Google and Apple Call it Quits.

August 12, 2009 by · Comments Off on Google and Apple Call it Quits.
Filed under: Technology 

Gapple is no more

It is all over the news that Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO, resigned from Apple’s board recently citing “conflict of interests”. Businessweek published an article contrasting the two companies. It highlights the fact that they are still aligned against Microsoft, but their ideologies are vastly different. There are some speculative blogs that tie this resignation to Apple’s removal of Google Voice application from the iPhone store. Although it might have been the proverbial “last straw”, it is hardly the reason. How much conflict was there really and how different are their interests? Google Voice proves the point in a very interesting way.

For those of you who didn’t get the traditional Google “invite” for Google Voice or never heard of its acquisition of Grand Central a couple years back, it may sound weird that a voice app will be so game changing. But Gran Central started with a simple concept: You sign up and then you can manage all your numbers every way you want by writing rules to deal with your all calls. Your boss calls any of your numbers and you decide where and when it rings. Let’s say you want it to your cell only during work hours (you don’t have to tell him/her it is 11 -3). An 800 number calls and you can send a “number canceled” tone so they take you off their list. Your spouse calls? All you numbers ring. Anything else goes to voice mail. And – this is the feature that makes me drool – it is a single voice mail for all your numbers. And, are you ready for this? you get an email with a visual version of your voice mail. Sort it, read it, delete it, whatever you want! No more fiddling around with “6-6-6-4-7” or whatever weird combination of digits you always forget to look for the one important message you know you missed!
Cool, so far, isn’t it? How much will you pay for the convenience of your true Personal Digital Assistant? $20, $50 / month? How about nothing? Sounds like a deal doesn’t it? Not too fast. Being now owned by Google you will expect them to make money. And yes, you guessed it, through advertisement. They recently were awarded a patent in which they claim all sorts of advertisement opportunities: ring-tones, busy signals, call waiting, while you wait for the call to be connected, etc, etc, etc. Although some may be annoying to users, I’m sure Google will not abuse it so you want to turn it off. And that model is where Apple and Google do not see eye to eye.
Apple has made boatloads of money by keeping control over every element of the value chain of their solution. The little (not really little) exception on the iPhone is the cellular carrier. But you’ll have to forgive them (for now) since building worldwide cell networks requires amounts of cash that even Apple cannot pony up. But it is controlled through a tight partnership with, for example in the US AT&T. Apple sells iPhones only to them (again for now) and in exchange the vow not to allow applications that will cause damage to AT&T’s cash cow. As you can imagine, Google Voice is one of those. So Apple pulls it off the App store.
On the other hand, Google is a friend of the open source initiative. They claim (and quite successfully) that openness is the way to go. Allow the best software engineers to produce the best product and improve on it around the world. We will all benefit. Android (Google’s mobile OS) is an example of that. We will soon see lots of new phones using this OS and they will all be slightly different but will share the core (Linux kernel with a Webkit browser) defined by Google but handed over to the industry, source code and all. Chrome OS (which isn’t really an OS either) will follow suit. Google’s model is based on making money by all the information that passes through their cloud (or humongous array of computers).
The core is Google’s mantra and let the best software win. Whereas Apple is end-to-end control since I am really the best. One can draw parallels to the political ideologies of the world and reach unsubstantiated conclusions on what may happen some years after this “wall” has been built. I won’t, just to avoid hurting cult fans in either side of the battle, since I am not sure, my faithful reader (yes singular), which camp are you on.