Maybe the Apple-Google relationship is stronger than I thought

I see Microsoft stuck between an Apple and a Google place -- at least as far as business models and growth opportunities go.

In trying to be Mr. Pith the other day, I ventured that Google's Apps for Your Domain service not only should provoke thoughts of a Microsoft Office and Office Live alternative, but should be considered a threat to Apple's iWork and .mac initiatives. That generated some good, interesting comments.

And then this: Google's Eric Schmidt is named to Apple's board, with some nice gooey quotes from Steve Jobs and Eric about how nice it will be to work together. Om Malik has some good points.

So Jobs is on the Disney board and Schmidt is on the Apple board. And if Google's latest and pending works of online disruption (amid the ongoing, rolling, seismic shifts in the economics of online services) don't portend a meaningful clash with Apple's ambitions -- well, what exactly is the nature of the interplay between Apple's future and Google's future? How does Disney fit in?

As I have mentioned before, I see Microsoft stuck between an Apple and a Google place -- at least as far as business models and growth opportunities go.

So I hereby back off the Google-is-poaching-on-Apple's-turf stance, but that only begs larger, more vexing, and more exciting possibilities. Given that Google has scooped up scads of users' cell phone numbers as a result of gmail account creations (including my own), and given that Apple is inevitably working toward a wirelessly IP broadband enabled (and probably cellular enabled) iPod variant, perhaps that offers some clues.

Perhaps the bargain is something along the lines that Apple will cede to Google more of the online services world -- including the hosting and creation of blogs, websites, business marketing and sales initiatives around ads/search, and productivity apps -- and then Google cedes to Apple the music and video sales, as well as the creation of the ecology of controlled content delivered to the mobile-connected iPod/cell phone.

And they both then luxuriate in the delivery and monetization of ads/search, rich content, online services, and mobile commerce services to the end users -- on Macs or iPods.

This ride only seems to get better, given that weighty allegiances also seem sewn up between Google and eBay, and Google and Time Warner, and Google and News Corp.

But would such a Google-Apple-Disney et al federation spook other players -- such as a Yahoo! or Amazon -- into the arms of media-partner-starved Microsoft? Redmond is going to need more than FaceBook, and YouTube would give Ballmer fits more than just hits.

Perhaps Nick Carr is right, that all the fat cats sleep on the same rug. But increasingly there appear to be at least two rugs -- and only one of them is snug next to the fireside of glowing high-growth opportunity. Microsoft's rug (the other lonely one), due to its poor heritage of playing nice -- and of sometimes eating its own kittens -- appears next to creaky door facing the gathering Mistral.

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