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From disruption to perfection, a new era (3)

|Includes: Apple Inc. (AAPL), GOOG

It’s all about Apple. It’s all about Google. In one way or another.

In the first two of this three-part series of posts about the foreseeable future in digital media, I’ve gone from the highest level looking down upon the past Internet decade at a glance, to a lower level that was much less panoramic although still not particular, making a case that the next era in the Internet will be one of evolution and rounding of edges, compared to the revolutionary innovation behind us. In this third and final installment I was going to take the perspective straight down to the ground: Bam! With details, specifics, actualities and such…

But right as I was submitting for publication my previous article, promising next time to dig more deeply into matters like open and closed systems, remote and local storage, the mobile web, and similarly fashionable themes for the year ahead, I immediately realized that there is an easier, more appropriate, and more constructive way to get to the point. First of all, these topics have been written about ad nauseum, including here, and secondly, more importantly, in the end all such discussions really just bring us inevitably back to “the duo,” so why not cut right to the chase?

Apple and Google, or, if you prefer, vice versa: the forces that pushed the industry furthest and hardest, relentlessly staying at least several steps ahead in the supposed race. In comparison, the rest of the sector seems right stodgy. While Apple has changed the way we think about mobile devices (iPhone), the way we consume online entertainment (iPod and iTunes combination), the standard by which we judge personal computing options (Mac line in its variety of forms, with its OS X operating system), and pretty soon the way we watch television (AppleTV) and access content on the go (tablet), Google has gone and changed the way we use the Internet. Now this battle is worth watching!

Latest round: Apple dominates music via iTunes downloads, so Google takes music to the cloud… Apple acquires Lala to do the same, (and mess up Google’s plans for good measure), the next move goes to Google… behold, an unlocked phone in response to Apple’s wireless device extraordinaire, but for its mediocre network selection. Well played. Netbooks, tablets, you name it, these two are always at each other. (Update: “I see your AdMob acquisition,” says Apple, “with my own mobile ad platform purchase, Quattro.”)

But in the end, it is only a difference in style: Google loves the Internet and wants the world openly online and searchable, while Apple mistrusts the Internet and wants the world on its proprietary system. For this reason, Apple is focused on premium design while Google is focused on rolling out free half-unfinished apps every week. For this reason, the two broke up last summer. It was a statement to each other and to us, and truly, it’s beautiful to see them move.

In the next decade, the conflict between open and closed architectures, local and remote hosting, free and premium content… the trends in location based services, the mobile web, social commerce… all of these topical things and many others will, directly or indirectly, by acquisition, development, or merely outside influence, in one way or another become impacted, if not dominated, or somehow defined, by either one or the other, Google or Apple, or both. I make this statement fully mindful of the others around, including Facebook which for my taste stands on ambiguous and fragile footing still.

To see what the influence and movements of AAPL and GOOG could signify in the decade ahead, a distancing from the trees and a look at the forest could be interesting. For this, the previous entry in this column, and then the one before it, might be worth a browse, in sequence. 

Disclosure: No positions.