The shifting sands of integrated systems
So, where Apple created the Mac, iPod, iPhone, OS X and iOS and connected them through cables and iTunes, Google has created only the software on each step of the chain. In a way, it's emulating Apple's integrated systems philosophy, but more specifically, it's the pivot that Microsoft should have completed long ago. As a software company, Microsoft would have had to follow the path that Google has in order to succeed, but instead Microsoft tried to follow the Apple path and create hardware with the Zune (now dead) and XBox (successful, but only starting to be integrated with other Microsoft systems.) Microsoft tried to catch up with the competition, but Google leapfrogged into the cloud.
The ends and the links
As Gina Trapani said when Google first announced the Chromebook, "Apple makes beautiful computers, and Google makes computers disposable." That is true, but even with disposable computers, a user can have an integrated experience, because more and more our lives don't live in boxes, they live in the cloud. Almost any activity can begin life on any device, perhaps starting on a work computer, transferring to a mobile phone, then finished on a home computer or tablet. More and more, everything we need is synced between all of our computers. For example, in Chrome all of a user’s settings, bookmarks, and history sync between any of the computers that you may use on a regular basis regardless of the operating system. And, if your work lives in Google cloud products, it will then sync to an Android device with ease device.
The end points of the integrated system are becoming irrelevant ( at least in Google's view). It doesn't matter if you're using a Samsung mobile device or Motorola, and it doesn't matter if your computer is Mac, Windows or Linux, because Google lives everywhere. Android mobile devices are made by dozens of manufacturers, and Chrome can be run on any major desktop OS (and has even become its own OS.) Apple is trying to catch up to these features with iCloud, meanwhile Google is trying to catch up on the integrated content of iTunes. But, what is far more difficult to do with the modern computing landscape is that Apple is trying to keep hold of the end points of the integrated system and still control the whole spectrum.
A big part of the design of the iPod was in relegating certain tasks to the device best suited for that task, so playlists and organization were left as part of iTunes rather than part of the iPod. In the same way, Apple is trying to put cloud functionality in place that make sense, but relegate other functions to traditional computers, smartphones and tablets as best suits each device. Apple has built a full suite of cloud services, including photo storage, music storage, an office suite, and personal data syncing (contacts, e-mail, calendar), but the suite is not full featured as yet. There is no way to edit photos, stream music, or store/stream video and there is still no web-based online store for all of these things. Additionally, if you want to be able to continue work in an office suite from mobile to desktop or to the web, you have to use Apple’s iWork products specifically. That means, you either use the web a Mac or you don’t use it at all. Apple has all of these features complete and ready for desktop use, but that means you have to have your computer around at all times and that isn’t the way the world is moving. More and more, each device is fitting into a niche in a user’s arsenal. Smartphones are for communication and discovery, tablets for content consumption and light productivity, and computers for more intense productivity or advanced gaming/video editing. Google has moved past the computer into the cloud, and has all of those products built (although the music store has yet to be launched,) but Google hasn't integrated the services yet and has left out advanced needs.
However, even though Google has a more robust suite of web products than Apple, if you dive a bit deeper into Google products, many are still autonomous islands with limited integration. Google Plus has brought together some of the products by connecting functionality, especially with Picasa, but many still have no integration. For example, Blogger can't post to Plus, nor can a backup copy be saved in Docs. You can't start a post in Docs, then post it to Blogger or Plus. YouTube has seen the most integration, within other Google products with easily embedded videos, and group viewing in Hangouts, but often Google products have been islands rather than an integrated platform. Google has built the products, the backbone, and the content stores (the Music store is on the horizon), and it seems more and more that Android will become the platform that binds it all together.
Google doesn't want to abandon the web as a platform, which is why Chromebooks were created, and why the web products have gotten a unifying UI overhaul, but for many non-traditional devices there needs to be an underlying operating system. And, as Microsoft proved long ago, making that underlying system is the key to market share. Android has been that platform. It began life on mobile phones, but has quickly moved to tablets, in-car systems, media players, TVs and plenty of other consumer electronics.
2. MichaelHeller posted on 01 Nov 2011, 12:59 4 0
Glad you enjoyed it. Don't forget to share the link!
4. ayephoner posted on 01 Nov 2011, 13:10 3 2
when i read the title, i knew it was your write up, i basically knew what to expect and i knew it would be a good read.
i was not disappointed. good job michael.
5. MichaelHeller posted on 01 Nov 2011, 13:12 2 0
People tend to say that they can spot my articles pretty easily. I'll take that as a compliment.
9. ayephoner posted on 01 Nov 2011, 13:28 3 2
thats how i meant it. not real sure why someone would thumb that comment down.
20. MichaelHeller posted on 01 Nov 2011, 14:08 2 0
Not sure either. I think someone just goes through and thumbs down people they don't like. Taco also got a thumbs down for no good reason.
29. Droid_X_Doug posted on 01 Nov 2011, 14:37 0 0
+1 of thinking someone goes through and thumbs down people they don't like. Maybe a future website enhancement/modification could be some sort of tracking mechanism that shows who is voting?
24. remixfa posted on 01 Nov 2011, 14:15 2 0
lol yes, your article titles always have a different ring to them.
18. SuperAndroidEvo posted on 01 Nov 2011, 14:05 2 0
I am glad you spoke about Microsoft, they have & will have the users. I think that Windows Phone 7 especially with its Mango update will gain steam & when Apollo hit's it will only cement Microsoft as a huge player in the mobile game. Microsoft get royalties from every major Android manufacturer & it's scary to think what Microsoft will accomplish in the new future with all that money, especially with its Xbox 360 integration with its mobile handsets. I liked that you gave the top 3 players their own section & was very fair to each one. This is why I come to PhoneArena.com. Thank you!
19. MichaelHeller posted on 01 Nov 2011, 14:07 0 0
I have always maintained that Microsoft would end up as the third pillar in the mobile space. I'm just not convinced WP7 will do it. It's a great start, but if Windows 8 really does span from phones to desktop, that would be huge for Microsoft's potential in the mobile space.
23. SuperAndroidEvo posted on 01 Nov 2011, 14:15 0 0
Exactly, with what they say Windows 8 will bring to the table alongside Apollo there is a lot of excitement in the Windows Phone/tablet world. Basically with all the "free" money Microsoft is getting from the royalties its collecting, I am expecting great things from Microsoft. Let's just hope they don't disappoint. To me Windows Phone 7.5 Mango is proof that Microsoft is going in the right direction. Even if it’s baby steps.
Ohh & great article MH!
33. MichaelHeller posted on 01 Nov 2011, 14:48 0 0
27. Droid_X_Doug posted on 01 Nov 2011, 14:32 0 0
The problem for MS (even if they are able to produce a flawless execution of Windows 8, and their history is anything but flawless execution) is that there is this huge legacy of Android and iOS installed base. Look at how long it has taken RIM to implode from 2007, when iOS and Android came on the scene.
Android and iOS will not rest on their laurels. MS will have to claw every bit of market share away from Android and iOS. The people who argue that MS' monopoly over the desktop will give them the ability to leapfrog Android and iOS are living in the delusion of the PC-centric world. The PC is yesterday's news.
42. SuperAndroidEvo posted on 01 Nov 2011, 15:24 0 0
I disagree, Microsoft has the most customers out of all the players in this article. If Microsoft can have a compelling Windows 8 & the Apollo update for Windows Phone is something that is appealing, I could see Microsoft take away from both Google, & Apple. Remember Microsoft is nearly getting half a billion dollars from all Android sales. If Microsoft can create a product with Windows 8 & Windows Phone/tablets watch out!
46. Droid_X_Doug posted on 01 Nov 2011, 16:14 0 0
Big IF there. MS should bank the royalties they are getting from their patent portfolio instead of chasing Android and iOS. Maybe there is a niche market for the remnants of RIM, webOS, and Nokia. But taking serious market share away from Android or iOS is IMO, dreaming (or living in the PC-centric world, which is analogous to dreaming).
47. remixfa posted on 01 Nov 2011, 16:46 0 0
the electronics world is in flux. 5 years ago apple didnt exist in the phone world and noone would have thought they would have the highest selling phone every year since. android wasnt released unit just a lil over 3 years ago and it went from a hodge podge (and boring) system to the best thing since sliced bread. The old guard is in complete shambles.. if they even still exist..
Its ALWAYS anyone's game. A new start up company could come up with a new phone tomorrow and take over the current landscape... apple's next device could be a complete flop.. Windows8 could be the best thing ever... we never know.. lol.
6. MichaelHeller posted on 01 Nov 2011, 13:13 0 0
I'm just over halfway through the Jobs bio, so we'll see if it inspires anything else!
7. Droid_X_Doug posted on 01 Nov 2011, 13:15 0 0
Now you understand why Steve went thermo-nuclear over Google poaching in his (Apple's) sandbox?
8. MichaelHeller posted on 01 Nov 2011, 13:26 0 0
I still think that was more Steve being Steve. He always strove to make Apple appear to be unique and the most innovative, and part of that was causing a ruckus when he perceived someone stealing its ideas, even if Apple had stolen the ideas to begin with (just like the mess with Microsoft over graphical UI on desktops, even though both just copied Xerox.)
12. taco50 (banned) posted on 01 Nov 2011, 13:44 1 3
Well Steve struck a deal with Xerox so that wouldn't be stealing.
15. MichaelHeller posted on 01 Nov 2011, 13:57 2 0
The point was that even after that Steve kept going after Microsoft for copying Apple, even though they were both just copying Xerox.
26. Droid_X_Doug posted on 01 Nov 2011, 14:25 0 0
Ya think? Google announced Android (via the Open Handset Alliance) in November, 2007, on the heels of Steve's announcement of the iPhone at the of June, 2007. Eric Schmidt was a member of Apple's Board of Directors until August, 2009, so he was privy to the Apple BoD discussions about the iPhone and the iOS ecosystem. Based on the amount of $ expenditure involved, those items had to get approval of Apple's BoD.
Based on the intensity of Steve's response to Google's release of the Android O/S, I find it hard to believe that Steve didn't see Android as competition (potentially leap-frog competition) to his hardware-centric view of the future of computing. Steve had been trying to implement his view of the future of computing as far back as his original tenure at Apple.
Ironically, it was something that Steve did not invent that enabled Steve to be able to implement his view of the future of computing - the Internets.
10. sudhar131998 posted on 01 Nov 2011, 13:38 1 3
Steve Jobs is the best no one can ever bring innovative ideas like that
he got these brilliaant ideas
1.ipod for entertainment only
2.ipad for a larger entertainment and a portable innovative computer
Shame on android for developing tablets from his idea
but can't comment on ipods as some day or the other people would think about creating a device like that
17. davidvvassallo posted on 01 Nov 2011, 14:03 0 0
Good article, I like how you never side with anyone
21. MichaelHeller posted on 01 Nov 2011, 14:09 0 0
Objectivity is the name of the game, especially since you can't have a winner when it all comes down to personal preference.
22. tigermcm posted on 01 Nov 2011, 14:09 0 0
Wow this is the first article i read completely through and understood everything. It is making my gears turn. I'm reading it again...also a first
25. remixfa posted on 01 Nov 2011, 14:24 0 1
blame my poor memory, but i dont recall in the article if you made mention of the fact that google doesnt NEED the super integration that apple does or MS wants. Its products are ubiquitous. You can run whatever OS you want and have full access to almost all google products. That is the beauty and power of Google. Because just about everything they do is in the cloud they are everywhere and anywhere no matter what you chosen stance on brands are. It may not give it apple's profit margins nor its tight system integration, or even MS's install base, but it gives exactly what google wants.. more advertising... for itself and for its partners. Google has overcome the entry barrier created by OS makers who want people to buy integrated OS products (like office and itunes) and become omnipresent on nearly everything.
On just about every google web app there is a menu to other google web apps. It is persistent advertisement for google products. It encourages any user of any OS to explore and try other products from google.. for free.
31. MichaelHeller posted on 01 Nov 2011, 14:46 0 0
That's the rub, even with ubiquitous products, it's hard to drive users to other facets of the platform (like Android) from the various web services. Plus pushes people to use Picasa, and Gmail pushes people to use Calendar, but there isn't the full stream of integration that other companies have that drive users to be part of the whole ecosystem. Google is working on that though.
34. remixfa posted on 01 Nov 2011, 14:53 0 0
true. Google built an archipelago of apps and is just now starting to connect them with bridges where MS and apple do the "add an island, bridge it, repeat" process.
Which way is better long term is hard to assess, but its a huge factor in why google was able to leapfrog others into the cloud. They were more concerned with "getting there" and proving it could work than with integrating it into everything else.. which is what they are trying to do now.
Without that philosophy from google, would the other traditional style companies like apple and MS even BE looking at the cloud right now? If google hadnt already laid the groundwork and starting sowing the land, would the others have joined so quickly?
37. MichaelHeller posted on 01 Nov 2011, 15:08 0 0
The cloud was inevitable. Apple and MS would have gotten there eventually even without Google being the leader, because some other company would have done it.
39. remixfa posted on 01 Nov 2011, 15:16 0 0
inevitable... suuure.. as long as someone else pushed them into it. Without the "android threat" pushing phones into the cloud, who would have taken that step? apple and MS rarely pay attention to small no name companies lest they wish to buy them up. It would have had to come from a competitor of some sort. If it wasnt for google proving that you could combine reliable (after a stint of not so reliable.. but hey, someone has to work out the kinks) cloud storage services and updates, apple wouldnt be unvieling it now for ios5. Heck if it wasnt for pressure apple would probably never unveil something of that nature for that very reason of how they like to close source the business. Their goal isnt always to make it "easier" for consumers, but more to nudge them to buy another apple product and invest more into the ecosystem.
Google is about "freeing information". Apple is about "curating information for a specific purpose that they see fit".. and MS is somewhere in the middle but closer to apple's side of the road.
40. Droid_X_Doug posted on 01 Nov 2011, 15:23 0 0
I agree with your assertion that Google 'pushed' MS and Apple. But Google 'freeing information'? I don't think so. Google makes money off of 'cataloging' your information and selling that catalog to others (advertisers).
Don't fall into the trap of thinking that Google is out to save the world from the big bad corporations. Google is out to make as much coin as it can. It is a corporation, afterall.
43. remixfa posted on 01 Nov 2011, 15:35 0 0
there is truth in that.
but it is google's categorification of the planet's information that has made much of our current reality.. a reality. its because of google that information is free. almost every company that uses information in any way is tied into google's search. They are the gatekeepers of the information superhighway that make everything even remotely related to information and research possible.
do they make money off of our dependance on them? yea, they sure do.. but they do it in a relatively unobtrusive and more often than not.. free.. way. we dont pay google per search.. and thank god for that. If apple controlled searching that is exactly what would be happening.
I dont know how old you are, but those of us that are old enough to remember the internet's early days knows that it was just a mess and you pretty much had to know where to look to find things. Alta Vista search, AOL search, and all those dont hold a candle to google.. which is why google all but killed all other search providers.
Back in the old days we had to look things up.. in a book.. in a library.. using the dewy decimal system!! do they even teach that anymore?? lolol.
44. remixfa posted on 01 Nov 2011, 15:39 0 0
a funny example of the looming irrelevance of librarys. at my college campus when you walk into the library there is the inevitable wall of books. What's interesting is there is almost no one in those isles Instead the center of the library is a farm of PCs where people are google searching the information they need. And off to the side are a dozen private rooms for students to congregate. Most students use the library these days as a quiet place to internet search for things if they dont have access at home, study by themselves (on the couches) or in a group (in those rooms). Very few are there to read books that the library contains.
Not really relevant, but it just popped in my head so i felt like sharing.
41. MichaelHeller posted on 01 Nov 2011, 15:23 0 0
Like I said, I don't know that either Apple or Microsoft would have led the charge into the cloud (though MS has been working on its web products for a while). But the point still stands, the idea of cloud computing was inevitable. It was going to happen no matter who made the push, it just so happened to be Google.
53. donato posted on 01 Nov 2011, 23:33 0 0
To understand whether or not Android has been or will be a successful venture for Google, you have to understand why it all began. Google’s sole purpose for entering the mobile OS market was for advertising. Anyone who says anything different obviously doesn’t understand the company’s business model. Andy Rubin himself said that Android was designed for “smarter mobile devices that are more aware of its owner’s location and preferences.”
After acquiring Android, Google distributed the mobile operating system to handset manufacturers with the promise of a low-cost, free to license, upgradeable OS that would give companies a fighting chance against the popular iPhone. But more importantly, the operating system removed another barrier between users and Google’s search engine. Have you ever tried doing a search on an Android phone? It takes you straight to Google.com (not Yahoo, not Bing) and its hoards of advertisements. Now how does Google make its money again? Oh yeah, advertising.
36. Westfire posted on 01 Nov 2011, 15:01 0 0
Exactly. I do really enjoy Google's cloud services but I wish there was more integration. In my mind the perfect world would work like Windows Home Server does in my house. I go to one spot for all my files whether it be photos, music, docs, etc. Instead I feel like I have 10 Google clouds that don't connect that great. I'd like to open up an app like "Google Cloud Servcies" and be able to pull any file in one cloud and based off the file I chose to mess with the corresponding app manages it (Picasa, Docs, Videos, etc). Instead of now where I have to open up a specific app for a specific cloud. To add to the mix of this for Android, manufacturers like HTC, Samsung, etc have opened their own cloud or on-demand type services ontop of Android. I like HTC phones and Sense but apps like HTC Reader by design are linked to HTC books rather than Google Books so unless I do manual manipulation I cannot use HTC Reader for my Google Books cloud. The same holds true with HTC Watch and Google Movies. Everyone wants a piece of the cloud pie and it makes it somewhat difficult for consumers when most of the time they want pieces from everyone.
28. speckledapple posted on 01 Nov 2011, 14:33 1 0
This is the type of article I look forward to reading on any site, most importantly this one though. The concept of integrated systems is something that has been worked on in so many ways by so many companies before. The end to end user experience is important. Apple does a great job with their content management system. Microsoft has an even larger content management system that they use to govern Windows, Xbox Live and beyond. Google has the beginning of a system but what they need is focus. Add all three of these together and you got some serious and welcome competition for consumers. Great article highlighting the best of what should be the focus these days.
35. ZEUS.the.thunder.god posted on 01 Nov 2011, 14:57 0 0
wow !!!!! amazing article.. loved it
45. iWallE posted on 01 Nov 2011, 15:57 1 0
First, BIG THANKS to the author. I was struggling to find any interesting read on this site since the Nokia Lumia phones coverage. And again comes Michael to satisfy the need for analytical essays and to provoke the thought... Short reports on what's going on are a good thing, but it's commentaries like this that bring real value to the site.
To the point... For some time I've had the feeling that Google, Apple and Microsoft, although starting at completely different points, are ultimately going to the same place. They want all. "World domination" does sound highly exaggerated, but if one company takes hold of the data streams between people, from end devices to cloud storage and all the services in between, it does paint quite a sci-fi-apocalypse picture.
Some time ago, Google was a natural partner to Microsoft. It was still such a partner to Apple by the time the first iPhone was set into the world. MS got a firm grip on PCs and for a while, Apple held mobile devices practically to its own. Now though, everyone is invading the business of others and suddenly competing on all fronts. And what all three want is to make their ecosystem "the One".
All this makes me feel weird. I love the idea of integrated approach - beautiful design, seamless experience, "just works" and so on. But it has limitations - you can only have what The Creator allowed. That's why Apple evolves and Android explodes, making a bigger impact here and a smaller one there. It's like a complete chaos, engulfing everything between the two pillars of Apple and MS. And here I find it very difficult to form a point of view on what's "right" and "wrong". I like things to be in order and find myself weak in the knees when looking at a MacBook Air or an iPhone. But I also find limited functionality very annoying. Google on the other hand, seems devoid of struggle for perfection, but it offers possibilities and choice. And somehow their way of doing business gives the impression they are extending their hand to everyone, making Google "just your friendly neighborhood Android". Thus, they play the role of the good guy.
Now, all of the above may sound like a bunch of crap and it probably is. But seeing how increasingly polarized users become, arguing over their preferred OS, I think that most people actually want integrated experience. Once they enter an ecosystem, they become oblivious of its competitors. They want to receive all the services they need from the company they like. And if that's true, it means that if one of the Big Three ever gets a large enough market share, once their ecosystems are complete, it will rule the world in a very-close-to-literal sense.
So... everybody make your choice and let the deathmatch begin.
48. MichaelHeller posted on 01 Nov 2011, 17:01 0 0
Why do we have to accept the deathmatch as inevitable? Why can't we all just understand that each company offers an experience for a certain group, and leave it to personal preference? I know the battle against the flame wars is pointless, but I really wish it would all just end. The screaming at each other doesn't share ideas or collaborate on what's happening and how it effects everyone. It's just an echo chamber of BS.
All that said, the painting of a "sci-fi-apocalypse picture" is only if you allow those companies to have full control of your data. For example, Google has the Google Takeout feature, so everything that's yours is easy to put in or get out of its system. That's a big issue with Apple too, because it's not so easy to get your data from an iOS device. We just have to understand that putting the computing power in the cloud doesn't mean we give up the rights to what is our property.
51. remixfa posted on 01 Nov 2011, 18:51 1 0
everyone should just trip all these companies up and go back to flip phones and typewriters.. that would show em!!! lol
54. iWallE posted on 02 Nov 2011, 04:31 0 0
I don't fully agree that each company offers an experience for a certain group. Each of the three tries to offer an experience good enough for (nearly) all possible groups. Yes, Apple excludes low cost buyers from its target, but more than anyone else, Apple tries to convince people they don't need anything outside of its ecosystem.
I think there will be a "deathmatch" after all. None of the big three will settle for a certain group, they will all struggle for ubiquity, because that is the greatest strength of an OS. That's what drives attention from developers and users alike, offering general compatibility and a familiar experience and ultimately increasing the OS functionality. Windows achieved that ubiquity in the 90s and that is why it still has no real alternative as a desktop OS, despite some faulty steps along the way. Do you really think Apple, Google and Microsoft can peacefully coexist together without endlessly trying to snatch a dominant market share for their OS?
As for data control, I think most users don't even realize how much data about them is collected by the tech companies. Sure, there are ways to protect yourself, but nevertheless cloud computing is some sort of a threat to privacy.
Anyway.. here's to the hope that whatever future lies ahead, the competition between the big guns will bring the user experience further forward.
55. remixfa posted on 02 Nov 2011, 07:09 0 0
Apple just spent the last year offering a nearly free phone that sold as much as its premium phone. That whole "excludes low cost buyers" thing went out the window a long time ago. It now has 3 versions of its iphone for sale and the cheapest is free.
50. Sniggly posted on 01 Nov 2011, 18:33 0 0
I actually am very excited to see how Google makes its shift to unifying its platform. Over the years it's built up several products and services, and tweaked and refined them to the point of maturity. Now it's time to start tying it all together. The challenge will be to get hardware support for many of the pieces necessary for that though.
Awesome article, Michael. I always enjoy your writing, I hope that you gain prominence as a tech writer.
52. MichaelHeller posted on 01 Nov 2011, 18:54 1 0
Thanks man. I hope I can too. I love doing this.
56. cupcake posted on 02 Nov 2011, 17:52 0 0
You must never sleep to write article after article, both in-depth and comprehensively informative.. Keep it up!
57. MichaelHeller posted on 03 Nov 2011, 09:05 0 0
Ha! There's plenty of time to sleep. It's all a matter of knowing when you're most productive, and giving your brain time to sort the info before getting down to business.