Apple vs. Google Is the Most Important Battle in Tech

The iPhone-vs.-Android fight is a dispute between two radically different visions for the future of computing

  • Share
  • Read Later
Lee Jin-man / AP

Eric Schmidt, Google's executive chairman, speaks to students during a seminar at Yonsei University in Seoul on Sept. 28, 2012

In the 1990s, Microsoft Internet Explorer battled Netscape Navigator in the great Web-browser wars. In the 2000s, Google and Yahoo locked horns over Internet search — and we know how that turned out. Today, the latest high-stakes tech conflict is between Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android mobile operating system for supremacy in the smart-phone market.

Each of these clashes defined an era of Internet history. Apple vs. Android is no different. Everyone agrees that the struggle for Internet advantage is shifting to the mobile realm, and iPhone and Android have surged to the front of the pack with diametrically opposed business models. Neither of these players will be vanquished anytime soon — these battles take years to play out — but the company that gains the upper hand will be best positioned to take advantage of the massive structural shift from desktop PCs to smart phones and tablets.

Apple and Google realize how huge the stakes are in this fight. Apple’s late CEO, Steve Jobs, revolutionized the mobile-phone market with the iPhone, and he was furious when Google launched Android because he was convinced it ripped off features from the iPhone. (In August, a San Jose, Calif., federal jury agreed.) Google, meanwhile, has poured millions of dollars into developing Android and billions more bolstering its intellectual-property position by buying Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion.

(MORE: Google Chairman Eric Schmidt Raps Apple on iPhone Maps, Floats Yahoo! Search Pact)

This smart-phone showdown is important because Apple and Google are advancing radically different business models to the fight. This is bigger than just a commercial clash between two tech titans. It’s a war between two fundamentally different visions for the future of computing, described in simplistic terms as closed vs. open. Apple’s model is end-to-end control over the iPhone process, from hardware to software to the mobile applications that it must approve for sale in the App Store. Google’s model has been to distribute the Android system for free to the developer community at large and let a thousand flowers bloom.

Each company has been successful with its respective strategy: Apple makes $1 billion per month on iPhone sales, and the device is considered the gold standard for smart-phone design. Android, meanwhile, generates vastly less revenue per unit sold but has racked up massive market-share gains, growing to lead the global mobile OS space in just five years.

Speaking at an event in New York City earlier this week, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt did not mince words describing the intensity of the showdown and what he characterized as its benefits to consumers. “The Android-Apple platform fight is the defining fight in the industry today,” Schmidt said at an event hosted by AllThingsD co-executive editors Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg. “We’ve not seen platform fights at this scale,” he added, in comments cited by AllThingsD’s Liz Gannes. “The beneficiary is you guys [consumers]. Prices are dropping rapidly. That’s a wonderful value proposition.”

(MORE: Patent Peace: Apple’s Tim Cook, Google’s Larry Page in CEO Talks)

This battle may have “wonderful” consequences for consumers, but it hasn’t exactly been pleasant for the combatants. In addition to cutthroat competition in the marketplace, Apple has been slugging it out in courtrooms around the world over intellectual property with Google’s hardware partners. Apple’s global patent offensive against Samsung, HTC and other Google partners (including the search giant’s newly acquired Motorola Mobility division) is really a proxy fight against Android. In August, South Korea–based Samsung was hit with a $1.05 billion verdict after a federal jury concluded that it had infringed Apple’s iPhone patents.

To hear them tell it, top executives at both Apple and Google insist they would prefer not to engage in such expensive and drawn-out patent litigation, but at least in Apple’s case, the company feels it has no choice but to defend its flagship product. Last spring, Apple CEO Tim Cook declared that he’s “always hated litigation, and I continue to hate it,” but said it’s his job to protect Apple’s inventions. For his part, Schmidt told the New York audience that “these patent wars are death” and described the patent arms race as “bad for innovation. It eliminates choices.”

(MORE: Apple’s $1 Billion Patent Win over Samsung Rattles Google’s Cage)

That view was backed up in the latest installment of the New York Times iEconomy series, which appeared earlier this week. “The marketplace for new ideas has been corrupted by software patents used as destructive weapons,” the story’s authors wrote, noting that last year, for the first time, Apple and Google spent more on patent litigation and intellectual property than on research and development, a striking fact that sharply illustrates how incentives have become skewed in the tech industry. Elsewhere in the article, a former Apple executive confirmed that in the case of the company’s 2010 lawsuit against HTC, a key Android partner, “Google was the enemy, the real target.”

Could Apple and Google finally be growing weary of the patent wars? There are the faintest glimmers of hope. Google CEO Larry Page and Apple’s Cook have been holding back-channel discussions “about a range of intellectual-property matters, including the ongoing mobile patent disputes between the companies,” Reuters reported six weeks ago. It’s encouraging to see these two tech titans talking, because consumers want to see these firms compete in the marketplace, not bicker in courtrooms. As the battle for smart-phone supremacy rages between Apple and Google, may the best products win — not the company with the best patent lawyers.

143 comments
jabrooks247
jabrooks247

It seems kind of funny, everybody with their higher than mighty apple attitude. If verizon hadn't bribed the government into blocking google from aquiring all the old television bands then none of this would matter. Cell phone companies wouldn't exist, the iphone wouldn't exist, $200-$300 cell phone bills wouldn't exist and having two radios (data/cell) draining your battery wouldn't exist. You would buy the phone of your choice running manufacturer altered android at full price and the service would be free from google via their nationwide free highspeed wireless internet. Instead let's pay $300 a month for a family of four with smartphones + home internet while apple sues everyone and companies that should no longer even exist make record profits at everyone's expense. This whole subject is a joke and just a way to keep people from realizing what the real issue is... Verizon and Apple both deserve to be hated just as much as Exxon and Bank of America.

pbug56
pbug56

I'm happy that I have a Motorola Razr Maxx - NOT the me-me-me phone (aka Iphone, aka out-of-date phone).  Better screen, battery, apps and far more!  Of course, I don't have Siri  to make unplanned FaceBook entries for me.

RichardSRussell
RichardSRussell

The surest way for consumers to lose is for ONE of these megacorps to win. Attaining a monopoly is the logical goal of every corporation, which is why we need government regulators to prevent it from happening, because the corporations sure aren't going to do it on their own.

jjo
jjo

Apple has always had a "following".  There will always be people who like using a Mac and there will always be people who prefer using a PC.  The same applies to tablets and phones.  There is room for both Apple and Android.  There are more than enough customers to go around.  Apple in particular needs to try to keep it's greedy nature in check or it may find itself on the losing end of this stupid, greed driven battle to determine who will be king of the tech heap.  The only real winners here are the overpaid patent lawyers who are milking this conflict for every dime they can get.

Jeanette Grayeb-Mihal
Jeanette Grayeb-Mihal

Competition is good, and Apple is the bully on the block.  I love my Smartphone, and I will never buy an Apple product.

Excelonman
Excelonman

The article makes it clear that it is the consumer who wins in this epic 2-horse race so far and they do.  More choice is about to come to fruition with Windows' new offerings and there is always room for another.

However, on the issue of closed vs open, closed will ultimately win.  It is a more controlled environment for the majority of consumers and if Google really wants to get serious and dominate, which they are more than capable of doing, their long term strategy should be to minimize the customization of the Android platform by phone manufacturers and carriers.  Apple strength is the closed system that ultimately allows the other electronic vendors and car manufacturers to develop Apple connected solutions which is where Apple clearly wins.  Android is nowhere near to competing in this ultimate space.

Let the games begin!

endinyal
endinyal

Funny.  "Google generates vastly less revenue per unit sold.." 

Google generates ZERO revenue per unit sold.  They give Android away.  It's why they are the bottom-of-barrel OS that everyone is using and fragmenting.  The only way they make money is by generating perceived ad revenue through those mobile installs.

Michael McConnell
Michael McConnell

Wow, thanks for a balanced and fair article - hope your shares of apple go up because of it.  BTW contrary to your comment that a jury agreed google infringed on apples patents, google was not named in the suit,  it was samsung and dealt with mods they made to googles os and hardware patents.  Next time try not to slant the story.

TxManx
TxManx

This can be also viewed in what I call the benevolent dictator theory. The benevolent dictator tells the world "I will build the software and will sell it for a nickle to anyone who wants to build the hardware." This aligns with A4O4's open source providers. But there is also the malevolent dictator who declares "Its software, my hardware, and my money." This could also be described as the "Daffy Duck" approach - It's mine, mine, mine, all mine!

Both the benevolent and malevolent dictators can make great products and be successful. But in the end, the benevolent dictator using earns the greatest market share. In part, because there is a powerful economic force of combined industry Ramp;D that the benevolent dictator attracts.

Look at PC software, server software, and now whats happening in phone software. Some industries don't yet have benevolent dictators of software for some reason. Like storage.

Another observation is that benevolent dictator of PC software took those lessons to server software and launched NT in 1991. By 1998, many burgeoning UNIX vendors had to fold vs the onslaught of MSFT and Intel. But, Microsoft has completely bungled their entry into phone software market. Apparently, consumers don't the same experience on their mobile devices as they have had on their desktop workstations. Who woulda guess that?

The malevolent dictator did and invented the iPhone...

RallyMonkeyUSA
RallyMonkeyUSA

Good article. I agree that if all the money spent on litigation, was spent on research amp; development, the "smartphone" would be 5-10 years smarter than it is today. 

KewlDawg
KewlDawg

"Apple’s late CEO Steve Jobs ... was furious when Google launched Android, because he was convinced it ripped off features from the iPhone."

No wonder Steve Jobs is so furious.   Ripping off other company's ideas is his style.

John Richardson
John Richardson

The sentiments in these comments are unusually pro-Apple compared to other sources I read.  The similar triteness and disregard for 1) correct facts, and 2)relevance of replies between all of these "different" pro-Apple posts makes me think that there are a couple of dudes with about 10 accounts who have taken it upon themselves to spin fairy tales about Apple.  Just an observation.

GeneralmotorsGravytrain
GeneralmotorsGravytrain

Oh look, it's Eric Schmidt,  Google's ex-mole telling Apple that it should have stuck with Google Maps after he stole iOS, cloned it and called it Android.  I know what they need to do with spies like him.  The only way Apple can beat Android is by making it nearly impossible for small Android vendors to make any sort of profit and thereby putting them out of business.  I hope Android becomes so fragmented that developers will just give up trying to build apps for it.  Apple is going to sell about 10 million iPad Minis by the end of the year and that should put a serious crimp in Android tablet sales.  Android tablets will make excellent landfill.

Michael Jibrael
Michael Jibrael

It's a good fight. I have always preferred the iOS interface, I just "don't get" Android, so far. However other contenders may arise. 5 years from now we may be looking at a landscape we could have never predicted (maybe Windows phone, maybe BB10, maybe another open source competitor)

Cane Pazzo
Cane Pazzo

The only reason these tech titans are talking is to try finding a reasonable way to control the cost of litigation.  The lawyers are walking away with huge fees while the company's waste time and resources instead of developing new products.  The end game for Apple and Google is to take no prisoners.  Neither of them really cares about the consumer.  In the end, one will win and one will lose.  The consumer always looses when competition is missing. 

FedUpTwo
FedUpTwo

The FTC is getting ready to throw down on Google for anti-trust, when it's Apple they should be talking to. The have been shutting out and sabotaging others for a few years now. They play the same games they accused MS of so long ago, now they are just as bad. Of course, Google can no longer claim not to be evil anymore either. Absolute power corrupts absolutely it seems.

OldUxUsr
OldUxUsr

The "open" vs "closed" dichotomy is a false analysis of the company mobile OS strategies. Its a red herring used to cover Google's real motivation. These two companies are in business to make money. The dichotomy is in what they sell to make money, neither sells the OS. Apple sells hardware to the mobile user making their money on the hardware, Google sells the mobile user to advertising companies making money from directed ads.

Graham Ginsberg
Graham Ginsberg

Gates vs Jobs. In the end, Jobs won. Both IMO stole ideas from other companies while still in their 'garage' stages. IMO, Google was always respected for their search engine results. Not any more. Google is now about profits and its reflected in their searches. So Google changed its persona (or it appears it has) and many feel cheated. For this reason, Google will not win over Apple in the Android race. Google needs to improve its search engine first or it will collapse like a deck of cards

Andy
Andy

I just want Google to eventually win the battle, I'm sick of Apple for a multitude of reasons, and I'm sure others share my disdain for an entire organization centered around their customer, anyone who thinks using a pc is "too hard"

note: I know that's a run-on sentence.

XYZ.Reveals
XYZ.Reveals

Apple copied the iPhone from the LG Prada. Apple has a thing for copying others, putting up a good show and then shamelessly try to sue others who get in the game.

rockarollr
rockarollr

If Eric Schmidt thinks he EVER even came close to holding a candle to Steve Jobs, then the guy is SERIOUSLY delusional. He and the Google boys are nothing more than pathetic intellectual property thieves... just like Bill Gates was back in the 80's. Once "on the inside" at Apple, Schmidt used sleazy tactics to soak up and steal Apple's original ideas and run back to Google with them. He's just another PRIME example of America's over abundance of sleaze-bag, corporate pieces of sh*t. F*ck Eric Schmidt... and the horse he rode in on!

Mighty_Me
Mighty_Me

Funny comments I read here. So you prefer money poured to patent litigation and not to innovation, which is really where these companies should invest? WTF! Okay, your way. But know this, this will set us back years of innovation.

vingtsun
vingtsun

Terribly naive!  Apple has every right to protect it's huge investment of time and capital into IP.  Other companies, Google, should not be able to pinch their IP without so much as a bye your leave.  Is Google going to put it's search algorithm for every other company to use...  This is Google's problem - stealing others IP should not be permitted nor excuses made for...

Al-Joufi Law Firm
Al-Joufi Law Firm

Technology firms like Google and Apple dramatically changed the economic growth by helping raise the employment growth globally. They have filed for patents that will protect their interest against infringement. This  creates a competition that is good because it leads to more technological development. http://www.aljoufilaw.com/

Robert Brown
Robert Brown

Ultimately the blame for this patent war mess lies with the patent office for granting too many uninformed patents. They just were not skilled enough to reason their way through the new and rapidly changing field of software. They totally blew it!

funnyboy911
funnyboy911

B1tch please, the most important battle in tech was IBM and HP..and IBM won!

apple and Google is nothing more than a glorify facebook and twitter.

John Kolak
John Kolak

Right. And furious Steve stole the Mac OS concept from Xerox PARC. How would he feel if Xerox had sued the pants off of him for that? No, back then there was a greater ethic for the advancement of computing, and people were glad to see advances. We were all in it together back then no matter how much we felt our platform was better than the competition.

O_Pinion
O_Pinion

When does "back channel discussions" become collusion?

Riley Wave
Riley Wave

Android will win ultimately as the bigger play - better specs and price -  for example, Ainol Electronics launches a new line of budget tablets next week, all with Quad Core CPU and quality resolution screens - including a 7" $99 model with Quad core CPU, up to a 10" Tablet with a super high resolution, 1920 x 1200 Liquid Crystal screen (like the iPad Retina- Display) at $239 - in the US, one of the first resellers of Ainol Tablets is a site called  TabletSprint -- certainly offering tablets with much betters features than Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD

pbug56
pbug56

 Google owns Motorola Mobility.  Company I bought my Razr Maxx from.

Dan Andersen
Dan Andersen

Well, John, I can imagine that when your own primary sources are Linux and FOSS blogs, Android and Google blogs, and commentary by nervous competitors and stock market manipulators, you're bound to see a preponderance of anti-Apple nonsense.

Regular people post here, hence your astute perception that the bulk of comments here are pro-Apple. They "get it" and are taking back control from the high priests of tech.

Just a relevant observation.

thewatchman7
thewatchman7

@GeneralmotorsGravytrain Good luck on that. Hint: Android aint' going anywhere and there is nothing you, nor Apple can do about it.  Now go pound sand.

Belisarius85
Belisarius85

And if the anti-trust safeguards are working like they should, the government will come in and smash the winner into several smaller companies to retain competition.

FedUpTwo
FedUpTwo

Google improve it's search? Suppose they should work on those wonky maps too, huh?

Dan Andersen
Dan Andersen

Yeah, I hate customer-centered companies like Apple.

How about some love for the geeks, nerds, and other hangers-on, Apple?

rdsf
rdsf

@funnyboy911 funny boy indeed

Dan Andersen
Dan Andersen

No, Steve did not steal the Mac OS concept from Xerox, John. Apple actually PAID Xerox for the right to use concepts developed at PARC in its own operating system efforts. But I bet you really did know that... 

Why make things up, John?

Graham Ginsberg
Graham Ginsberg

Comparing Android to  Apple is like a VW to a Porche. I have both, I know :-)

jabrooks247
jabrooks247

@DanAndersen @jabrooks247 @DanAndersen @jabrooks247

I just explained, maybe you should read it again very slowly. Your inability to follow what should be blatantly obvious is pretty typical of the type of person who can follow mainstream advertising but ignore common sense. Dirtbag corporations who attempt to monopolize and spend hundreds of millions to bribe the government and/or stifle competition instead of putting it towards producing a better product at a reasonable price deserve to be hated.

John Richardson
John Richardson

My sources are diverse.  You are a simple fact-twisting shill.

Graham Ginsberg
Graham Ginsberg

Thats going way back, back to the  floppy disks and MFM hdrives, when people cared about advancement. Thanks to Gates, all that changed when he put longer and longer serial numbers on all his products he BOUGHT. Remember MS GOlf before Gates bought it? So many other examples. Bottom line is Windows is no better now than it was 10 years ago. I know. I used to be paid big $$ fixing MS problems for 15 years. Apple never had issues, and had a free, American tech support line. Those were the days, when AAPL was $14 a share

SM009
SM009

If I remember correctly (I could be wrong), Apple did steal the UI. Xerox then "sued the pants" off of Apple and won. Apple then paid Xerox a ton of money in the form of preferred Apple stock which today is worth a king's ransom.

This is exactly what's happening between Samsung and Apple today.

booch221
booch221

@jabrooks247

If verizon hadn't bribed the government into blocking google from aquiring all the old television bands then none of this would matter.

Why don't you elaborate a little on this, genius? Nobody know's WTF you're talking about.


proletaria
proletaria

Count on the hipster crowd to stump for apple until it's no longer in fashion. No conspiracy required, they're simply convinced that there is one god "iphone," and Steve Jobs was its prophet.

Dan Andersen
Dan Andersen

You do not remember correctly.

The facts are easily checked, SM009--start with wikipedia and its references and citations on the history.

FedUpTwo
FedUpTwo

That was more of an after fact effort to save their doomed company at Xerox. They didn't really know what they had at the time, or what to do with it. Apple established an industry with their innovation, Xerox was just being dumb. The PC revolution wouldn't of happened if it weren't for Jobs and Gates, at least not nearly as soon, and certainly not at the hands of Xerox.