This news item caught my attention today, and I keep thinking about a long and lasting trend that could reshape the world of distributed content as we know it.
Apple very quietly acquired a mapping service this summer. This is noteworthy for at least two reasons: One, Apple has not been known for a particularly acquisitive style, and any acquisition by this company is noteworthy; two, the deal took place without much hullabaloo at approximately the same time that Google’s CEO Schmidt stepped off Apple’s board. After this acquisition was publicized, the bloggers were quick to comment on the obvious disassociation with Google Maps, and Apple’s intention to replace that popular platform with one that it can control in-house. Perhaps this will lead to other transactions by Apple, in a similar vein, and why the mapping product was picked as a particular ice-breaker is maybe of secondary importance.
Of primary importance, at least to this observer, is what the Google/Apple division may in the long term come to symbolize: On the one hand, a popular provider of consumer apps and services that are highly utilitarian, hosted centrally, and that diminish the individual’s need for memory-rich and software-loaded computing devices (Google); and on the other hand, a popular provider of consumer apps and services that are hosted on individual computing devices and that emphasize design, style, and customizable features (Apple). This is essentially a battle of the central vs. distributed, of sophisticated design vs. minimalist efficiency, of consumer revenue vs. advertising revenue, and of hardware vs. web interface.
We have been hearing about cloud computing and software as a service (SaaS) for ages, or at least what qualifies as ages in this very rapid-action sector, and in these discussions the emphasis had mainly been on the likes of Salesforce and other enterprise solution providers. At the consumer end of the spectrum, however, the opportunity could be just as formidable, and the consequences at least as vast. It isn’t only a question of Apple vs. Google, but companies like Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, IBM, could all emerge from such changes redefined. Goodness, and let’s not forget Microsoft with its slew of Office products that have historically served as the very basis of memory-intensive computing hardware and decentralized applications.
Yes, this one is worth watching closely. Schmidt’s resignation from Apple’s board may be a more monumental event than people have yet begun to realize.
Disclosure: No positions.
Disclosure: No positions.