It’s striking how closely Apple’s and Google’s recent slate of announcements parallel each other. Their respective developer conferences both focused on platform integration. Both iOS and Android are moving outside of the phone. The nature of that integration will have lasting effects on the way people interact with the world around them.
“…If you look at the strategy that each company is pursuing regarding their mobile operating systems, you can see mobile devices sitting at the center of a connected web of devices and services – from cars to televisions to wearables.”
In the late nineties, Apple was pushing the idea that your computer was the digital hub of your life. All your other gadgets (e.g. digital camera, iPod, video camera, etc.) were to be managed and coordinated by your computer. Today, if you look at the strategy that each company is pursuing regarding their mobile operating systems, you can see mobile devices sitting at the center of a connected web of devices and services – from cars to televisions to wearables.
If these other initiatives develop traction, expect to see their impact on each platform’s growth and consumers’ buying decisions in the years to come.
Cars: Car Play and Android Auto
Many cars ship with onboard navigation or entertainment systems; Apple and Google both seem to believe they can provide a better experience for users than the current manufacturers do. They’ve adopted similar strategies.
“Apple and Google have both shown themselves to be better at designing user-facing software than most of the car manufacturers. So, you should expect an all-around more polished experience…”
In contrast to electronics manufacturers who create hardware installed in cars, Apple and Google have each created a protocol for allowing a person’s phone to become the brains behind the in-car screen. By separating the device and software running the screen, from the device installed in the car, several significant economies can be realized.
First, people generally upgrade their phones more frequently than their cars or in-car entertainment systems – so the computing power driving the experience will increase significantly faster.
Second, Apple and Google have both shown themselves to be better at designing user-facing software than most of the car manufacturers. So, you should expect an all-around more polished experience and – based on the available demonstrations, both companies appear to have succeeded in that regard.
Third, Apple and Google have significant existing developer communities and the infrastructure to support those communities. Users are diverse and it is very difficult for a single company to fill every niche in a market. By opening the door to third-party developers, Apple and Google create the opportunity for companies like Pandora, Spotify, or MLB to create their own high-quality offering based on existing codebases and assets. Both companies expose a limited sub-set of the power of the operating system to third-party developers.
Most of the constraints in the programming interface are designed to prevent developers from creating apps that will lead to distracted drivers. There are some differences between the two offerings, but they are minor. Many major car manufacturers have announced support for both platforms. In this space, Google’s vision and Apple’s vision seem particularly aligned.
Television: Apple TV and Android TV
Apple debuted the hockey-puck attached to your TV in 2007. The first version looked a lot more like a Mac mini than the current hockey puck which wasn’t introduced until 2010; however, the core offering over that time has remained stable and grown. Today Apple, Roku, and Amazon are shipping products in the space.
“Feature-for-feature, it can be difficult to tell the platforms apart. Some provide voice controls. Some don’t, but core features are very similar.”
As of Google I/O 2014, Google is moving into that space as well with it’s Android TV product. The core of the offering is the ability to purchase or rent movies or television shows from the vendor’s online store. On top of that is layered apps that provide integration with streaming video services, streaming audio services and photo libraries. Control of the ecosystem can be managed from the user’s phone.
Alternately, a phone, tablet, or computer can wirelessly send a signal to directly take over the television as a second screen. Feature-for-feature, it can be difficult to tell the platforms apart. Some provide voice controls. Some don’t, but core features are very similar.
Google has announced support for playing video games stored and powered by Android devices and controlled with traditional-style video game controllers. Apple has all of the pieces in place to make a similar announcement (i.e. controller support and operating system support) – however, Apple has not made an official announcement. Both Google and Apple announced updates to their 3D graphics-programming APIs that appear to be directly targeted significantly at improving the gaming experience on their devices.
Computer: Mac OS and ChromeBooks
Apple has an approximate 7% market share for their OS X operating system. Google’s Chrome books have a minisicule market adoption, however, Google’s apps (e.g. mail, drive, and maps) have significant adoption rates. Both companies spent a portion of their dev-conference keynotes focusing on ways to make platform integration tighter.
From answering phone calls on the computer to automatically authenticating a user based on proximity or automatically synchronizing scroll-position when sharing the same document between two devices, the companies are experimenting with how to make the tranisitions between computer and mobile device seamless.
Health: HealthKit and Google Fit
Both Apple and Google have also announced support for centralized health-tracking applications. The initial feature-set is relatively limited. However, it is clear that both companies see a market here – likely driven by the success of Nike+ and Fitbit.
Not all of these initiatives will bear fruit, and not all of the initiatives will be equally effective for each company. However, given the close parallels between each company’s approach and announcements, it certainly appears that Apple and Google share a very similar vision for the technology that will shape our lives for the next few years.