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Apple vs. Google: Defining fight of computer industry?

Eric Schmidt argues that the competition between Android and iOS is brutal and benefits the world. But is this small screen skirmish really the battle of computing? Where does the cloud and social play into the mix?

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said that the competition between Apple and Google and iOS vs. Android is "the defining fight of the computer industry."

Is he right?

Speaking in an interview with Bloomberg TV, Schmidt said the following when asked about Apple's record weekend sales of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus:

I would say that this brutal competition between Apple and Google over Android and iOS has enormous benefits for consumers worldwide. If you look at the innovation on the Apple side and on the Google side, that competition which I think is the defining fight of the computer industry, it benefits global at the billions of people level.

When Schmidt called the competition brutal between Apple and Google he was referring to the margins on the ecosystem too. Apple and Google margins are fine, but hardware partners are getting whacked. All of that "product strapping" benefits consumers around the world. Schmidt said "you're seeing enormous, enormous racing" between Google and Apple.

The Bloomberg interview also covers other competitors such as Amazon, but the general theme was co-opetition. The larger question here is whether Schmidt is on target with its defining battle of the computer industry comments. Here are a few wrinkles to ponder:

  • Defining battles between iOS and Android cover two screens---smartphones and tablets. Mobility is huge and has redefined computing, but it's part of a series of developments that are changing computing.
  • Cloud computing may be the real defining battle of the computing industry. The cloud has enabled developments across the enterprise and consumer fronts. In the cloud, it's not Google vs. Apple, but Google vs. Amazon vs. Microsoft vs. a bevy of others.
  • Social vs. search may be a defining battle too. Does anyone really doubt that Facebook will take ad dollars from Google? Does anyone doubt that Facebook is acquiring companies to find its Android-ish platform?

In the end, all of these battles are likely to have benefits. But to call Android vs. iOS the defining battle of the computer industry is a limited view. There are multiple defining battles happening at once and those skirmishes are what make technology so much fun.