Google’s two-front war with Apple and Facebook; who are the winners and the losers?

I’ve now heard from three separate Google employees that Google will release a news feed that will compete with Facebook and Twitter. I expect to see a demo at Google’s IO conference in April. For hints at what’s coming you MUST look at two foundation-level services:

1. Google Profiles. Google is asking you to voluntarily add all sorts of information about yourself. So far I’ve told it more than I’ve told Facebook or Twitter, here’s my Google Profile. Why? Because it’s available to all of you and this data gets added all sorts of places in the Google ecosystem. It shows up on searches for my name at the bottom of the page, for instance.

2. Google’s Social Circles Connections. This just turned on last week but most people in the industry have missed the importance of what’s here. First, now you can see that Google is crawling not just its own profile info, but the networks we’re building in Twitter, FriendFeed, Digg, Flickr, LinkedIn,, and other social networks. You can’t see it, but the list it’s showing me is yards long. If you’ve filled in your Google Profile info, like I have, it knows a TON about you. If you’ve followed me on Google Chat (I’m at if you want to follow me) or Twitter or FriendFeed you’ll see my entry show up there.

What is next? Well, that Google Profile page is looking pretty lame, isn’t it? What if Google added a news feed? What if they made an even better rolodex than the ones available anywhere else? Remember what happened when I got the Google Nexus One phone? I entered my email address and all my contacts instantly appeared. Oh, yeah, you didn’t realize that Google was keeping all your contacts, did you?

You can see the battle being drawn right in front of you. This is why I believe FriendFeed decided to sell to Facebook. They knew this war was coming and they didn’t stand a chance against this epic decade-long battle that is just beginning between Google and Facebook.

But that’s just one front. What’s the other front?

Look at Techmeme right now. What’s the top story? One where Techcrunch is saying that Apple has another tablet coming. I love that everyone is giving Techcrunch heck for that, but I’ve heard these rumors too. But look further and you’ll find this article where Techcrunch is pointing to a Google site that has a first taste of Google Chrome OS-based Tablet PCs.

I’ve been hearing these rumors from friends in Asia who are working on a variety of machines for Google’s new OS. Both netbook-style machines, which Steve Jobs says are crappy, but also slates that compete head on with the iPad.

Google is arrogant enough to take on Apple and Facebook in the same year.

So, who will come out ahead in this war? Believe it or not, Apple and Facebook will actually get stronger during this fight.

Already look at the PR we’ve been hearing the past month. It’s been nothing but Apple and Google. Apple and Google. Apple and Google.

Where’s Microsoft? Where’s Nokia? Where’s RIM? Where’s Twitter? Where’s LinkedIn? These are the losers if the battle keeps being framed by Apple and Google and Google and Facebook.

But who else wins? Developers, developers, developers, developers. Why? Because I’m hearing rumors that Twitter is trying to charge developers for access to its full-firehose feed. How much? I can’t yet say because I haven’t confirmed the figures with Twitter but let’s just say that the figures I’m hearing are BIG. Six to eight figures big depending on the size of the company.

Now, what if Google turns on a microblogging/status message system like Facebook or Twitter have (already done on Google Chat, but I was thinking more like what Facebook looks like)? What happens if they also open up an application store (oh, already done on Android, or as they announced yesterday for business apps)? What happens if they give away access to these APIs for free instead of trying to charge developers tons of money?

Boom, boom, boom. Developers love having these kinds of platforms in competition to keep access up and pricing down.

How can Microsoft get noticed enough to be considered part of this war?

Steve Ballmer has to call in the Master Chief. You know, the guy in Halo. A new Halo is coming later this year (I saw a preview at CES and it’s pretty cool). I’m hearing rumblings that Microsoft will use its Xbox Live service to get into both battlefields later this year (Microsoft has moved many top executives and engineers over to a new team designed to compete more effectively with Apple’s iPhone). One by bringing out a Zune phone. If it has Xbox Live and an Xbox gaming platform on it, look out. That would be HUGE. The other one by opening up its Xbox Live service to be more like Facebook. Xbox Live already has a marketplace and already has a social network that’s very good and that most of us tech bloggers don’t pay enough attention to. One problem: I’m hearing from employees who work inside these teams that the political will to really develop a good Xbox-playing smartphone isn’t there. If that’s true, look for Microsoft to remain shut out of the battlefield and to remain a loser in the mobile space.

What can Nokia do?

I think the best shot Nokia has is its Maemo platform, but it alone isn’t enough. It needs more. I’d almost say that it needs to buy something like Twitter AND buy Palm. But both of those ideas are so ludicrous (or will be received that way inside Nokia) that they won’t happen. Look for Nokia to continue to sell lots of stuff to the rest of the world but be locked out of the most profitable markets.

Research in Motion?

First RIM has to realize it has a problem. The minute some Chinese company develops a great Android-based phone with a great keyboard they will start to see lots of people shift away. But for now, because RIM has the best keyboards in the business, they don’t need to really innovate too much. That said, I’m starting to hear rumors that they are working on a dramatically different OS to compete with iPhone/iPad so it’ll be interesting to watch their moves. I still see them as losers, though, because Apple and Google are clearly taking away mindshare at minimum.

Anyway, it’s clear that Google is the most arrogant player on the field. They feel they can actually carry out a war with both Apple and Facebook and they feel they can win.

Personally I’m cheering for Google. Why? Because between Apple, Facebook, and Google, Google is the most open, least controlling, and transparent company of the three.

Of course, tomorrow night I’m going to an event at Facebook where they are showing off some new developer-focused stuff for PHP developers, so it’ll be interesting to watch all three of these companies battle over developers and mindshare. It’s fun to be a tech blogger again!