I think Google is going to take a serious bite out of Apple…

Part of me wonders if we’ve seen a “local maximum” on Apple.

I think their escalating rivalry with Google is going to really hurt them in the long run. Here are some of the key fronts in my opinion.

The Android Platform : Google’s Android mobile operating system is the open source platform behind many smart phone competitors to the iPhone. It’s also starting to show up in other non-phone devices like netbooks and the Barnes and Nobles Nook (E-Reader).

Android is an open platform, being used on a wide variety of devices, with backing from a diverse ecosystem of contributors. Apple’s iPhone is a closed and tightly controlled platform being developed by one company (some might throw out a Linux vs. Windows analogy).

One perspective which I find a bit ironic : By giving smart phone providers a rich, stable core to build upon, Android should free them up to focus more on consumer oriented features (rather than expending huge amounts of effort on OS level plumbing). From the smart phone provider perspective, isn’t this kind of similar to how Apple leveraged a solid BSD Unix based core to build the very consumer friendly OS X…?

It will be interesting to watch the evolution of these two platforms in the coming years. One might speculate that the diverse ecosystem leveraging Android may drive more innovation.

Google’s Online Music Service : There’s widespread speculation that Google is launching an Online Music Service which will compete with iTunes.

Maybe its just me, but it seems like consumers have a lot of pent up animosity at Apple over iTunes. iTunes has pissed off users for years (try googling for I hate iTunes and marvel at the number of results).

Personally – iTunes drives me nuts, but I’m stuck with it (I have an iPhone). Over the years, it has lost my music, made it difficult for me to share music I purchased across multiple devices, refused to read metadata on music I imported via non-iTunes software, etc.

iTunes is at version 9. Its been around for years and has a huge user base. There’s no reason why Apple shouldn’t have fixed many (if not all) of these issues. Certainly there’s been lots of feedback – maybe its fallen on deaf ears.

Apple will no doubt continue to be the dominant player in online music sales, but it can’t be good that a company with Google’s clout and reputation is getting ready to compete with them in this space. I think their window for easy money in digital media distribution is shrinking.

Public Opinion : Maybe its just me, but it seems tide of public opinion regarding Apple is starting to turn a bit. For years they have been the cool, innovative underdog. At times they now seem more like a condescending incumbent.

For example – consider their draconian rejection policies for third party applications submitted to the iTunes App Store. As a developer, I can tell you I would be absolutely done with Apple if I worked my tail off on an iPhone App for months only to have them reject it with basically a “because we said so” response. This will most certainly drive innovative app developers away from Apple (and to a more open model).

From a PR perspective, this sort of thing is a certainly a black eye for Apple.

Contrast this with the current public love affair with Google and their “Do No Evil” branding, and I think Google is poised score points vs. Apple in the court of public opinion.

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Since the above is largely opinion – I thought I’d add a bit about myself : I am not an Apple fanboy or an Apple hater. I own machines with OSX (macbook), XP (netbook) and Ubuntu (primarly laptop) on them. I’m now on my second iPhone (I’ve had a first gen and a 3GS), and I’ve not yet owned an Android based phone. I have yet to develop any iPhone or Android based apps. I don’t own any Google or Apple stock. In short – I have no bones to pick with Apple, these are just observations.