There are numerous famous rivalries in the world of business: Coke vs. Pepsi, VHS vs. Beta, Nintendo vs. Sega (later Sony), McDonalds vs. Burger King and of course Apple vs…
Well, in that latter one we’ve seen Apple vs. Microsoft several times, and we’ve seen also seen lesser business showdowns with Apple vs. Creative for the MP3 player market. But now it seems we’re seeing Apple vs. Google, brought on by the Android operating system. Recently Apple brought suit against HTC, maker of the Nexus One smartphone for T-Mobile. Of course I noted when discussing this lawsuit that Google wasn’t even named in the lawsuit. But that doesn’t mean this rivalry isn’t heating up, and that the world isn’t taking notice.
Last week The New York Times noted, “Apple’s Spat with Google is Getting Personal” and offered this take:
“Their companies are now engaged in a gritty battle royale over the future and shape of mobile computing and cellphones, with implications that are reverberating across the digital landscape.”
Rumors are also circulating that Microsoft’s Bing could replace Google as a search engine on the iPhone. But are things really that bad? Isn’t a rivalry actually good for business? As the above examples show the consumer wins as innovation is brought out, and in many cases the businesses in question see an increase in sales. However, with phones it isn’t as if people can just get more. With soda or hamburgers people can actually consume more, and with video games and home entertainment it is possible to have multiple systems. This isn’t the case with mobile phones, but there is a surprise here as well.
Consider that ComScore’s newly released figures show that for U.S. mobile phone usage Apple and RIM (maker of the BlackBerry) actually saw small gains. Apple was up 0.3 for the final quarter of 2009, while RIM was up 1.7 percent in the same time period. And yet Google’s Android OS was up 7.1 percent, from just 2.8 percent at the end of the previous quarter. This is a war where the two main rivals seem to both be getting ahead. Yes, there was a loser in this period, Palm actually lost marketshare, falling from 7.8 to 5.7 in total marketshare. Obviously, this is going to be a very different type of war.
Clearly Google went forward with its mobile strategy knowing that its once cozy relationship with Apple would suffer. But this is part of doing business, and clearly many companies – at least in the tech space – can be rivals some of the time and partners in other times. An example here is that Microsoft and Apple are competitors for the place on the desk or laps, as each makes personal computers. But Microsoft is also an Apple partner as it makes software that runs on Apple’s computers. So I don’t expect Google and Apple to be bitter enemies, but probably never really close friends again.
However, there is another factor to consider in what this means to Google’s bottom line. Broadpoint AmTech analyst Ben Schachter offers that Google’s gross margin may rise throughout the rest of this year and into next, suggesting that the Nexus One handset could be a wildcard, depending on how Google accounts for sales. Factor in how the upcoming Verizon launch is mixed in and we could be in a wait and see situation.
Opera Mini 5 Arrives for Android and Windows Mobile
Cue the chorus; the show is about to begin. Opera software has announced that Opera Mini 5 beta for Android handsets and for the Windows Mobile platform has been released. For Android users it offers desktop-like browsing for mobile handsets. New features include Speed Dial, tabbed browsing, password manager and bookmarks.