The pre-match slanging is pretty much over and the location of the fight has been chosen. 2010 is going to be the year Apple and Google finally stop dancing around and actually get in the ring. Unlike a nice clean refereed boxing match (Apple V Microsoft) this is going to be a dirty underground cage fight complete with barbed-wire wrapped gloves - expect to see a lot of blood on the floor - and fanbois rucking in the concourses.
The ground is, of course, Mobile and the massive dominance both organisations have taken in this space over the last 12 months. Mobile is still a fast growing area of communications but smartphones is where it's at. There's no question Apple ignited the world's imagination of what is possible in the mobile space and capitalising on the fact that the fashionability of a phone is important in a way that RIM and Microsoft just didn't get.
Google have taken that to a whole different level with Android which just "gets" what it is to be a data capable and Internet connected phone. Couple this with some fashionability and the stage is set for an almighty fight.
Looking through the AdMob report for November, it's astonishing to see how fast Android has grown in the last 2 months (doubled on traffic requests through their network) but more importantly was the launch of the Motorola Droid and the whole Droid Does campaign. The Droid is one of the fastest selling phones of all time almost hitting iPhone 3Gs sales levels (which was working from an installed base upgraded) and is now accounting for about a quarter of Android device share - only behind the G1 which has been out for 18 months - expect to see that change over December.
Now Motorola have entered the fray and with Samsung and Sony Ericsson both scheduling major launches into Q1 2010 the mobile landscape is going to get increasingly messy as the iPhone isn't the only great phone out there. Indeed I think Sony is going to do a Motorola with the Xperia X10 as it is simply stunning and is a big name in the mobile space - especially in Europe. HTC have had a great lead but 2010 will see Motorola and Sony return to some dominance here - and they can fight Apple in the Fashionability stakes.
The biggest challenge for Apple is how to combat Google on the phone itself. Outside of iTunes, Apple has little in the way of first party apps for the iPhone and whilst it has a huge developer network it is definitely alienating them through it's App Store management nightmares. Many developers are developing for both iPhone and Android devices - especially those using Web technologies for building and apps like Phone Gap to cross-package.
A lot of what makes the iPhone really useful are Google applications (native Gmail, Maps and most importantly Search!) - Apple has no way to combat this. Are they going to deny Gmail or Search like they did with Google Voice?
Apps that are available on both platforms and services that are available "in the cloud" (eg Maps, Comparison Shopping etc) dilute Apple's position as it's only point of differentiation becomes fashionability - and both Sony Ericsson and Motorola have competed for over a decade against Nokia by building highly fashionable phones.
I'm not sure this fight will be a death match but all the signs are there for a battle of epic proportions. Both are likely to be extremely battered by the time they come out the other side and would be wise to hold a little bit in reserve in case Nokia's Maemo platform takes off the way they are expecting it to - at that point things could get really messy.
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- "2010 will be the year Apple and Google have a cage fight"
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- Sunday, December 20th 2009
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