Apple's war with Google heats up

Apple

When Apple Inc kicks off its annual conference for software developers on Monday, all the power players in the Apple universe will be on hand, save the one that is in many ways driving the agenda: Google Inc.

More than ever, the consumer electronics juggernaut finds itself in a pitched battle with the online search giant - in smartphones, cloud computing and the never-ending competition for the hearts and minds of the best software developers.

Apple on Monday is expected to announce its own mapping application, challenging the position of Google Maps as one of the most-valued features on the iPhone. It will unveil closer integration of its iPhone apps and iCloud storage service with all its devices, the latest riposte in its battle with Google's Android smartphone software.

It may promote the latest in Siri, the voice interface that the company thinks can continue to set the iPhone and the iPad apart from the Android pack.

And there will likely be a new line of Macintosh laptops too - underscoring the leverage that a full line of hardware products can bring to what is mainly a software war with Google.

Apple is looking to differentiate its mobile devices from Google's Android by further enticing consumers deeper into its app ecosystem, said Carolina Milanesi, analyst at Gartner Research.

"It's all about loyalty and basically leveraging the opportunity of selling more to them," she said. "I don't think the consumers in the mass market are necessarily tied into the Android ecosystem in the same way that consumers on the Apple side are."

Battling in many arenas, the rivals employ different weapons. Apple's vise-like grip on its ecosystem - with the closely managed app store and its seamless integration with the hardware - stands in sharp contrast to Google's free-for-all approach.

The open system approach, reminiscent of Microsoft Corp's (MSFT.O) hugely successful strategy of creating standard-setting software that runs on a variety of hardware, has allowed Android to capture the market lead in smartphones (albeit with nothing close to Apple's profit margins).

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