMail is almost certainly ahead in terms of revenue-generation as well.

At Macworld 2009 Apple introduced iWork '09 and alongside it, the beta which allows iWork users to share iWork documents with anyone they want to, Mac or PC, through a web browser. Right now it's a free beta, but Apple has clearly articulated that they plan to make it a pay service in the future. As of now Google is and has been ahead in the consumer online collaboration space, and it's too early to make a judgement on so we'll have to see how this one plays out.

There seem to be clear business and philosophical differences between the way these two companies do things, so, for now at least, AppleGoo has at least a couple conflicting departments.

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