January 27th, 2010
03:15 AM GMT
All eyes will be on Apple on Wednesday. Most will be watching to see just what the company unveils at San Francisco. Others will watch for signs of a growing rivalry between Apple and Google.
At a glance, they don’t make obvious competitors. Apple doesn’t have a search engine and Google doesn’t make computers. But the two companies are slowly encroaching on each others’ turf, from phones to web browsers.
It wasn’t always this way. The two used to be close allies. The proof is in the hands of millions of people around the world: The iPhone. The default search engine on the iPhone is Google. The built-in Maps application runs on Google Maps. And every iPhone has a dedicated application to access Google’s YouTube. Google CEO Eric Schmidt appeared at the iPhone’s unveiling in January 2007 to tout these features and the close ties between the two companies.
(Just before launch, Schmidt was seen in this video proudly showing off the iPhone he received for sitting on Apple’s board of directors.)
By November, the first real signs of competition appeared. Google announced that it was partnering with mobile manufacturers like Motorola and HTC to build Android, an open software platform for mobile phones. It culminated in the launch of the Nexus One: An Android phone from Google itself, sold on Google.com.
It’s not just in phones that Google is challenging Apple. Google’s Chrome web browser passed Apple’s Safari in market share at the end of 2009 according to Net Applications. And while an open-source, lightweight operating system designed for netbooks doesn’t sound like a competitor to Apple’s Mac OS X, Chrome OS was specifically cited as a reason for Schmidt’s resignation from Apple’s board by CEO Steve Jobs.
“Unfortunately, as Google enters more of Apple’s core businesses, with Android and now Chrome OS, Eric’s effectiveness as an Apple Board member will be significantly diminished, since he will have to recuse himself from even larger portions of our meetings due to potential conflicts of interest,” said Jobs.
While Google’s moves are fairly public, Apple’s moves against Google are cloaked in the company’s trademark veil of secrecy. Reports across the web say that Apple bought a mapping company called Placebase in 2009. The source? Tweets and the apparent relocation of much of Placebase’s staff to Apple — according to their profiles on LinkedIn. Good luck trying to verify that: Neither Apple nor Placebase has said anything, and Placebase.com was effectively taken offline
Perhaps Apple’s boldest move came earlier this month when it bought Quattro Wireless, which specialises in delivering ads over mobile phones. Advertising is where Google makes its money. And Apple’s acquisition comes two months after Google bought a mobile ad company of its own, AdMob.
Why the sudden interest in mobile ads? Google’s latest acquisition points the finger, ironically, at Apple. On the company blog, AdMob founder Omar Hamoui said that through the iPhone, Apple “showed all of us the way forward and their efforts have led to a landslide of rapid improvements in our space.”
Still, the most surprising sign of the rift came just last week. BusinessWeek reported that Apple was in talks to replace Google as the default search engine of the iPhone... with Microsoft’s Bing.
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