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Apple vs. Google: Digital Stakes

The chips are down on Web versus apps and who owns the future.

It’s Google’s world, and we just live in it. Or maybe it’s Apple’s world and we just live in it.

Now the two tech giants are battling on a zillion fronts to decide which it is. Will you use Apple TV? Or Google TV?  iPhone or Android? Apple’s iPad, or a Google-powered pad? iTunes for your tunes? Or Google tunes one day soon?

It’s more than battling brand names. The two giants have different ways of approaching the world, of using the Internet. And they’re really fighting.

We look at Google versus Apple.  Steve Jobs versus Eric Schmidt.  App versus web page.  And the world we’ll live in.

-Tom Ashbrook


Jessica Vascellaro, tech reporter for the Wall Street Journal.

Kevin Kelly, founding executive editor of Wired magazine.  His new book is “What Technology Wants.”

Tim O’Reilly, Internet and technology guru, founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media.

David Levitt, founder and lead engineer of Levity Novelty LLC, maker of the Alive Albums iPad app.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    There’s really no reason to set this up as a win/lose situation.

    Long before Apple’s success with iPods many thought Apple lost the battle with Microsoft and would soon go out of business (there were many predictions to this effect) but in fact, Apple did just fine with less than 5% market share in the desktop computer market and it continues to do just fine without “winning” that market.

    Apple didn’t invent the digital music player but they put together the first easy to use system for managing a lot of music and carrying it around in style with iTunes and the iPod and that combination, along with selling music, gave them a large profit area outside of desktop computing.

    There is no win or lose, there is just having a large enough market share to keep company going and customers happy. Apple has effectively done both of these things since its founding: they have a lot of money in the bank and more customer loyalty than almost any company on earth. Walk into almost any Apple store on earth these days and it’s mobbed and people are buying all sorts of things.

    Even if Android evolves to have a large market share like Windows did and still does Apple will continue to make iPhones and iPads and will do just fine with whatever market share they have.

  • Sasha Drugikh

    Google’s recent partnership with Verizon to undermine Net Neutrality in the mobile sphere is alarming. It’s time to tell our politicians that the web is public and it’s our right to not be impeded by arbitrary tolls and speed limits.

  • Peter Smyth

    One thing to remember is that the “war” is not between the users, Unlike the Mac and Windows wars, Apple users embrace Google and vice versa.
    As an IPhone, iPad, Mac user I use Google Earth, Maps, gamil, Sky, Google Apps, Voice, whatever. I think the Droid OS is a great thing for non-iphones.
    I even understand why Flash is not on Apple touchscreen devices.
    So – although I think the competition have driven innovation, it is disappointing that Apple and Google cannot reach an accommodation. Both are innovative companies. The users vote foe for both. If either tries to put us in a position to have to choose sides – we will turn on that company.

  • Marc

    Every day I hear on NPR how I can stream content to my “Iphone”. I have an Android phone and it has always irked me a bit that I don’t hear that I stream content to my “mobile device”. I think it adds a touch of irony to your discussion.

  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    Tom: you keep describing this as a sensationalist zero sum game and it’s not. Both Kevin and Tim have said as much and you continue to sound an alarm. There is no alarm, there is room for both of these approaches.

    This is worth discussing but not in such sensationalist terms.

  • Garison Weiland

    Are we not just talking about the new industries replacing old industries. As GM, Ford And Chrysler had a place, So does Apple, Google and other players?

  • Ellen Dibble

    I am wondering about retiring my TV altogether. I lost free TV when HD came along because I have no satellite dish, and went to a $6.83-a-month Comcast cable plan. But the TV itself is dying. I am thinking between hulu and google, I can ditch my Comcast cable contract.
    Also, I have a netbook computer, the size of an iPad but brings in net content.
    The fact I don’t care about anything mobile confuses me. Apparently there is technology that depends on wireless access that drives that, whereas computer access to content depends on access to broadband.

  • bambi

    Please talk about flash player blocked on my ipod and available on mac.?? Still makes me furious! Thanks

  • Brian

    Hopefully Jobs will get continually greedier and price the Apple fanboys right out of their obsession. Let them crowd their little boutique stores, mostly people making pranks calls and surfing the web free.

  • Bob

    This is silly. First of all, Apple isn’t trying to “own it all.” Apple just wants to do what it has always done – guarantee a fantastic user experience to people who buy the products. The way it does that is by carefully designing and, yes, controlling the elements of the product.

    That’s why the iPhone is still the only phone real people can use. And it offers an extraordinary range of features. Even now, almost every other cell phone is a huge pain in the neck to use, and the features are kludgy.

    You need to grind the axe you’re trying to grind using examples where it applies. Trying to drag Apple into it is just a cheap attempt to stir up the emotions people have around Apple. Lame.

  • Fred

    Poor Palm, I guess, hope WebOS is going to be purchased / go by the wayside….

  • Brian

    Thanks Bob, you present the perfect case of a fanboy. I love how the Apple fans feel the need to declare definitively how their chosen product is “the only phone real people can use.” Now that is lame.

    Speaking of careful design, how’s that iphone 4 antenna working for y’all?

  • Don Mottolo

    Competition by Google is a good thing, but Apple has a great product strategy. Even though people decry that Apple is “closed”, they overlook the important advantages this provide Apple users. Since Apple requires that they certify apps will work on their hardware, it give users great confidence. There is no question about compatibility – the hardware and software just work – beautifully!

    Where Google is “open” – this means for users that is like Windows PCs – any manufacturer can make hardware and software. Consequently, software and hardware often does not work well together. So, in the case with PCs, we spend all our time trying to get the pieces to work. I’ve recently turned into an Apple fan because I spend all my time doing things, not fixing the damn system.

    The iPad was my conversion experience. It is a game-changer.

    So, for me Google competition is fantastic because this pushes the edge with new ideas and features(but I doubt that their user experience can ever match Apple’s because of the “open-ness” with be the Achilles heel.

  • http://www.nixonthehand.com Ulrich

    As a developer, I much prefer developing apps for android and the web through existing technologies over apple’s platform which requires me to use a more or less proprietary, verbose, and cumbersome Objective C, and a somewhat arbitrary approval process for applications.

  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    Cool off Brian. I have an iPhone4 and the antennae is working just fine thank you very much.

    Apple and Google can coexist, there is no reason to be looking at this in a zero sum way.

  • William Jabine

    It’s amazing that you have gotten this deep into the discussion without mentioning net neutrality…..
    I don’t have an attribution for the following quote, but it rings pretty true
    “there aren’t enough advertising dollars in the whole world to pay for what we expect to get for free on the internet”

  • Jeremy

    Outside of music, I think another interesting area that I have not seen much on is customized sports information. Many people are knee deep in fantasy fottball right now and they would love to see key plays involving their specific players.

    This kind of sports “app” seems like a powerful edge to somebody.

  • jim

    I don’t see great value in the iPad. I need a notebook so I can get work done. I need a real keyboard. I need real software. And I need to be able to use it anywhere, which includes on buses and trains (I can’t see myself typing on an iPad on a bouncy train or bus). Maybe I could use an iPad around the house, but that’s about it.

  • Brian

    I’m plenty cool Richard, thanks for the unsolicited advice. Do you have a pretty bumper on your phone? So sad it covers up the exquisite design that makes the iPhone 4 look “like a beautiful old Leica camera” according to your Chairman Jobs.

  • Bill D

    There’s a hybrid model that brings together the cloud and local apps that works very well & Apple is missing it. I store all my documents on Dropbox and can access them from any device, anywhere, but I’m not restricted by Google’s limited web apps.

    However, this doesn’t work for my Apple apps (iTunes, Photos, etc) on my iPhone & iPad – forcing me to still connect to my Mac to update these things through the awful iTunes interface.

    Local apps will continue to provide a more polished experience for the user, but Apple needs to integrate cloud storage options that keep our files synchronized across all our devices. I think this would put them far ahead of Google in this race.

  • Jeffrey Stine

    Google has purchased a graphic development program call Sketchup that is a revolution 3d modeling software with patented “push-pull” technology allow you to sculpt elements similar to clay. They’ve also developed a 3d warehouse search engine site that users upload and download 3d images that they create for use by anyone. All components of the software can be imported to and exported from their Google Earth mapping program. They are truly changing the playing field for designers and architects.

  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    Brian, take it easy. I find it amazing that you’re so angry about this. If you don’t like Apple avoid their products but allow those of who enjoy their products to enjoy them.

    I’m not angry about Android or any of this. It’s all good and there’s plenty of room for all of us to choose what we like to use without calling people who use competing products stupid for doing so.

    Peace man.

  • http://mkfconsulting.com Michael Kilian

    Could Amazon be a dark horse here? There have been rumors of Amazon buying Netflix. Is their web service (EC2) a way into a community of applications that expand their position? They have a super commerce site that could be leveraged for so much more.

  • BHA

    At what financial cost?
    Do we REALLY need to be connected to anything/everything ALL THE TIME?

    Add it all up. How much do people spend every month on this sort of thing?

  • Brian

    Android is an open, LINUX-based operating system that anyone with a little ‘NIX knowledge can manage at the OS level. The developer’s tools are freely available. So, anyone can develop apps for Android. There is no exclusive relationship like the one Apple has with AT&T. There is no monopoly on who can manufacture Android handsets. Android supports Adobe Flash, upon which a very large percentage of the games and videos on the Internet are based. Apple refuses to support Flash. Apples insistence on keeping their architecture proprietary and secret even prevents iPhone users from being able to mount their iPhone as a hard drive and manage the files on it, which has cause many users to lose photos and other important data.
    Why anyone would choose the iPhone over a good Android handset is beyond me.

  • Jason R.

    ha ha… of course Tom has to make this a sensationalist zero win story! He’s a journalist interested in listeners not the more mundane truth.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I didn’t hear security addressed. I like to work with my computer unplugged from the net in order to keep my work totally walled-in. Actually, I do primary work on Windows 98 offline and convert it into XP for newer flashier functions. There ain’t no bugs on that.
    So I’m looking for ways to keep one set of functions OFF THE CLOUD, while having another set of computers well integrated with cloud technology. One reason I’ve been able to increase my productivity/income over the last 15 years (Health costs notwithstanding) is the increasingly quick access to Answers on the net. Whether it’s spelling of a product name, names of court witnesses or troopers, laws and appeals decisions being cited, explanations of forensic tests, on and on — I haven’t had a raise in those 15 years, yet I am able to get rid of half my library of reference books, and save huge swaths of time. If I’m dealing with say a certain property on Martha’s Vineyard, I can google-map my way down the street and see exactly what’s where. I might be concerned about voice translation, and I have Nuance (but don’t use it), but speech recognition technology is not likely to displace me. I spent over 12 hours last week piecing apart 8 minutes of a 911 call of a fight. Technology allows me to give that a good try, but technology on its own would never be able to sign off on it. Too much imagination involved and experience has to be involved. In future, I’d feel safer, I think, if I were using a cable link for searching, and a broadband link (or no link) for processing. In other words, split the functions. And of course I’d have entertainment and communications on another “line” altogether. It depends on how security issues pan out.

  • A Different Brian

    Brian said:
    Why anyone would choose the iPhone over a good Android handset is beyond me.

    You answered your own question but were not clever enough to realize it.
    I can buy an iPhone and it just works. I chose size and color.

    Android? Which one is a good android phone?
    Will the carrier ALLOW me to update my phone? Will they restrict me to their app store?

    Go off in a corner and play with your android. Your comments are tiresome.

  • Barry O’Toole

    Kevin of Wired can’t really praise Apple after SJ screwed their efforts to get a mag to iPad. To say that Google doesn’t want to control the entire Internet is very ignorant; they are the biggest data miners of all. While Apple is no saint, to say that Google ‘reacted’ to Apple is also very biased. After all, Mr. Schmidt was on Apple’s board while the iPhone was being discussed.

    Also, to say that Android is ‘open’ is laughable. The carriers (AT&T, Verizon) control how open your OS is, when you can download an update, and what apps than you have. All Google cares about is eyeballs looking at its ads.

  • Ben

    Google vs Apple? More like: the Internet vs Life…

    Are the benefits of smart phones really beneficial? Sure they keep you e-connected, even when you’re away from your beloved keyboard. But the screens are so eye-strainingly small and download speeds are so life suckingly slow. Ironically this level of connectedness is more likely to alienate the important people in your life than bring you together. You texters, facebookers, and tweeters all know what I’m talking about.

    On top of this there are other serious problems with using this technology:

    -2yr penalty laden contracts
    -adware infused apps
    -possible brain tumors
    -captive markets
    -and suspicions of dissociative disorders from being perpetually plugged-in?

    Is all this headache really worth it? Or more precisely: Is your life really any better because of your smart phone?

  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    Ben: “Is your life really any better because of your smart phone?”

    In a word: yes. I may change that to a “no” if a brain tumor develops.

  • Joshua Hendrickson

    Wow. I feel like a luddite compared to other posters here.

    I have a cheap cell phone that I use maybe once a day at the most.

    I have an ipod shuffle which holds an adequate number of appealing songs, and which I seldom use.

    I get no cable or satellite tv. I have a digital tuner box that satisifies my (extremely limited) need for network shows and PBS. I have no DVR; I record shows on old-fashioned VHS tapes. For movies, my family relies on Netflix.

    I have a desktop with Windows 98 and a PC laptop with Vista. I used to have all of my music on the desktop but recently transferred about 3000 songs to my laptop. I do all of my limited networking and professional writing and schoolwork on my laptop.

    I blog. I don’t tweet and I don’t text; tweeting is something I just haven’t gotten into, while texting is something I refuse to do for aesthetic reasons.

    Smartphones, Iphones, Ipads, and other such devices, like the new Ipod with a tiny screen I recently saw advertised, hold no appeal for me whatsoever. How can anyone stand to watch tv/movies on a screen smaller than the palm of your hand? That’s just nutty.

    I suppose I could possibly be more primitive, comparatively speaking, and not hurt too much. But if I were more electronically hip, I doubt I would be any more satisified than I am now.

    A question, for those who might know the answer: why is the digital world not more standardized? I mean, heaven help me, I just learned last night from the new Simpsons episode what it means for dvds to have different “regions.” Why the hell isn’t everything–apps, files, everything!–more compatible? Is it just money, competition? If so … argggh! Stupid, stupid, stupid capitalism!

  • http://shaduc.wordpress.com/ sam

    Joshua Hendrickson:

    BUY A NOKIA for an inexpensive, user-friendly interface, I HAVE FOR THE PAST 8 YEARS. but now i’ll be moving onto an itouch or ipad

  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    Joshua: “But if I were more electronically hip, I doubt I would be any more satisified than I am now.”

    Maybe not, but you’d be able to answer all of your questions and might not sound so frustrated.

    Most people don’t watch movies on iPod Nanos and while some do watch video content on iPhones and iPod Touches and other smartphones, the iPad is being used a lot more for video content where some people used laptops before.

    I recently flew across country and of the 100+ people on the plane, over 30 were watching video content on iPads. The iPad and no doubt many other upcoming tablet devices are easier to carry on planes and get longer battery life than laptops.

    Its great that all of this stuff comes in a variety of form factors with a variety of operating systems. This gives people choices and competition makes prices lower and pushes innovation.

    One of the reasons I’m a Macintosh user is because Apple designs computers and peripherals that are simple to use and work well together. Some find this “control” a limitation but for me, it makes Apple’s computers and other devices more useable. To each his own.

    Regional DVD encoding is partly about copy protection: it prevents some reselling of one region’s DVDs in another region. I’m not sure how well its worked, maybe others know.

    PAL vs. NTSC is two different video standards, Europe and the US. Want to fight with the Europeans about which is the better standard?

    I doubt you can write all of this off to “stupid capitalism,” it’s more like the messiness of the evolution of technology. Out of those messes come some pretty great things that many of us enjoy using.

  • Grady Lee Howard

    Josh: Compared to you I’m a homo erectus. My recorded music is about 20 LPs. I use my burner cell phone about twice a week. I have air TV hooked up to a 17″ monitor. This computer is Pentium II with a proxy interface, and I will not communicate on the Web except by email and blogging. I am waiting for a simplified do-all wireless device that will never come due to capitalist marketing . I know plenty of people, from poor to comfortable, who do not have a computer, a TV or a cell phone. They read and listen to radio. Sometimes they answer the phone once they see who’s calling. These are some of the better informed and happier people I know. I compare the wireless device devoted to Tweekie in the Buck Rogers series who had to carry Dr. Theopolis chained around his neck, to do his thinking. So dibbi-dibbi-dibbi you poor subscription rate payers who can never separate from work.
    Tom probably doesn’t know what net neutrality is. Christopher Lydon does. That’s why Tom has this job. Knowing too much can get media drones in trouble.

  • J

    I am surprised that the listeners on this station should be well rounded individuals and so, I agree with some many of you that the topic definition was not for the best education of the consumers (=pocket). Even though, APPL and GOOG are dominant in the mobility space in the US market, they are biting the dust overseas -10 or 15% mkt share- . . . Korean, Chinese are doing a great job and have good alternatives. Even, I just heard once or twice in the interview, the name of the leader in this smartphone, mobility space, Nokia -a European co.- which has ~40% of market share.-. Tom, I think that we should be broader in guests selection,and/or explaining the reason behind the topic (just economics, or non-for-profit.org)

  • Stephen

    I’d vote for Google if it came down to it. Apple makes some great stuff but if they had their way I think they would eventually take over everything and shut down what doesn’t make them money (i.e. LaLa, Flash, etc.).

  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    Stephen: I’m quite sure Apple doesn’t want Adobe to go out of business, they just don’t want flash running on their iOS devices.

    If you want flash on a smartphone, any of the many Android driven phones are available.

    Choice is good.

  • peter nelson

    Even, I just heard once or twice in the interview, the name of the leader in this smartphone, mobility space, Nokia -a European co.- which has ~40% of market share.

    . . . which is falling very rapidly. Nokia is in deep trouble – shuffling their upper management and basically floundering. The iPhone and Android phones are redefining what a smartphone is, and Nokia really doesn’t have an answer. Especially in the area of apps which are a cornerstone of the modern smartphone, Nokia has been unable to attract interest in the developer community.

  • peter nelson

    Why the hell isn’t everything–apps, files, everything!–more compatible? Is it just money, competition? If so … argggh! Stupid, stupid, stupid capitalism!

    Speaking as a software engineer I think that would be HORRIBLE. I do Android development (and I have a Droid Incredible) but my wife prefers the iPhone.

    Different OSes represent different world-views and different philosophies, even different aesthetics and politics! Apple is all about central planning and control; Android is more libertarian. You can make arguments pro or con, but the fact is that one size does NOT fit all! Both as a developer and as a consumer I would much rather have a choice.

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