Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Realignment: Google's Schmidt Joins Apple's Board of Directors

The "tubes" are abuzz with chatter about Google's new business-oriented "Apps for our Domain" service, which is interesting but somewhat off-topic for this weblog. Like many online developments Google's application suite is more about the battle for I.T. supremacy between Google and Microsoft than any specific publishing concern. But combined with the announcement of Google CEO Eric Schmidt joining the board of Apple the chessboard of corporate positioning takes on a new wrinkle that should get publishers thinking. With Microsoft's DRM scheme having been hacked already and the early views of their new Vista operating system presaging a slow and bulky package that's not likely to favor upgrades to current PCs Microsoft may find itself in a position that will not be terribly favorable for consumer and enterprise migration.

So if Vista's going to be a slow-to-arrive "magic bullet" and Google's making headway with productivity apps that can appeal to the anti-Microsoft crowd, might this be a time when consumers and businesses begin to look at the Intel-based Apple platform as a more serious alternative? If so, then publishers have a lot to think about. With Apple's success in music and video downloads and pressures on them for more portability, the presence of Google on the Apple board is likely to influence moves that could result in content packaging that could appeal to a broader array of publishers and operate in both Apple and non-Apple venues over time. The bloom is already off the iPod rose, so the question becomes how to engineer the next content-driven gizmo success.

The combined thinking of Google and Apple would be a powerful driver for a more content-centric approach to information appliances. Microsoft's new management team is trying to push in that direction also rather aggressively, but with a boat anchor like Vista to carry around it's not clear how quickly or effectively it's going to be able to make that transition. Expect Google-Apple alternatives that leverage Google's huge server farm investment to evolve incrementally and acceptance of them to accelerate as Vista question marks become more pronounced in business and consumer circles.
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