Friday, June 11, 2010

Apple versus Google : the battlefield behind the last keynote

Last Monday, THE pope of communication presented the next episode of world's media religion. Behind the official announcements, Steve Jobs has left a few mines in the way of his old friend but definite current Google enemy. What are these mines ?

During last keynote of Apple last Monday, June, 7th, Steve Jobs presented the iPhone 4 and iOS4, the new version of the Apple mobile operating system. Brilliant as usual, Mr Steve sold us the new version of his "more than smart" phone, a marvelous assembly of technology to make the product, not just a bit better but simply the best on earth. But this new announcement also reveals other versions of other products. Less visibility does not mean less impact.

Of course iOS4, new name and new version of iPhone Operating System, becomes multi-task and thus recovers Android on this side.

It's now time for Safari 5 with some interesting features presented here. This new release of the browser contains a few dangerous mines for his fierce competitor Google.

And surprisingly, some of these mines have been set in cooperation with old enemy Microsoft. This new version of Safari is optimized to make use of hardware accelerator of Windows. Yes, you don't dream. Steve Jobs forgives Microsoft about the old OS battle between MAC OS and Windows. Moreover, Safari 5 is now enhanced with Bing search build-in in the smart search field. And 20% of "Safari new feature" page is eaten by a "Bing screen". An "hibernatus" frozen in early 90's could not believe it.

Beyond agreements with old Microsoft enemy to fight the new Google enemy, Apple proposes the top of the browsers for developers. Thanks to new smooth and nice effects supported through evolution of standard HTML5, developers have the possibility to redesign websites to bring user experience the next level. This evolution also mines the way of Adobe Flash. The set "Javascript + HTML5 + CSS3", by default embedded in the browser, dangerously recovers flash capabilities. Developers also get the possibility to develop extensions and to benefit from a better "Web inspector" debugging tool.

More important in the war for consumer eyeballs, these Safari 5 enhancements will also please consumers.
And when Google, a few years ago, presented Chrome as the fastest browser in the world, Steve Jobs could not accept a defeat on the user experience side. Safari 5 not only now proposes a large pallet of rich media capabilities to consumer. It also embeds the mechanic to improve speed and become fastest browser, through DNS caching and evolutions of Nitro Javascript engine.
Thanks to Safari reader, reading articles also becomes a pleasure, removing distracting "Christmas tree ads" proposed inline with content. If spread as a feature in other browser, this one can hurt Google Display revenues (mainly flowing through DoubleClick). On this one, Google will not be the single player to be hurt. This could also lead to collateral damages for publishers, these currently collecting this way small but critical revenues during this crisis period. We come back on that matter in this post.

Now that Google is fighting Apple on Mobile OS, Apple also positions its browser in the battlefield. Lousy Microsoft, through his slow and proprietary developments of Internet Explorer, has opened the door for new entrants. A browser is the critical entry door to consumer universe.

Through this Safari 5, Steve Jobs now tries to recover Chrome. It's not a minor evolution. Even release numbering scheme suggests this release as a major evolution (moving from Safari 4.0.x to 5.0.x).

But mines are not only positioned on the technical or functional areas of the battlefield. As we all know, Steve Jobs also sets his own strict conditions in the T&Cs for developers. And article 3.3.9 is actually an even more dangerous mine for Google. This section restricts developers to only transfer user information, with prior user consent, to independent advertising partners. An independent advertising partner, according to Apple's terms, is a partner which does not develop mobile operating system or mobile devices. In other words, since Google develops Android as the open mobile operating system, Google may not leverage any more its latest major acquisition AdMob (just blessed by FCC). AdMob was the leader in promising mobile advertising on iPhone. Through this Apple restriction, this November, 9th Google acquisition for $750M could turn to be a pure loss. AdMob has been acquired for the inventory and dominant position on iPhone, not for his technology. And Apple announces that he will become a significant player in the advertising display business through iAds. Still a long way to run on this side however.

The war for consumer eyeballs on connected device has rarely be so fierce. Eyeball generate revenues from a mix of hardware devices, software apps, content and advertising. Through latest evolutions, Apple and Steve Jobs attack on all these dimensions. Thanks to "coopetition" with Microsoft, Apple is now positioned as a rich browser to be taken into account on all devices, including PC. It offers a multi-task mobile operating system supporting competition from Android on mobile handset front. And Steve Jobs even transforms Apple into an advertising company, leveraging rich interactive mobile display capabilities of its new successful IPad tablet and on his iPhone jewelry.

Search engine and social networks are the only main missing weapon in Steve Jobs' current arsenal.
Does he need it ? When is the next major acquisition ?
To be continued ...


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