June 29, 2010

Apple Apps for Android... Could Hell Freeze Over Again?

One of the major sticking points in Apple's cold war with Google is the fact that Google plays a visible role on Apple's iPhone platform, but Apple plays zero role on Google's Android platform. Google has always been the iPhone's default search engine, and Google Maps has been among the most used apps. Despite politicking from Steve Jobs and the recent inclusion of Bing as an option for iPhone's search, it is true that Apple's products are better with Google software than without. Meanwhile, Apple makes some great software - especially with their iLife suite and accompanying iTunes Store - the core of the iPhone experience and the company's entire digital media strategy. iTunes found its way to Windows. Would it ever make a leap to Android?

After starting in its infancy as SoundJam MP way back in 1999 (I actually bought my own copy through Digital River in 2000), Apple launched iTunes in 2001 after SoundJam's acquisition, ushering in their digital media era. (I was in the audience at MWSF that year as well, my only time for a Stevenote)

iTunes, and its sibling iLife suite, including iMovie, iPhoto, and iDVD, were first available only for Macintosh, and were seen as a compelling reason to choose the Mac over Windows. But in 2003, Apple released iTunes for Windows, calling it, unabashedly, "The best Windows app ever". Of course, many Microsoft fans consider iTunes bloated and are not big fans, but the product does play a key role, at the very least, in backing up all those iPhones from Windows users out there, and enabling them to make purchases from the popular iTunes store.

If the iPhone is a trojan horse for those who are otherwise not Apple customers, then iTunes could be the wheels that enable the horse to be pushed into Redmond's kingdom. Similarly, after Apple introduced Safari, its Web browser, in 2003, a Windows version of the application was rolled out in 2007, now supporting Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7. So Apple absolutely has a history of supporting Microsoft where it makes sense - even though they have no history of supporting Linux for these products.

As an Android user now, having turned in my iPhone, I do lack the local music storage application which iTunes represented. As my life is increasingly cloud-based, this is not much of a problem, as I can tap into Sirius XM Radio or Last.fm for personalized music streams, and Spotify will no doubt come soon, as will the long-rumored Music offering from Google. But again, Apple's library of TV Shows and Videos are unavailable to Android users - many of whom may be politically opposed to Apple's products, even as others wouldn't mind firing up iTunes on Android, if it existed.

Steve Jobs was famously reported to have said, angrily, during an internal meeting, that Google went after Apple in the phone business, while Apple stayed out of the search business. The company routinely displays charts that show Android as having significantly lower market share than the iPhone, even if all reports show the mobile OS catching up. Apple clearly is not a fan of Android today, and Google is said to be enemy number one.

In addition to the animosity, veiled or open, between Cupertino and Mountain View, reports show that the overwhelming majority of Apple's revenue continues to be in hardware, not software. The company's Macs, iPhones, iPads and iPads are pushing money into Apple, while revenue from the App Store on iTunes is small. So unless the company wanted to display, again, that its software products are fantastic, even on Android, they probably won't go there. It's also highly unlike Apple could trojan horse any iAds into Android screens of any flavors.

We Mac fans of old used to debate heatedly whether the iPod/iPhone halo effect was real, and there were many people who swore up and down that Apple should never offer the iPod or iTunes on the Windows platform, that it was giving too much respect to Microsoft, and giving away the crown jewels from Cupertino. Now, we see one platform, run by Cupertino, that is populated by enemy software, and the opposite is not true. Apple is probably going to play stubborn and avoid the Android platform unless the market demands it.