Is Google shooting itself in the foot in trying to compete with Apple?

Google seems to be having a good deal of success in getting all the companies that don’t have a  solution of their own capable of standing toe to toe with Apple’s iOS to adopt its Android platform for their smartphones.  The number of companies that are adopting Android to bring new solutions is continuously increasing over time and might grow even more as it looks like a much more viable operating system than Windows for the new tablets intended to compete against the iPad .

No single Android based smartphone has sold in any quantity that could be remotely comparable to the number of iPhones sold by Apple, but the combined sales of all models from all manufacturers which are using some version of Android is now significant.   An interesting aspect to this apparent success of Android is that Google doesn’t stand to make a penny from it so far, as the platform is licensed without charge.

Google’s interest in making Android available would seem to be to ensure that as large a number of mobile devices as possible are tightly integrated with its services such as search and GMail. Mobile Internet access has been increasing continuously and it would seem to make sense for the company to move to secure as much of that emerging market as possible.

One of the strong points of the first iPhone was certainly that it provided the best mobile Web access anyone had seen, besides being dead easy to use. That quickly changed, however, when the iPhone SDK was introduced.   Since then,  the strongest point of the iPhone and iPod Touch have been the applications you can buy or download for free.  The number of available applications is now well beyond two hundred thousand and still climbing fast.

In order to match this new aspect of the iPhone’s success, Google had to provide a marketplace as a counterbalance to Apple’s own highly successful App Store and help developers to create interesting applications for the Android platform.  And develop applications they did.  While there are not as many Android applications available as those for the iPhone, they can already be counted in the tens of thousands.

In this new scenario,  rich in mobile-applications,  there might a hidden threat lurking.  In using the iPad, the newest member of the family of devices that run iOS (the new name for the iPhone OS), users spend most of their time in applications and the same is true for the iPhone and iPod Touch.  In fact, there are some great applications developed for these devices specifically for consuming content from the Web, without ever getting anywhere near the browser.

A couple of days ago I wrote a post about Flipboard and in it mentioned Pulse News.  Both of these applications let you access content from Facebook, Twitter, popular blogs and major news sites through a rich enticing interface.  At least one of these applications – Pulse News – is already in the process of being ported to Android and I am sure that more of their kind will follow.

In addition to these new content aggregation Apps,  specialized clients such as Osfoora, Twitterrific and TweetDeck do a much better of providing access to Twitter’s content then the original website.

Apple has already recognized that users of these devices spend most of their time inside applications and not browsing which led them to introduce their iAd advertisement network.  Instead of going for Web ads, Apple went directly for in-App ads and made them so interactive and rich that they make Web banners look positively last-century.

When all or at least some of these applications are available to Android users, how much of their time will they spend on these enticing Apps and how much will they choose to dedicate to one of Google’s websites?    In helping to create a second platform to run these rich mobile applications is Google really making a move that will be good for its business in the future?  Could it be that helping the spread the usage of mobile apps and in giving away for free the operating system and the marketplace services required to make it a first class mobile platform Google is actually helping to draw users away from its own online properties?

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2 Responses to “ “Is Google shooting itself in the foot in trying to compete with Apple?”

  1. Andy Baker says:

    Never bet against the web…

    (also – note that Google does have an in-app ad strategy as a backup plan but I wonder if the app hype will be only a short term thing – 3-4 years before the development momentum returns to web apps)

  2. Mauricio Longo says:

    Not really a matter of betting against the web. The web is not really going to go away any time soon. 🙂 The reality of things today is that you get a much better experience in terms of functionality and performance in these devices using apps, than using the original websites. In order to revert this scenario we will probably have to go through at least a couple of cycles in hardware and browser development.

    When the hardware is able to better run really complex sites, the browsers fully support all new HTML features and the development tools and frameworks to better use them are available we might see a reversal of the current scenario.

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