When I got back from CES I’ve been seeing an increasing number of stories, like this one on Techmeme, that are comparing Apple’s mobile strategy and products to Google’s mobile strategy and products.
Oh, we do love a good fight, don’t we, where two great competitors bloody each other to a pulp before one comes out victorious.
The thing is, I don’t see Google and Apple as beating themselves up. At least not yet and probably not until 2011 or maybe even 2012.
“OK, Scoble smarty pants, what’s going on then?”
There are two competitors, don’t get me wrong, but instead of Apple vs. Google it’s Web-and-app-friendly devices vs. non-web-and-app-friendly devices.
Apple and Google’s devices are all web friendly. They are easy to use to pull up information from the web. But most of the world’s phones aren’t that way. Go to any cell phone store and try pulling up a web browser on them. Google and Apple’s products make it simple. Most of the others make it very hard, and even if you succeed you probably have trouble navigating the web, or are faced with a dinky small screen.
It’s worse than that if you compare app platforms. At CES last week I met an exec at Research In Motion, the folks that make the Blackberry. He bragged to me that they were building their own Twitter and Facebook clients. I didn’t get the bragging and asked him “so I guess you aren’t trying to build a platform, then?” I explained to him that if you build your own apps that signals to your third-party developers that you want them to go away and work on something else because you’re demonstrating that you’re very willing to take the best opportunities away from them.
Ever since then I’ve been asking developers what they think and on Saturday the guy (Michael Schneider, CEO of Mobile Roadie) who built the Golden Globes’ iPhone app (and the LeWeb iPhone app) was over my house and I asked him. He told me that he’s working on building for the Blackberry platform too, because there’s so many users there but he said that the Blackberry is very difficult to build for. You really should listen to this interview, because in it you encapsulated what is happening to the entire mobile market.
Schneider didn’t hold anything back against Nokia or Microsoft, either. He just sees confusion and instability on those platforms.
Let’s break down the marketplace:
Apple: best of breed web-and-app-friendly mobile device.
Google: very close to Apple. Because my iPhone didn’t work very well at CES I gave the Google Nexus One and the Droid a good amount of usage last week. While the Droid isn’t as easy in a number of areas (search expert Danny Sullivan outlined most of the ones that bug me too) its apps, like Google Maps, are dramatically better than those that exist on other platforms and the web was mostly enjoyable to use too.
Nokia: confused. Multiple app stores. Just introduced a new platform with the N900 that’s different from their phones that have most of the market share.
Palm: is with Google and Apple in that they have a web-and-app-friendly phone, but they put it on a device with a small screen that ruins the experience for me.
Microsoft: struggling to get a strategy that works. Paul Thurrott, Microsoft expert, just this morning wrote up the troubles that Microsoft has right now and how it might dig out this year.
RIM: Difficult to develop for, most of its devices have very small screens that are hard to use on the web. Great keyboards, though, and great email integration.
Anyway, we can see a clear demarcation now in the industry between those who make web-and-app-friendly devices and those that do not.
It is my thesis that this year those who do will steal market share from those that do not and a confused strategy, like Nokia has, is going to look mixed because consumers will go with a company like Apple or Google who has said “we’re all in.”
So, is it right for the tech press to keep pitching Apple vs. Google like a couple of boxers who are going at it?
Or, do we need a new metaphor? I keep thinking that Apple and Google are like tigers and lions and all the old phones are like zebras or antelope and we all know what happens there.