It’s taken me quite a while to wrap my head around Google’s announcement of their OS, and it hasn’t been easy gathering my thoughts about the implications this would have on Apple Inc. Said simply, another operating system sharing space with OS X isn’t something that should be brushed off. Google’s pretty determined to get into other markets, and considering that we’ve been hearing rumors about a fully fledged operating system for two years now, there’s probably a good chance it’s a lot closer to fruition than we may think.
I’ve been saying since my first ten minutes on the Internet that it was eventually going to go cloud on us. I might surprise you, but I’m all for getting my stuff off my hard drive and onto someone else’s network. Gone are the days worrying about archives, and full hard drives. It’s not really new news that we’re heading that way, and there’s a list longer than my *ahem* arm indicating reasons why it’s going to be a bad thing, primarily, the case of missing data, and the corporations excellent ability at shedding responsibility. We’ll need to ere on the side of caution, hell, we’ll need to make sure that the type of scenario listed in the aforementioned link isn’t even remotely possible.
However until we make the move to the cloud full time, we’ll be living in a hybrid world for a while, with a foot on one cloud, and another firmly planted on the ground. This is where it gets interesting. I can think of one corporation who’s taking this approach, and it might surprise some people–Apple Inc. I’ve been saying for months that Mobile Me is a giant waste of money, but when I look at it from another perspective, made possible by Google’s announcement, it looks like the online software bundle is the half step needed between this generation and the next. It’s by far from perfect, but a lot of people seem to rely on it daily, and they feel comfortable doing it now that all those early release bugs have been worked out. Google already has it’s mobile me competitor with their Google Apps bundle, but what they haven’t been able to do is integrate them into devices that need to be able to sync for offline viewing. This is where Apple, and even Microsoft has an extreme advantage, but more particularly Apple. Which company makes hardware, software, and does miniature cloud services already? Apple. They have all their chess pieces ready for the fight. They’re putting machines in front of people, they’re giving them a stellar operating system, and now they can work on that highly anticipated cloud computing sector. Google needs to negotiate with hardware vendors to get them to ship their OS, as would Microsoft, but either could pull it off.
Apple’s got what economists call a comparative advantage right out of the gate. They only person they’d be negotiating with would be themselves. They can build the services right into their core applications without people even really knowing. It would be the most seamless integration into cloud computing possible. Who else controls a trifecta of magnitude, that would allow them to seamlessly pull off cloud computing? It’s looking like Microsoft is going to be struggling with getting businesses to switch to Windows 7, and Google hasn’t done an operating system yet. Typical users are going to be skittish with such a monumental paradigm shift of this variety, and the less new stuff you’re throwing in front of them the better.
It would be a shame if Apple let the market pass them by and ultimately miss out on the next major technology innovation, but they’d have to be pretty daft to miss the trends. The next time Eric Schmidt starts asking about Mobile Me innovations I’d be kicking him to the curb. Does Apple Inc. really need Xerox 2.0?