When Apple boss Steve Jobs took the wraps off iCloud, the company's new cloud services, he gave us a glimpse at the future of computing.
What is iCloud? It's a system for storing various bits of your data online, and pushing all that data to all your devices so that they are always in sync. For example, let's say you create a document on your Mac. Without needing to hit "Save", iCloud will automatically save a copy of it online, and push it out so you can edit that same document on your iPhone or iPad.
Apple calls iCloud a breakthrough. Jobs says it's the culmination of a decade-long effort to kill the desktop file system.
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.
The irony of Apple’s wildly successful App Store is that the company resisted the idea of them in the first place. At the iPhone’s unveiling, CEO Steve Jobs spoke of the importance of Apple controlling everything on the device. “The last thing you want is to have loaded three apps on your phone and then you go to make a call and it doesn’t work,” Jobs told the New York Times.
Almost three years later, over two billion apps have been downloaded by iPhone and iPod touch users. Apps are now the focal point of Apple’s advertising for iPhones. And competitors are following suit: Palm, Nokia and Research in Motion all opened their own mobile software stores this year.
But it’s the App Store that dwarfs them all. With over 100,000 different applications available, we had a hard time coming up with a shortlist of good ones for World Report (though harder still was singling out the bad apps; the bad vastly outnumber the good on the App Store). Thanks to input from experts across the web, here’s what Kristie Lu Stout and I came up with:
Those are expert picks — so since everyone’s having their say, here are my favorite apps from 2009.
Tweetie 2 ($2.99): There’s a reason this app is on everyone’s list. The iPhone’s best Twitter app is fast, powerful, and incredibly easy to use. The only downside? It doesn’t support Push notifications.
Instapaper (Free; Pro edition is $4.99): I’m the sort of person who finds more stories I want to read on the Web than I actually have time for. This is where Instapaper helps: Mark links you’d like to read and Instapaper will download and save the webpage for you to read whenever you want wherever you want.
Ping! ($0.99): The App Store does have great fully-featured IM apps that do AIM and MSN (like BeejiveIM). So why do I use an app that’s limited to iPhone-to-iPhone messaging? Because that simplicity is what makes Ping work for everyone from the tech-savvy (me) to the not-so-tech-savvy (my aunt).
Pocket Universe ($2.99): This astronomy app probably has more information than you’d ever want to know about the skies. But it has one killer feature exclusive to iPhone 3GS users: It knows what direction you’re looking in, so it can tell you exactly what stars and constellations you should be seeing in the skies.
Canabalt ($2.99): I’m a sucker for simple games, and you can’t get much simpler than this: Tap the screen to make your running man leap from rooftop to rooftop. It’s a game that proves the value of simplicity: It’s so easy to learn that anyone can pick it up. The hard part? Resisting the urge to try and top your high score just one more time.
The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition ($3.99): This scene-for-scene remake of a classic is just as clever, inventive and genuinely funny as it was in the 90s. They literally don’t make ‘em like this anymore: LucasArts stopped making new graphic adventures a decade ago.
A new, slimmed-down version of PlayStation 3 hit store shelves across the world last week. But where is PlayStation 4?
According to game industry executives: A long way off.
It's been three years since the PS3 and Wii made their debut; four years since Microsoft released the Xbox 360. As the average console life-cycle is roughly around 4 to 6 years, we should be hearing rumblings about the successor to the current generation of consoles right about now.
Instead, industry figures are lining up to say how long this generation could last. Electronic Arts' CEO John Riccitiello spoke of an "extended hardware cycle" on an earnings call. Activision boss Bobby Kotick echoed those sentiments, while Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter told Edge he didn't expect the next hardware cycle to start until 2013 - if ever.
Why the wait? Microsoft and Sony spent billions of dollars to create the Xbox 360 and PS3 - money they'd like to recoup. Sony Computer Entertainment's Kaz Hirai admitted to the Times Online that they are losing money on each PS3 Slim they sell.
The exception is Nintendo. The company has steadily increased spending on research and development, from $34 million in the 2003 fiscal year to $430 million in 2009. Last year WhatTheyPlay.com reported that Nintendo was working on the next-generation Wii for 2011.
Another reason for an extended console cycle could be the ability of the current generation of consoles to update themselves via the Internet. Both the Wii and PS3 have added major features through software updates, while the Xbox 360's interface was completely redesigned last year. And Microsoft has promised to add more functionality at the latest this year, including Facebook and Twitter.
The "Big Three" are hoping these moves to freshen up existing models will keep consumers from relegating the current generation of consoles to the closet.
About Business 360
CNN International's business anchors and correspondents get to grips with the issues affecting world business, and they want your questions and feedback.