September 04, 2007

Why the Google Phone and iPhone Can Both Win

Even without making any official announcements, Google and Apple both have the ability to set gadget lovers and bloggers aflutter. This week's dual track mania will focus on two things: Apple's impending launch of next generation iPods on Wednesday, and the potential unveiling of a new mobile phone from Google - just months after Apple's much-anticipated iPhone redefined the mobile Web experience. And while there are sure to be constant comparisons between the rumored Google Phone and the iPhone, the truth is that both devices can win without killing the other.

As Read/Write Web notes, the hottest thing for tech companies, like Google, Apple, Microsoft and eBay, to do is announce they're moving into the phone space - filling a technology void made possible by a lack of innovation by current leaders, including Nokia and Motorola. And while the popular thing to do is say that the Google Phone will go head to head with Apple's iPhone, there is more than enough room for two dogs in this fight, especially when both companies are coming at the opportunity with their own strengths.

For the last five years, Apple has been a leader in digital music, and no company - not Microsoft, not Yahoo!, not Sony nor Amazon, has come close in offering a single package that rivals the iPod. When making the iPhone, Apple first made it the world's best iPod on the planet, and then added phone and Web features - borrowing heavily from their previous work on Safari and Mac OS X.

For about the same amount of time, Google has been the leader in Web search, and is growing a vast stable of Web applications, from GMail to Google Calendar, Google Reader, Google Maps, Google Checkout, Picasa Photos, Google News, and so on. But the company's Google Video site was a dud, leading them to buy out YouTube, and the company recently made news for shutting down their paid download online video store. It's becoming more clear what Google is good at (Web Apps) and what it is not good at (Media downloads).

Just as Apple started with its core strength (the iPod), Google will likely start with its core strength (Web search and integrated Web applications), rather than trying to be a swiss army knife solution - one ├╝berphone to rule them all. As a result, Google Phone consumers will not always be potential iPhone consumers. iPhone consumers will continue to be media driven, while Google Phone users will be Web search and Web applications driven. And neither of them will take away too much share from Blackberry users, who are Microsoft Exchange driven - a niche that neither Google nor Apple look ready to take on yet.

Apple initially claimed their target with the iPhone was to garner a 1% market share within 12 months - an aggressive, yet realistic goal. That leaves 99% of the market for Google to play with, and if early indications are true, they will be letting their plans be known very soon. As we've seen in the last 12 months, Google and Apple have drawn close as companies. I hope they can see room for both to succeed, and that in every respect, customers will win with this race to add new features and capabilities to what just recently had been an incredibly boring market.