Next Monday at 12PM PT, Google is hosting a call to provide further details on its mobile strategy. As many of you know, there has been a fair amount of legal sabre rattling between Apple and Google’s hardware partner, HTC, regarding 20 of Apple’s mobile-related patents. When giants like Apple and Google start getting agitated and aggressive like this toward one another, you know the stakes are high.
I have been spending a lot of time immersing myself in the mobile industry, and I have come to believe that we at the beginning of a tectonic shift in computing, much like the Internet 10-12 years ago. Soon we will see an enormously higher multiple of people accessing the web via their mobile devices than thru their computers. This has far reaching implications for the enterprise and consumers and all of that stuff that we were waiting to do (like mobile health, etc) are about to be possible. This is sure to render several currently very large, and very successful technology companies, obsolete.
Much is being made of the public bickering between Steve Jobs and Eric Schmidt, and there is something real there considering Schmidt’s resignination from the Board of Apple. But this clearly has mostly to do with the shared vision of the importance of mobile to the two companies and the expected virulent competition between the two. Apple is the clear leader and best positioned company in this evolution and Google does not want to get too far behind.
Google is doing the smart thing in taking on the iconic iPhone and is pursuing a very simple strategy: provide an open and ubiquitious alternative to the iPhone. Here is what it is doing:
- Work with as many handsets and carriers as possible (10+ devices already announced; 20+ more expected)
- Provide tightly integrated OS and suite of free applications (Chrome, Gmail, Calendar, Search, Maps, YouTube)
- Court developer community with easy approval process, open SDK, and higher revenue share (70% – 100%)
- Different usability and design than iPhone, where it makes sense to innovate (Always-On apps, customizable home screen)
- Open mobile (Apps downloaded from web, no need for centralized store, embracing flash)
- Google Voice and unified contacts, messaging key
- Make inroads on other media devices
I love my iPhone. It is so great because the hardware and software are so tightly coupled. But Apple is walking a fine line between ensuring a compelling user experience and frustrating developers with draconian policies, angering carriers with restrictions and unfair economics, and providing consumers suboptimal experiences like not supporting Flash.
While Google has many risks with an open strategy, principally around not being able to control the user experience, mobile will increasingly become an open experience. This will be great for all of us. Get your popcorn everyone because we havent seen the potential for this competitive and violent fight since the days when Microsoft mattered.