Today, Google announced…well, a lot of stuff. And that, I think, is putting it mildly. The clear message from my bird’s-eye view seems to be that Google is making their way back to being the first company of the web after a significant detour in which Google and Android became nearly synonymous. For years, Google I/O has been mostly about Android. Sure, they made significant improvements along the way, but this year the focus has shifted.
Now, instead of Android I/O, we’re back to something that more faithfully represent the name of the conference. Web-driven services are everywhere. From streaming music, to messaging, to cross-platform multiplayer gaming, Google means business with services. It reminds me of something John Siracusa has been ominously warning about since the Hypercritical podcast was still recording. Certainly others have said it too but I heard it first on 5by5.
It is not in Apple’s DNA to be good at Internet services. But do you know who the king of Internet services is? Google. And if half of these new ideas actually pan out, the search giant will have delivered a serious blow to its “our services help to sell our hardware” rival.
Now, this could all be rendered entirely moot by amazing work at WWDC, but I’m not so sure. As far as anyone knows, Apple’s conference will center around a stark visual redesign of iOS. If that’s the case, there’s little room for sweeping server-side service changes. That’s not to say that there won’t or can’t be any, just that it seems unlikely.
In addition, many of Google’s announcements from toady hinge on what I consider to be the best part of “open”: cross-platform. FaceTime and iMessage are greats when they work, but with more and more of the people I know opting for Android devices (for an unfathomable number of what I consider foolish reasons, and a handful of legitimate ones) Apple’s efforts are hugely limited by the decision to keep its services to itself.
I fully expect to be very happy with whatever Apple announces at WWDC, but the I/O keynote caught me off guard. Hopefully Apple can do the same. After all, competition drives innovation, or at least evolution. Google just made the spectacle that much more interesting by going back to what it does best: the web.