The simple lesson both Apple and Google learned from Microsoft is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. You might be of the opinion that every application Microsoft ever rolled out sucks -â€" Word, Excel, Outlook, SharePoint, etc. â€"- but you'd still have to admit that combining all these elements is what made Microsoft incredibly powerful and successful.
Microsoft is trying to port that success from the client-server world onto the Web, beginning next year with Office 2010. But last month's bait-and-switch announcement of a free online version is an acknowledgment of the threat Microsoft sees from Google and Apple to disrupt its plans.
But Google's end-game is very different from Apple's. Apple is focused on using the Web to keep generating high-margin revenues, while Google simply wants customers spending more of their time on the open Web, where they will eventually search and click on ads more often. Apple's aim is to sell more devices that keep customers connected to the Web and buying more apps through iTunes. That the two companies should clash is no surprise. That the spark that ignited their war (and led directly to Google CEO Eric Schmidt's resignation from Apple's board) is Google Voice comes as somewhat as a surprise, until you realize that Google Voice represents the kind of intrusion on Apple's hegemony that it just couldn't abide.
Both Google and Apple have significant head starts on the Web, but their approaches to it are very different. One is native to the "Open Web," and one is not. Apple comes from a client-desktop world, and believes in controlling the code third-party developers can access, what customers can download to their devices, and in tying software and devices together. Apple is a reflection of CEO Steve Jobs, its lord and master, and everything flows from his fountainhead.
Google, on the other hand, is Web-native and believes in throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks; Google open-sourced Android when it could have kept it proprietary, and Google clearly believes in crowd-sourcing source code and application development.
In the end, though, both companies need customers to be fully invested in their respective environments. Like Microsoft, Google wants to create a larger whole: productivity applications, voice and written communication, and collaboration spaces -- all linked together, perhaps in an application like Wave.
For Apple, which wants to control every aspect of its customers' experience, Google Voice is a blemish on the smooth surface of its garden wall, and therefore anathema.
[Image source: geograph.org.uk]