December 1, 2010

Apple and Google in the mobile platform war

Recently, a lot of wars have been starting in the tech industry. Wars surrounding tablet computing, wars surrounding phone hardware, and, most interesting of all, the war of the platforms. Currently, there are four players in the smartphone space and each player has something different that it brings to the table. IOS from Apple brings its integration with Apple’s iTunes and its ability to be a stand-up media player along with a great app platform. Android brings integration with Google’s on-line services and its backing by one of the most powerful Internet companies in the world. Windows Phone 7 recently brought a new idea to the table, giving users the information they need quickly and effectively, while integrating any and all services into a brand new, minimalistic (read unlike Microsoft”) user interface (UI). And finally, WebOS brought true multitasking, a beautiful UI, and the first stab at service integration. However, for the time being, Apple and Google stand out to the public as the two major hitters in the mobile technology landscape and are truly at war.

Apple now has four versions of it’s mobile operating system under it’s belt. IOS is well known for being the first of it’s kind: an OS based entirely on touch input. But it’s has also shown the tech industry what it takes to start and build up a successful platform. To say the least of the time involved, the iPhone (and now the iPad) and its OS have been in the making for years, beginning with the first iPod and the introduction of iTunes, Apple’s flagship media presence. Over the years, Apple has added a number of features organically, allowing users to grow accustomed to new features before bringing on the more complex items for which tech geeks clamor from day one. ITunes is now the center of an iOS device users digital media world and that was Apple’s plan all along. Mac and PC users alike go to iTunes to buy, sync, and play all their media if they have ever owned one of these devices.

Google has laid a different path for themselves, based on technology that has only recently been named and defined: the cloud. Google’s internet services (gmail, docs, calendar, reader, etc) make up a platform in and of themselves and their operating system, Android, is the better for having tight integration with most of the services on the list. Due to the open source nature of the OS, changes are constantly being made to the platform to make it truly competitive in the mobile landscape. For example, just today, December 1, 2010, Google released a new app that provides for tight integration with its reader service, an RSS feed aggregator. Instead of tethering to a computer to sync, Android is constantly pinging Google servers to check for new information. This can have its drawbacks, like the question of how to get media to and from the device when the media is not stored in the cloud (see doubleTwist and Winamp for more information).

A difference in focus is what really draws these two platforms apart. On the one hand, Google’s Android was initially a conduit to Google services, although it has now evolved due to some developer support. On the other hand, Apple has crafted a platform that already has millions of users immersed due to previous ownership and understanding of its conduit, iTunes. Not to mention, each company’s understand of the consumer’s wants and needs are different, as Google wants a more interconnected consumer and Apple was a consumer well-versed in audio, video, and other forms of media. As usual, no judgement should be passed on which, if either, platform is better or worse, but their understand of their consumer base is not only different but based on an in-depth knowledge of whom they are targeting.

Watch soon for a look into Windows Phone 7 and its place in the platform wars.

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