Apple, Google and the price of world domination
In his first appearance at the World Wide Developer’s Conference as spiritual leader of the Apple faithful, CEO Tim Cook made it clear that he intends to not just further Steve Job’s vision but expand upon it. It’s never been more clear that Apple is intent on world domination.
Conspiracy theory? No. Try inescapable conclusion.
What else are we to make of Apple removing Google Maps from the iPhone? Google Maps was a core feature on the very first iPhone, but it will disappear in an iOS software update announced Monday at Apple’s developer conference.
Apple’s tension with Google is legendary. They began as friendly neighbors in largely complementary businesses – former Google CEO Eric Schmidt was even on Apple’s board. But after the introduction of the Android, Steve Jobs’s anger at Google’s entry into the mobile phone business was palpable.
Now Apple is kicking Google out, creating its own “Earth”-like maps and Android-like turn-by-turn navigation. If executed properly, Siri voice command in the iOS 6 update will work like OnStar. You’ll have the ability to be interactive and spontaneous while navigating, asking where the nearest Starbucks is. This is leaps and bounds beyond verbal turn-by-turn instructions and so disruptive to stand-alone in-dash GPS units that some are predicting that it’s game over, smartphones win again – and Apple is setting the pace.
This is how it begins. Making an ally into a competitor; incorporating great ideas from small players and leaving the small guys out of luck (lock-screen message centers, home-screen backgrounds, personal hotspots – these are all borrowed from the underground developer community). These are the signs of an emerging bully regime. Leveraging the advantage of an unlevel playing field is pretty much the big criticism of the Microsoft of yesteryear.
Apple’s move against Google is the big clue that it is working toward a sort of biosphere, with Cook installed as its ruler. But it’s not just Google that’s in Apple’s way. Smaller clues also emerged from WWDC:
- Apple is taking on Square and Foursquare (and overtaking smaller players like Cardstar) by creating Passbook, a collection of passive, location-aware commerce functions and ads. The app will keep track of all your business with participating companies (something that Square and Foursquare wouldn’t mind doing). Your boarding passes, your reward cards, your movie tickets – all of it will be stored in Passbook. Apple sees opportunity in organizing, simplifying and cultivating loyalty (read: dependence) from both buyers and sellers.
- By allowing FaceTime to work over data networks, Apple is taking on Skype (and thus Skype’s owner, Microsoft) even more than before.
Apple’s mobile world cannot be entirely self-contained, though. The company still has to deal with cell carriers and social networks. But that’s not by choice. Steve Jobs reportedly had the idea of running his own network even before the original iPhone was released in 2007. Apple has had to settle for kicking dirt in the faces of the carriers they’re forced to do business with: iMessage circumvents text-message plans; the iPhone is now being sold to prepaid carriers with cheaper plans than Verizon, AT&T and others.
As they’ve antagonized the cell carriers, they’ve done the opposite with social networks. Tim Cook announced this week that the operating system would have deep ties to Facebook, so anything could easily be shared. In the last big software update Apple inducted Twitter. But why? Because, for now, Apple needs it. Facebook and Twitter are the undisputed leaders in what they do, and Apple doesn’t have a social network of its own to compete with the big boys. Integrating iPhones into people’s (outside-the-iPhone) lives helps sell more iPhones. And more iPhones means more domination.
So, what’s next? A social network of Apple’s own? The carriers are, after all, Apple’s biggest dependency. Given Apple’s control issues, how crazy a project would that be deep in the recesses of One Infinite Loop?
The troubling aspect of an all-powerful Apple is that it does have a history of being belligerently unilateral. But that was Steve Jobs’s philosophy. Will Cook follow, now that Apple is an even greater force? He’ll have to walk a fine line: If Apple’s homegrown products begin to look like a self-serving step backward, the dictatorship may start seeming a lot less benevolent.
PHOTO: Apple CEO Tim Cook mingles after the keynote during the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference 2012 in San Francisco, California June 11, 2012. REUTERS/Stephen Lam