Daniel Eran Dilger
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Apple’s iOS WWDC strikes back after Google’s Android I/O

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.

Google Nexus One vs Apple iPhone 3GS
Google struggling to support angry Nexus One buyers
Microsoft frets Google’s Nexus One will suffer Zune’s failure

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.

How Apple could slay Google at WWDC 2010

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!

  • http://tech.shantanugoel.com/ Shantanu

    Dan, There is no point in discussing things further here I guess. While I provide you point by point tangible facts, all you’ve got is No its not like that and you are mistaken and stuff..and you choose to ignore most of the points in the last half of my reply because you don’t have an answer to them. The only tangible things you’ve got (and which are right) are about the games and android fragmentation.

    @masternav: I completely agree with the fragmentation that plagues android. However, what I was suggesting is that since jailbreak is suggested to overcome all issues that iPhone users have, similarly android has the latest and greatest versions of android for even most older devices in custom ROMs. e.g. Even Dream has the custom ROM of 2.1 by cyanogen.

    @GusDoeMatik/Dan (re: flash crashing): The thing comes directly from Steve jobs himself as he says that flash is the biggest cause of crashing macs. So, is he right or is he lying? Anyways, I’m hardly a flash lover. I’d rather get it replaced by HTML5 sooner than later but if you keep the marketing BS aside and read the HTML5 specs, you’d notice how far behind it is right now in coming anywhere close to functionalities of flash.

    @all following this conversation: yeah, i’m an android developer but I also develop Windows Mobile, meego, openmoko and even iOS. But I’m lesser in app development and more in platform/OS/kernel development. Also, any smartphone sale (including iPhone) gives me money and I am actually thankful to iPhone because without it we wouldn’t have a significant spur in the smartphone development and probably no android.
    Now, I’m least interested in making a particular platform disappear from the face of the earth because competition and choice is what I want. The only reason I posted here is because people think that their choice of particular platform is the best and the rest is crap beyond usage. But most of the time, intentionally or unintentionally, their knowledge of the other platform stems form either reading websites or playing with it for few hours at max. I use almost all platforms (including iPhone) all the time because my work requires it and hence know the good and points of each. If you read my tweets around the time of WWDC (twitter.com/shantanugoel), you will see that I proclaim that iPhone 4 is the awesome’st smartphone right now but the above “comparison” between iOS4 and Android 2.2 as such seemed pretty wrong, that too coming from a seemingly high profile journalist, which irks me a lot because people see these websites and then believe them without even seeing the actual things for themselves..

    Dan: you can rest now as you won’t have to reply to my long comments anymore as I’ve already said what I had to say, and I do not have the time and energy for a non-rational discussion. I must say that some of your commenters are more sane in discussion as compared to you, you must hire some of them to write on your blog.

  • http://www.van-garde.com adobephile

    I know a nutbag when I see one, so I didn’t need to read your obsessive compulsive drivel to recognize you as such.

    I know what I like and what I don’t. I like Apple products. Alway have, most likely always will as long as SJ is at the helm.

  • kdaeseok

    gctwnl// cable connectors wouldn’t look good, though- because we’re expected to see a mobile device :D.
    Anyway, be better prepared, Apple.

    Let us not worry about Android vs iOS. Time will tell us who wins.
    For the time being, iPhone side has got a free vuvuzela app. Top that?

  • brew57

    I found this a very insightful perspective and a pleasure to read as with other posts on this awesome blog.

    Re. Android vs Apple, I do feel apple faces a serious risk as they let Android get a foothold unchallenged via 3 carriers in the US covering 70% of the US mobile phone market. Once the foothold is gained it can be expanded, and now-crappy OS and devices improved etc. I sure hope it won’t be a repeat of Mac vs Windows.