Jason Perlow has a theory. Some people might say that it's a little far-fetched, a little conspiratorial. However, I've worked with Jason long enough to know that very often his theories end up being realized. This particular theory has the makings of an epic battle between Apple and Google (along with potentially a host of other vendors and the open source community).
Essentially, Jason makes a case suggesting that Apple is looking to extend the closed vertical ecosystem that it has already brought to music into all of the media we consume. As we move away from a PC-centric world to an Internet-centric world, the idea of a "screen" (whether smartphones, terminals, kiosks, PCs, televisions, or MIDs) that connects us to the Web and all of the data and applications we host there makes a lot of sense. And if, as Jason suggests, the iPad is Apple's first real volley into the "screen" market then we should expect future generations of Apple's screen to be
a synthesis between iPhone OS and Mac OS where the entire means of production, the systems architecture and the software/content delivery mechanism to the device is entirely Apple-controlled.
The idea of the screen is completely consistent with Google's vision of computing in the relatively near future. When top Google execs proclaimed that the desktop would be dead by 2013, they were met with an entire spectrum of reactions, from the usual disbelief in yet another death-of-the-pc theory to applause. As Gizmodo explained,
Everything that Google is doing and planning is centered on the mobile, the cloud, and ubiquitous connectivity.
In my conversation last week with Google's Chris Vander Mey, the same message was clear. No matter what anyone else is doing, Google will leverage the Open Web and the powerful platform they have developed in the cloud to deliver useful applications and great experiences across platforms (meaning whatever screen you use, you'll be able to access your data and applications).
This really gets to the core of epic battle I mentioned before. Where Apple is looking to create a completely closed vertical platform for content. Google is looking to have their cloud services work anywhere, regardless of vendor, OS, hardware, etc. Whether integrating search and online media into Dish Network's satellite TV or continuing to develop and implement HTML 5, Google is marching toward a level of ubiquity that Apple may be hard-pressed to match with a closed ecosystem.
After all, while the iPod and iPhone are certainly music and communications juggernauts with which to be reckoned, the iPad starts getting a little rich for a lot of media consumers. So will Apple's embedded system TVs (assuming Jason has their plans correctly, and I really believe that he does). And, just as Apple capriciously wipes out Apps from their Apps Store, so too could they control the content on these devices in ways that Google (so far) has chosen not to.
Who will win the battle? I think it will be a couple of years in the making. However, there is a reason that Eric Schmidt left Apple's board of directors last year. There is a reason that Google is pushing into countless new markets and bringing products into widespread beta as quickly as possible. Google and Apple both know: he who controls the screen controls the Web (and all of the money that entails). I have to say that I'm rooting for Google's open approach that welcomes a wide array of hardware and software. Vendor lock-in isn't good for consumers, content providers, or developers. Apple's HTC lawsuit was the first shot across the bow. What's next? And when will Google take the gloves off?