There was a time when Apple was a consumer electronics company, Google was a search engine, Amazon was an online retailer and Facebook a place to connect with friends. Now each of these companies is growing into the space of the others as they compete for new and expanding markets in mobile, social and cloud services.
Amazon’s upcoming Kindle Fire tablet will compete directly with Apple’s iPad. Google+ has taken on Facebook. Android and iOS are direct competitors. And Facebook has been considering its own mobile phone while it also looks to offer content, advertising and retail services.
Fast Company analyzes the “future of the innovation economy” in this regard, with a particular emphasis on the inevitable war and its major players.
“Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google will not last forever,” the article suggests. “But despite this oncoming war, in which attacking one another becomes standard operating practice, their inevitable slide into irrelevancy likely won’t be at the hands of one of their fellow rivals. As always, the real future of tech belongs to some smart-ass kid in a Palo Alto garage.”
Tech analyst Tim Bajarin says both Google and Microsoft have been downplaying the significance of Apple’s Siri because they know it could seriously impact their core search businesses, especially as it gains access to even more online databases.
“You shouldn’t be communicating with the phone; you should be communicating with somebody on the other side of the phone,” Google mobile chief Andy Rubin told Walt Mossberg at the recent AsiaD conference.
Microsoft’s Andy Lees suggested that Siri “isn’t super useful” and added that the voice interactivity of Windows Phone 7 when connected to Bing harnesses “the full power of the Internet, rather than a certain subset.”
Bajarin counters that, “Apple has just introduced voice as a major user interface and that its use of voice coupled with AI on a consumer product like the iPhone is going to change the way consumers think about man-machine interfaces in the future.”
Siri is not just a voice UI, but a gatekeeper to natural language searching of online databases that may eventually make Apple the third major search company worldwide.
App downloads on Google’s Android platform now top iPhone and iPad combined, even in the absence of any competitive Android tablets.
The OS accounted for 44 percent of all app downloads for Q2 of this year, according to a recent study by New York-based ABI Research.
In the new Steve Jobs’ biography, the Apple founder rails against Android as a “stolen product,” one that he vowed to go to “thermonuclear war” in order to stop its success. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer recently derided the OS as well, adding you need to be a “computer scientist” to understand Android phones.
“But a flood of low-priced handsets this summer has catapulted Android ahead of Apple for the first time in terms of app downloads,” reports the Daily Mail.
However, Apple still leads in the per user category. “Android’s app downloads per user still lag behind Apple’s by 2 to 1,” explains Dan Shey at ABI.
Google’s music download store is expected to link with Google+ within the next two weeks. However, the service may prove disappointing if the company cannot secure deals with the four major music labels.
Tentatively named Google Music, the service would follow in the footsteps of Spotify, which earlier this fall linked with Facebook to promote its music service.
The Google+ integration would allow users to recommend songs to Google+ contacts, who could then listen to those songs once for free. MP3 downloads would then be available, most likely for 99 cents each.
Music labels have shown hesitation about the service’s propensity to allow piracy, in addition to the lack of revenue for record companies, as the music locker is free.
According to the new Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson, the former Apple CEO was furious over Android’s strong resemblance to iOS.
Jobs told his biographer: “I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong. I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.”
GigaOm noted that Apple has followed up on this threat: “Apple has not backed down or granted broad licenses to any of the companies it has sued recently over its mobile patents… Apple’s not giving in to make a couple of bucks, the way Microsoft did, and there will be no tacit approval of the patent infringement in exchange for licensing any of the higher-level patents Apple holds.”
Jobs reportedly told Eric Schmidt: ”I don’t want your money. If you offer me $5 billion, I won’t want it. I’ve got plenty of money. I want you to stop using our ideas in Android, that’s all I want.”
According to The Next Web, 90 of the 251 products (36 percent) that Google released in the past 12 years have been cancelled.
“Experimentation is a part of Google’s culture,” indicates TNW. “Launching in beta habitually creates a fearlessness that continues to serve them well. Even though Google knows that tons of their products won’t make the cut, their success is partially due to throwing a fist full of darts, and seeing what sticks.”
In a related TechCrunch post, the company plans to focus on Google+, and as a result will be killing off Google Buzz in a few weeks as well as iGoogle’s social features come January 15, 2012. Google Labs was shut down on Friday.
Additional services are also reportedly getting the axe by January 15: Code Search (for open source code on the Web), Jaiku (for users to send updates to friends), and the University Research Program for Google Search (available to select academic researchers).
Google has announced that through the new Merch Store feature, YouTube partners “will be able to sell artist merchandise, digital downloads, concert tickets and other experiences to fans and visitors.”
The Merch Store evolved from multiple partnerships: Marketing enabler Topspin will handle merchandise sales, while concert organizer SongKick will handle ticket sales. Amazon and iTunes will power transactions for music download transactions.
“The ability to add merchandise sales, ticket sales, digital downloads and more to an artist’s YouTube site definitely gives these sites more of an engaging presence for artists with their fans,” reports TechCrunch. “These destinations will now become more than just a way to discover music videos, but also a way to transact business and actually see the artist and buy their works.”
The feature should arrive in the coming weeks. YouTube will take a percentage of sales to cover costs.
Google is expected to roll out its own music store in the next few weeks.
It will reportedly tie into the company’s Music Beta service that allows users to upload and store their music collections.
Music Beta was announced after launch of Amazon’s unlicensed service, Cloud Drive. Also worth noting: “Apple got licenses for iTunes Match, which will instantly link a user’s songs to Apple’s master collection.”
“Its earlier negotiations with music companies, for a so-called smart locker service — a Web storage system that lets people link their digital music collections to a vast central database — broke down over financial terms and the music companies’ complaints that Google was not doing enough to curb piracy,” reports The New York Times.
The Hollywood Reporter suggests that Google+ may be losing momentum in its foray into social networking, citing data analytics from Chitika recently published in The Next Web. Facebook and Twitter are currently maintaining dominance in the social space.
“Our monthly referrals from there are down 38 percent since their peak, while Facebook referrals are up 67 percent and Twitter referrals up 51 percent over the same period,” reports TNW.
After Google+ attracted 10 million users in less than a month, expectations rose. But according to Chitika, Google+’s initial spike in traffic was short lived, leveling off just four days after its launch.
As one Google engineer stated on his Google+ page, the social network is “a prime example of our complete failure to understand platforms” and “a knee-jerk reaction” to Facebook.
“Bottom line: Facebook is still the king of social networks and will be for the foreseeable future,” adds THR. “Plan your marketing campaigns accordingly.”
In a related post from Gizmodo, Google+ claims 40 million “users” — but the question remains regarding how many are actually using it: “‘Users’ here, being loosely defined, since Google+ is a relative ghost town of privately shared links about how Google+ is a ghost town.”
Google unveiled an early preview version of its Dart programming language this week, which engineer Lars Bak of the Dart Team describes as “a class-based optionally typed programming language for building web applications.”
Bak writes on the Google Code blog that Dart has three design goals: 1) “Create a structured yet flexible language for web programming,” 2) “Make Dart feel familiar and natural to programmers and thus easy to learn,” and 3) “Ensure that Dart delivers high performance on all modern web browsers and environments ranging from small handheld devices to server-side execution.”
According to Google: “This means you can write a web application in Dart and have it compiled and run on any modern browser. The Dart VM is not currently integrated in Chrome but we plan to explore this option.”
While Android has so far trailed Apple in enterprise adoption, GigaOM reports that Motorola’s subsidiary 3LM, “has finally launched its security, management, and remote access platform for Android devices” that will enable:
“Device encryption of full memory and SD card data; selective encryption of corporate applications; remote wipe capabilities and whitelist/blacklist of applications; and control applications’ access to corporate resources.”
“Enhanced security and control of device, OS, and applications; remote installs of critical enterprise application; device tracking.”
“Secure remote access to enterprise resources and device health and status checking.”
The post also indicates that AT&T has announced “Toggle,” which allows Android users to separate professional and personal use by creating two different modes. This will help keep personal data private from IT managers.
Apple has made gains in the enterprise with iPad and iPhone integration, but this news suggests that “with better management tools that augment what already exists on Android, it may help boost Android’s acceptance in the enterprise…”
Google has a relatively small patent collection, with most of its patents related to fundamental search algorithms and technologies.
Looking to expand into the mobile sphere, Google purchased Motorola’s cellphone business and by extension its patent portfolio to “better protect Android from anticompetitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies,” Google CEO Larry Page said.
However, IPVision, a patent-analyzing software company, says, “the 1,029 patents that Google bought from IBM in July contain little that the company could use to either attack its competitors or defend its own products.”
Google will most likely need to expand its patents into mobile software. “It’s common knowledge that Google is patent poor,” says Hoo-Min Toong, co-founder of IPVision. “Not only does it need to gain patents in their own product areas, but also in defending themselves against other claims.”
With its Kindle Fire, Amazon hopes to distinguish its Appstore from Google’s Android, even though the tablet’s OS is based on the 2.x version of Android.
“It seems that Amazon really wants to make sure that the Fire is a more curated and cohesive experience than most Android tablets,” suggests The Next Web, as is evident in the guidelines for submitting Kindle Fire applications. However, the post points out: “They’re not locking everything down though, as installation of ‘non-Appstore’ apps will be permitted without rooting.”
Interestingly, Amazon’s Appstore doesn’t support in-app purchasing. “Because Google’s in-app purchasing technology requires access to Google Mobile Services,” says Amazon, “it will not work on Kindle Fire. We are working on a solution that will let you sell digital content in your apps using Amazon’s merchandising and payments technology. Our solution is currently in Beta and available by invitation only.”