Apple’s iOS WWDC strikes back after Google’s Android I/O
June 8th, 2010
Daniel Eran Dilger
Google and its supporters enjoyed intimating an all out war on Apple during the company’s I/O conference a couple weeks ago, disgorging a sea of propaganda that likened Apple to North Korea and its iPhone platform as a dystopian “1984” world. At its own WWDC, Apple never really turned up the rhetoric on Google, but the company did deliver a series of real, competitive assaults that will matter.
iOS 4 melts Android 2.2’s Froyo
The first is, of course, the new iPhone 4 and its iOS 4 software. Apple’s marketing makes it very clear that iOS delivers multitasking that works, rather than an unrestricted environment where your battery doesn’t anymore. Strike one at Android.
Steve Jobs also articulated on stage the value of creating an integrated product, highlighting both FaceTime and iMovie as integrated applications of the new cameras. Google has no impetus to deliver sophisticated applications of hardware it isn’t selling; it leaves that up to the hardware makers, who are all terrible at software.
That’s why, despite having a fancier camera than the 3GS, the Droid was panned for not being able to take decent pictures. Which is why most people want a camera in the first place, as opposed to having bragging rights on hardware specifications. Strike two on Android.
Apple’s focus at deep, significant and desirable features for the new iPhone comes in stark contrast to Google’s focus on shallow, flashy and pointless features for Android. Apple showed off its high resolution Retina screen and pedestrian but smart Folders, while Android phones (particularly Google’s own Nexus One) have celebrated problematic OLED displays and battery robbing, useless frills such as “Live Wallpaper” animated backgrounds.
The Nexus One bellyflopped into the same shallow nonsense that Microsoft dove into with the Zune HD: displays that only look really good in candlelit rooms and flashy screen animations that make for a wizzy demo but an unpleasant or at at least non-optimal experience for end users.
Both Google and Microsoft are trying to impress the press, not their customers. Incidentally, that’s also why both are championing Adobe Flash rather than explaining to their customers that a beta-level Flash Player is not worth their time or battery. That’s a third strike on Android.
Welcome indie ad networks (no AdMobs)
Next, Apple has tightened its restrictions on iPhone App Store developers, forbidding them from including spyware that reports data to third parties unless it is both approved by the user and directed to an independent company solely for the purposes of delivering relevant ads.
Apple specifically pulled Google’s AdMob out of the running by forbidding App Store developers from sending spyware data (and that’s what it is; it spies out what you do, what you have, where you are, and what you’re looking at, and then reports it) to companies that sell or deliver phones or mobile platforms. Google has just been evicted from installing its spyware on iPhone OS devices.
Going forward, AdMob won’t be able to release monthly stats explaining how they are seeing more activity from Android compared to the iOS, because they won’t be able to see anything from iOS. And AdMob will lose the ability to sell ads on iPhones and iPod touches an iPads that benefit from any sort of spyware analytics.
The reason Apple wanted to buy AdMob was to prevent a competitor from gaining access to deep analytical data on its platform. That’s also why Google “swooped down” to buy it, and why Jobs was so upset about that. Google is using AdMob to harvest lots of data about Apple’s platform and use it compete against Apple. Not anymore.
Quick, what do you call the number one ad network that isn’t on the iOS? Not number one anymore. That was an expensive acquisition for Google.
AppleInsider | Apple iAd program to monetize iPhone apps with interactive media
AppleInsider | Apple iAd plans to eat up half the mobile ad market
Apple’s modified iOS terms allow outside advertisers, limit AdMob
Safari Reader strips web experience of ads
When I postulated that Apple could include an ad-blocking features in Safari to erase Google’s display ad business, I was not actually expecting that Apple would have the balls to do it.
Apple didn’t release an ad-blocking plugin (which would prevent ads from even being presented or counted as an impression); instead, it created a “Safari Reader” feature, which senses when you’re browsing a page with an article, and then reformats the article into an easy to read view (it also works for noncommercial layouts, such as Wikipedia).
It does not block ads. In fact, there’s no way to browse the web using Safari Reader without displaying ads; when you click a link within Reader, you get a non-Reader webpage and have to opt back into the Reader layout. However, once you hit the Reader button, the ads fade into the background. Content providers still get their ad impressions counted, but the user doesn’t have to focus on flashy, animated ads while they are trying to read web content. It’s a bit like TiVo for the web, as I suggested.
What Reader really eviscerates are those super annoying contextual ads that pop up over the content on the page while you’re trying to read it and accidentally mouseover one of their fake hyperlinks. With Reader, all of the ads injected into the content disappear. That’s a strike at Bing, which has been specializing in that most annoying type of ads.
Of course, Apple has also added Bing to iOS and Safari as an option to Google’s own search. That’s not much of a blow to Google, but it does level the playing field, offering Microsoft the opportunity to prove itself as a viable alternative in search. Ironically, Apple’s Safari and iOS seem to offer Microsoft the potential in search that Microsoft has not been able to accomplish on its own, using its own Windows and Internet Explorer dominance.
What’s next for Google: a tough fight
And so, while the tech press tries to decide whether they are impressed by Apple’s announcements or not, Apple has managed to completely flip Google’s seemingly menacing Android on its side, where it will flounder as Apple continues onward.
iPhone 4 has erased the idea that HTC (and Motorola!) had wildly surpassed Apple as a hardware vendor, just because they had managed to beat the iPhone 3GS six to nine months after it was first released. Apple’s new phone has a lot of smart features that really work, rather than just flashy hardware specs designed to woo the bloggers who create matrixes of feature comparisons to radicalize their followers.
iOS 4 will get delivered to existing iPhone and iPod touch users, for free, a few days before it shows up on the new iPhone 4, another major difference between Apple’s ecosystem and the Android platform, where existing phone users are treated with the same indifferent contempt that Microsoft demonstrated for its Windows Mobile installed base. Will Android buyers who bought into the platform more than a few months ago ever get Froyo? Will even many new buyers get an upgrade path within the next few months? In many cases, they’re just out of luck.
iAd is a big boost for App Store developers: better, more sophisticated ads (and advertisers) that are less obtrusive and don’t result in pulling users away from their apps. It’s a big pain for Google though, which hoped to just waltz in and buy up the entire mobile ad businesses, overturning Apple’s platform with spyware data analysis it could use to bolster Android. Turns out Apple isn’t completely stupid after all, and managed to convert mobile ads from a way to bilk mobile developers and leach off their properties into a business that delivers most of the ad revenue to the content creator as an inducement to make more great content.
Imagine if ads turned back into “sponsors” rather than just being predators that destroy users’ experience of your content!