Is Steve Job’s war on Google over, or has Tim Cook just changed tactics?
The humorist Jack Handey once wrote of a fight: “Even though he was my enemy, I had to admire his strategy. First, he punched me, then he kicked me, then he punched me again”.
Tim Cook appears to be doing something similar to Google.
Biff! Maps is off iOS, replaced by Apple Maps. Pow! Siri’s search goes to Bing, and inside apps. Whack! Spotlight in OS X El Capitan is designed to make Googling unnecessary. Smack! Proactive features in iOS 9 are like Google Now, but nicer.
And that’s just the obvious blows. Elsewhere, Apple is offering an alternative to Google ads plus a new platform for publishers in the Apple News app, a rival to Google Play Music in the form of Apple Music, a payment system that works better than Google Wallet did, in the form of Apple Pay, and if reports are to be believed, alternatives to Google Street View. Not only that, but it intends to help block ads in iOS 9, something that strikes directly at the heart of Google, which still makes most of its money from them.
It’s clear what’s happening: Tim Cook is making good on Apple’s belief that it should control the technologies it depends on, and if that means making Google’s life more difficult then that’s a bonus. Maps, music, wearables, home automation, search, advertising, publishing, in-car entertainment, software distribution… it’s a growing list.
You can see how putting tanks on Google’s many lawns might benefit Apple, but does it benefit us? The answer has to be a qualified yes, because – whisper it – the Apple Way isn’t always the best way. I can’t be the only one whose iTunes Match experience has been frustrating, unreliable and buggy, or who finds Google Maps more accurate and more useful than Apple Maps, or who finds Google’s voice recognition more accurate than Siri’s, or who would like to use a different mail application but can’t persuade Yosemite to open anything other than Mail.app.
So why do we stick with Apple if the Google grass is greener? The answer, for me at least, is simple: trust. We know that everything you do in Google is feeding its algorithms – Google Photos isn’t free because Google’s generous; it’s free because Google wants as many images as possible to train its image recognition algorithms – and that more often than not you’re the product Google is selling to others. That isn’t the case with Apple, of course. Apple might not always have the best software or service, but it often has the more trustworthy offer.
So why do we stick with Apple if the Google grass is greener?