Predictable: Apple gets sued, Google creates contrast

On the day that Apple is in the news as a co-defendant of an anti-trust class action lawsuit, Google is in the news for making its mobile device application process more open.

Whether it’s impeccable planning or dumb luck, it’s good news for Google, which is under heavy fire for its business practices across the pond.  Google is the enemy of several prominent technology companies: it’s Google vs. Facebook for how to organize and monetize personal information for ads; it’s Google vs. Microsoft for the share of our desktop applications and web browsers; and of course is Apple vs. Google for the smartphone operating system market.

Without overtly saying so, Google is trying to distance themselves from both the iPhone/iPad app store and their worries in Europe with today’s announcement. The open app builder is a nod to the legal and regulatory hurdles that any large company faces, but it’s also an important business and positioning strategy.

Computer nerds of yesteryear may begin to recognize Google’s strategy for taking down Apple.  In the 1980s, Apple computers were an island – Apple software only worked on Apple hardware.  IBM, the other major personal computer manufacturer,  built a platform that could be cloned, resulting in “IBM-compatible” computers.  As computers found their way into the home, the consumer had two choices – one computer that could run software built for multiple platforms, and one which could only run Apple-specific programs.  It didn’t kill off Apple’s computer business, but it’s the reason that Windows PC’s (the descendant of the IBM-compatibles) have the market share they have today.

Today, Google’s Android OS is available on multiple smartphones from multiple carriers, just like Microsoft’s MS-DOS was available on multiple types of computers by 1989.  And Apple’s iPhone only runs apps designed specifically for Apple’s iPhone.  And by democratizing their app process, Google is trying to remind us all of just that.


Apple – or, more specifically, Apple CEO Steve Jobs – flexed some muscles in the last week by proclaiming that Adobe Flash has no place on the iPhone, the iPad, or whatever’s iNext.  As previously discussed (here and there, as well), the walled garden that is the App Store positions Apple not only as the gatekeeper of “tech cool,” but also as the potential object of an antitrust investigation.

Today, two Washington agencies are reportedly deciding who gets to launch an Apple antitrust investigation.

As easy as it would be to point to Jobs’s chest-beating, this is the second time in two weeks where a company is drawing ire from inside the beltway.  And in both cases, the companies in the crosshairs are direct competitors to Google.  That doesn’t make Google the Michael Corleone of federal tech policy, taking out enemies silently and sequentially (though it would be kind of cool if it were).  It does mean that technology policymakers seem to be on the same page as Google as far as what access to the internet or the mobile web should look like.

Do you want your GTV?

Google’s agreement with Sony and Intel to create a new platform for web surfing through television – in context with other recent announcements – continues Google’s efforts to find a way into your living room.

Television remains the top entertainment appliance in the household, but how content reaches that television is changing.  Not only have DVD’s and TiVO made the term “appointment television” obsolete, but the embrace of online video by content providers has greatly threatened cable’s position as the provider of high-quality content.  With web-enabled televisions becoming more prevalent, traditional cable is less important than ever.

Many cable providers are also high-speed internet providers, which is lucky for them.  But Google has been the starting point of the internet for years.  After becoming the top search engine, they created useful tools such as a customized homepage, sharable calendars, and a news aggregator; everything was built with the intention that when you sat down at your computer, Google would be the place you would want to start.  That, of course, makes it easier to collect information on you to better target their ads.

Now that the internet will be accessed more directly through television, Google wants to be your starting point there, too.  Again, all the better to target you for advertising, which is how they get their food money.

This will present some challenges for Google as various pieces of their business come together.   Remember Google’s recent announcement of plans to expand fiber optic broadband access.  That would put Google in charge of your access point to the internet (TV, computer, or Android-enabled smartphone), the pipeline that brings the internet to you (fiber optic network), and the content that you see on the internet (through search results, news aggregators, YouTube videos, Google Books, etc.).  All along the way, Google will be able to build a profile of you – what you look for, what you click on, what you watch, where you shop – and of course show you ads to make that food money.

It’s easy to see why people poke fun at Google by likening it to SkyNet, the ubiquitous and sentient machine network from the Terminator movies.  Good thing that Google isn’t evil… right?