iOS and Android | Google and Apple strategies are clear, for now
I found this a thoughtful and provocative article. Even the comments are worthwhile if you ignore the Apple vs Google troll comments. There is a distinction being drawn between Apple/iOS and Google/ Android, and its one that both reflects history of computing, and their respective business models which are very different.
Hence, WWDC was all about cloud as an enabler of rich native apps, while the most interesting parts of IO were about eroding the difference between apps and websites.
The interaction models become different. I’ve said before that Apple’s approach is about a dumb cloud enabling rich apps while Google’s is about devices as dumb glass that are endpoints of cloud services.
Cloud differences were most striking in observing the Apple (WWDC) and Google (IO) strategies this year. I doubt Steve Jobs thought much about cloud (early 2000’s) while Larry Page was forced to do so much more recently when stuck with the Motorola purchase, and an inevitable ‘lets copy Apple strategy’. Lets break some of this down.
At WWDC this year, Apple decided to make iCloud more obvious to users, but the basic contract remains that it silently manages user information, preferences and data. Announcements were made about health, auto and home.
At IO Google also talked about health, auto and home. Google was already heavy into cloud based apps including flagship office and storage.
So whats the difference especially they both announced health, auto and home?
As Ben discussed in the linked piece above, this year in particular for these annual events drew certain strategic differences between Apple and Google as platforms. This is not to say that people cannot have an iPhone and a Windows laptop, or a MacBook and an android phone, as many do.
The larger point is that the two companies have different business models and their strategies reflect those models.
Google’s primary revenue is from advertising. They do this by enabling the worlds information on the internet. It makes sense that their approach is to drive activity to the network (web and mobile internet) where their advertising lies. This was also seen in their Chromebooks, one of which I recently saw and used … very cool. Your own information is stored in the Google cloud and local hard drives eventually become a burden in this environment.
Apple are an integrated hardware software company with end to end ownership from chips through hardware, software to cloud. Apple’s predominant use of cloud has been to store your preferences, music and some data silently such that it is available across any Apple device seamlessly and intuitively. iOS 8 promises to raise cloud profile and allow active cloud storage of data.
What is striking is that neither are using cloud like say dropbox to store things primarily. Their primary use of cloud is experience. Simple examples in these early days:
1. Google provides full office, browsing experience and music functionality that is available on any device behind a Google sign in.
2. Apple provides continuity of music listening, working on office docs, passwords, browsing experience across any Apple device.
These examples are just intended to note that both use cloud for experiential purposes. More importantly is how they choose to implement cloud.
As I mentioned these are clearly early days, but going back to Bens article, one strategic distinction is that of thin client vs fat client. This is a perennial debate that has bounced between the two reflecting increased computing capability and faster, smarter bandwidth. For now Apple lean towards fat client (apps talking to network) while Google lean towards thin client (apps on the network).
There is not right or wrong answer here, but those two companies have laid down their approaches for the near term. Google even dumped their $11bn acquisition of Motorola to make the point. They are not getting into the hardware business.
Apple’s mobile approach is a hardware, rich app with cloud in background approach. Google’s approach is an, any android device with rich cloud in the foreground.
These approaches are fundamental to their business models, and both will succeed. This is not a zero sum game. In fact as time passes, it would not surprise me to see subtle shifts by both that encroach on the others approach.
I will resist the temptation to discuss benefits of the two approaches. That is for you to decide.