The Fight For Control Over Our Lives
Apple and Google will pull ahead of the pack in terms of its software controlling every aspect of our lives.
First it was computers. Then iTunes. Then iPhone and Apple TV. iPad followed and then iCloud. Since Steve Jobs returned in the mid-'90s, Apple has been slowly surrounding us, injecting itself into every area of our lives in an effort to be the "operating eco-system" that manages everything we do. Microsoft tried to join the race but its poor track record for innovation holds it back. RIM had a chance to be in the race but has been consistently three steps behind the curve since the introduction of the iPhone and the Android operating systems, likely resulting in its demise or, more likely, its acquisition by a strategic buyer.
Only Google has the combination of vision, resources, products and innate creativity to challenge Apple in the ongoing battle to become the dominant software that controls every aspect of our lives. In the latest salvo in this campaign, Apple and Google are carving out new territory by partnering with automobile companies to be their in-car operating systems. Google recently signed a deal with Audi to make Android the operating system for its in-car information and entertainment systems. Google and Audi are playing catch-up after Apple signed similar deals earlier in the year with Mercedes, GM, Honda and BMW (the Apple/GM deal should be particularly troubling to Microsoft as it has been GM's tech partner of choice up to now).
"The car is becoming the ultimate mobile device," according to Thilo Koslowski, an analyst who specializes in advanced in-car electronics at Gartner Inc. By signing these deals, and locking competitors out of similar deals, Apple and Google will continue to pull away in the battle for operating system supremacy -- on all devices, not just cars. The more ubiquitous Apple and Google make their operating systems, the more they will push other operating systems into outlier status (e.g., Windows, Blackberry). We predict the automotive deals will seal the deal for Apple and Google, narrowing the operating system field down to iOS and Android, and leaving the others behind.
This will have huge implications for companies like Blackberry, Microsoft and Samsung, all of whom will have a tough time finding their place in the future world of technology. While Samsung is doing very well now as a device maker, hardware is a commodity and it will be hard to sustain the company's success in a price-driven category. And unless they pull rabbits out of their respective hats, both Blackberry and Microsoft will likely be acquired either in whole or in pieces because of the niche value of their assets but their days as dominant players are likely done.
A "life management" market dominated by Apple and Google will also seriously impact how we buy seemingly unrelated products. For instance, if your life is surrounded by iOS devices (computer, phone, tablet, watch, glasses, TV, etc.), will you buy a car that is run by Android? And vice versa, if your car is run by Android, how likely is it that you will switch to, or stick to, Android devices as you replace them?
If the OS market unfolds as we predict, this will be a win all around. Two companies with proven track records of creativity will lead the way and will push each other to innovate at a higher level. Developers of apps that feed the Apple/Google ecosystems will be able to focus how they innovate because there will only be two leaders, both of whom have created very large and profitable marketplaces for all participants. And at the end of the day, consumers will be the biggest winners because a focused marketplace will product better, more relevant and more exciting products.