When it comes to the raging battles that take place between the behemoths of the Internet, I sometimes feel a like bewildered bystander caught in the futuristic ruins of Tokyo, watching as Godzilla, Mothra and chums wreck the place. And just like Dr. Yamane, I’m left scratching my head, wondering if there will be anything worthwhile left for the rest of us once they’re done fighting.
In the strange world of billion dollar tech companies (not that I would know), they sure do like to play hardball. Or should I say, squabble like children. It seems as soon as one company makes a breakthrough, the others are on them like flies to honey, looking to compete, overcome, hinder or flat out sue the pants of their rivals (poor Samsung). Suffice to say, it’s a competitive industry.
Of course, it’s nothing new and one only needs to look at the rivalry that existed between Microsoft and Apple, and personally between Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, for the past twenty years to see how bitter the competition can be. And I say the ‘existed’ because the fact that Apple is now the richest company in the US kinda suggests that they eventually won that war. Slow and steady etc. Although I’m sure Mr Gates is too busy playing MP3s on his Zune to care.
Yet the competition that existed between those two technology pioneers almost seems cordial compared to the royal shin-kickings that Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon have been giving each other recently. Here’s a quick round-up of some of the ways they have been riling each other over the past few years:
- In a move to usurp Google’s ad revenue, Apple chooses not to support Flash on iOS
- Google fights back and develops Android, an OS for mobile devices
- Apple decides to develop it’s own advertising system, iAds
- Google develops Google TV
- Apple looks to create it’s own cable TV set-top box
- Facebook decides to get into the advertising game
- Google releases its own social network, Google+
- Amazon develops a tablet computer. No one cares.
- Facebook starts its own user email system
- Amazon gets into the browser game
- Amazon announces the Kindle phone, an actual viable threat
- Facebook goes into gambling to try and overcome it’s massive stock losses
- Apple announces it will drop native support for YouTube and Google Maps in iOS 6
Although you could easily say that healthy competition is a good thing (the power of capitalism and all that), and usually you would be right, the last point in my list really takes the biscuit. Dropping native support for YouTube and Google Maps in the next update of iOS seems rather childish in my iPhone-owning-eyes. Even Google called it particularly dramatic but then they would say that considering they currently make almost four times as much money from iOS licensing fees than they do from sales on their own Android devices.
Don’t get me wrong, rivalry and competition can be very beneficial in powering forward advances in technology and ensuring a quality of service. It’s a great balancer and not only a way to motivate but also spark innovation. However, when the customer suffers as a result of petty fighting, it’s gone too far.
What we seem to be seeing now is an approach by the largest of companies, especially those involved in the traditionally open environment of the Internet, to force consumers into using only their services and no one else’s. It’s a future of protectionism and lockdown, rather than open, mutual collaboration for the greater good and whilst this may make sense financially, we, the customers, end up with less useful products as a result. For instance, iPhone users will soon be faced with using a fledging mapping system rather than a mature, comprehensive and very powerful established one, all so Apple can kick Google right in its dangling revenues.
Which begs the question of how long before Google retaliates? How long before GMail no longer supports use on the iPhone mail client? Or Google demotes Apple on its search engine? Or Facebook picks sides and decides to only support one mobile OS? Or Amazon builds its own self-driving cars?
It seems like this fatal four-way is just getting started.
Image credit: soul stealer