Google vs. Apple in the battle of the fanboys

Apple once had a lock on fanboys, but no more. Google is making waves and lots of friends with Android and other industry-changing products.

Matt Asay Contributing Writer
Matt Asay is a veteran technology columnist who has written for CNET, ReadWrite, and other tech media. Asay has also held a variety of executive roles with leading mobile and big data software companies.
Matt Asay
3 min read

Something strange happened last week at Google I/O, Google's big developer event. Google may have attained cult status. There was an energy in the halls normally reserved for Apple events like WWDC, as 5,000 attendees chattered about Google TV, Android, WebM, and more.

Google is ascendant, and it may take the fanboys with it.

Android Froyo Google

Apple CEO Steve Jobs may believe there's "not a chance" that Google is leapfrogging Apple, and assures the faithful that "[they] won't be disappointed" at WWDC, but worrisome signs abound for the iconic technology company.

The media, for one thing, is jumping on the Android bandwagon, and not the normal suspects. CNET's Stephen Shankland actually called himself an Android fanboy, and Fake Steve Jobs (Dan Lyons) went so far as to suggest that Apple is now playing catch-up:

I'm assuming that Apple could have done [tethering, streaming music to one's phone, etc.] already, but chose not to. Who knows why? Maybe they want to keep people locked into their old way of doing things. Or maybe because they were a market leader with no real competition and just got lazy.

And, yes, while Apple might one day match what Google just introduced, the point is this: Apple now is chasing Google.

Based on the cool things Google revealed at I/O including, but not limited to Froyo, the updated version of Android, ZDNet's Garett Rogers speculates that: "If Apple doesn't do something interesting [at WWDC]...Google is going to...dominate the mobile space."

Maybe, or maybe that's just fanboy talk.

Left out of this zero-sum fanboy round-up is mention of Microsoft. Google is focused on beating Apple. Apple is focused on being Apple. No one is too bothered about Microsoft, as Apple advocate John Gruber highlights:

The big loser this week...was Microsoft. They're simply not even part of the game...They've got nothing. No interesting devices, weak sales, and a shrinking user base. Microsoft's irrelevance is taken for granted.

Google's competitive focus on the iPhone at I/O was intense and scathing. But it's Microsoft's lunch they're eating. Apple's and RIM's game is selling the integrated whole--their own devices, running their own software. Google is playing Microsoft's game--licensing a platform to many device makers.

The big problem for Microsoft is not that there isn't, in theory, room for more than one licensed mobile platform, but rather that Microsoft's model hinges upon monopoly-sized market share.

Maybe there's room for two clubs, just as there always has been. The Apple club and the "everyone else" club. That second club has been Microsoft's domain for years, but it appears to be Google's to lose going forward.

To do so, Google is going to have to figure out how to manage Android fragmentation, how to merge its maturing Android vision with a still confused message on ChromeOS, and more.

Oh, and it should also properly feed fanboys with adequate bandwidth. The Wi-Fi at I/O was so bad that the only viable way to spread the Android gospel was to leave the conference...and use the free (and plentiful) Wi-Fi at the Apple store down the street.