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Apple and Google’s spat: Some points you may have missed

March 14, 2010 | by Ed Clark

Android, Android OS, Google, Open Handset Alliance, Rumors

Apple and Google’s spat: Some points you may have missed

The New York Times Technology section recently posted this article, “Apple’s Spat With Google Is Getting Personal”, which discusses the feud between Google and Apple and their places in the mobile computing market. It’s a great article, and I highly recommend reading it. There are a few points that I think are worth highlighting here for Android fans:

1. Apple’s position is about strict control; Google’s is about freedom of access

“Apple believes that devices like smartphones and tablets should have tightly controlled, proprietary standards and that customers should take advantage of services on those gadgets with applications downloaded from Apple’s own App Store.

Google, on the other hand, wants smartphones to have open, nonproprietary platforms so users can freely roam the Web for apps that work on many devices. Google has long feared that rivals like Microsoft or Apple or wireless carriers like Verizon could block access to its services on devices like smartphones, which could soon eclipse computers as the primary gateway to the Web. Google’s promotion of Android is, essentially, an effort to control its destiny in the mobile world.”

You can’t say it any better than that. Some of the chief attractions of Android (for many of us) are that you can: 1) develop and distribute any application you like, and 2) install any application you like on the phone that you paid for.

2. Someone else agrees that Google’s Android = Microsoft’s ascension in the operating system market

“Mitch Kapor, the founder of Lotus Development and now a tech investor, describes [the] infighting as “old wine in a new bottle,” and reminiscent of many past corporate battles in Silicon Valley. He sees the old dynamics between Apple and Microsoft being recycled, with Apple still trying to control every aspect of the user experience, and Google, like Microsoft before it, working with multiple partners to flood the market with a large number of devices.

While mobile phone developers favor the iPhone for now, “they are all racing ahead to develop for Android, too,” Mr. Kapor says. “Tight control helps in the beginning, but it tends to choke things in the long term.””

As I said in my previous article, this situation is a lot more like Apple vs. Microsoft in the early days than it is like Linux’s failure to achieve adoption in the desktop PC market. What will be interesting is how much history will repeat itself in this new realm of mobile computing. Apple is in a much stronger position now, and there is always the chance that Steve Jobs will decide to loosen the reins this time around. My magic 8 ball says that it is “highly unlikely” that Jobs will change his ways.

3. Yes, Steve Jobs did threaten to sue over multitouch

“At one particularly heated meeting in 2008 on Google’s campus, Mr. Jobs angrily told Google executives that if they deployed a version of multitouch — the popular iPhone feature that allows users to control their devices with flicks of their fingers — he would sue. Two people briefed on the meeting described it as “fierce” and “heated.””

Remember all those articles speculating why multitouch wasn’t available on Android phones? Many of us found it even more confusing when developers showed that it could be made to work on a G1 (and became a standard feature on aftermarket ROMs). Then, more recently, some newer phones had multitouch while others (like the Droid) did not. It seems the schizophrenia was all related to these threats of litigation. Obviously, Google decided that multitouch was OK for its flagship phone, and interestingly, Apple’s lawsuit against HTC doesn’t seem to mention it as one of the purportedly patented features.

4. Apple loves Microsoft?

“There is wide speculation in technology circles that Apple is preparing to give Google a public black eye: by making Microsoft’s offering, Bing, the preferred search engine on the iPad, and perhaps even on the iPhone.”

Yes, Apple may run into its fiercest rival’s arms to embrace Bing in order to replace Google as the default search engine. Wow. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this last point is how competition evolves over time. Microsoft won the operating system wars in terms of global dominance, but Apple forged a strong niche, survived, and even thrived as the “coolest kid in the room.” Think BMW: a superbly engineered, expensive machine. Could the same happen when it comes to iPhone and Android? What will happen to the tablet market when the iPad is launched and a dozen Android competitors join the fray? Stay tuned.