Reading the early notes for iOS 7 and OS X 10.9 Mavericks, I have come to an interesting conclusion. Apple and Google – two fierce competitors in the all-important mobile operating system space – have diametrically opposed strategies for capturing user interest.
Apple – on both iOS 7 and OS X – in their interest to make everything as seamless as possible, is becoming ever more integrated. iOS7/OS X 10.9 include iCloud Keychain Access, a direct competitor to the wonderful 1Password; it includes Maps, an alternative to Google Maps; it includes Messages, a direct alternative to WhatsApp/Kik/GChat; the list goes on. But what is most interesting is that every one of these is included directly as part of the operating system. This creates threats to companies that put in significant effort to build apps for the platform – who remembers when everyone was afraid Microsoft would release their app as part of the next Windows? – but reflects less a desire to hurt partners, which app developers truly are, and more a desire to give a holistic experience on par with competitors (like Google).
Google, on the other hand, is becoming less integrated. More and more of core Google (and hence Android) services are becoming available as standalone apps in the Google Play and iOS store, rather than integrated into the Android operating system. This is a response to two key pressures on Google:
- The need to compete with and on iOS. Apple tries to make everything iOS exclusive; Google would prefer everyone on Android, but recognizes the number of iOS devices and wants to capture them.
- Partners who manufacture and sell Android devices often restrict upgrades. It is possible for someone running a device that is capable of 4.2 Jelly Bean but running 3.2 Honeycomb. While this may or may not annoy the user, it is a loss of potential services and revenue in those services to Google. Breaking more and more services out into apps allows the user to download many updates without being dependent on the device manufacturer or carrier.
These are radically divergent strategies. There is irony in Apple taking the role Microsoft took in the 1990s, although Google does something similar on the Web. Which will win?