Is Apple's iEmpire in Danger as Google's Chrome OS Tablet Prepares to Face the iPad?

It may be easy to get lost in the hype about the iPad, but many other companies have prototype tablet PCs in the works, and this year CES was a crawling with them. Unlike the unveiling of the iPod when the rest of the tech industry was caught by surprise, mobile computing companies were ready with their own challengers to the iPad. So will Apple and the iPad rule, or is it time for someone else become the pusher of our tech fix?

In 2001 Apple released the iPod, making it a revolutionary year in consumer electronics . Apple began to turn things around, embracing design, making tech cool and, most importantly of all, making relatively complicated computer technology available to the masses.

Now, it appears that 2010 might be the year of Google. The company's support of open source software might become Apple's undoing, and the concept photos and video of a Chromium powered tablet PC look to make it a challenger to the iPad.

Anything you can do, we can do better.

Google’s market strategy has been almost the exact opposite of Apple’s.

Apple has been an authoritarian voice, trying to control every aspect of their products and the related technology. A proprietary operating system, the final word on iPhone apps (Does anyone understand the approval process?), it’s exclusive deal with AT&T in the U.S., a combative stance against consumers who want to take control of their own devices—the list goes on and on.

The iPhone case is even sealed to prevent consumers from changing their own dead batteries. It costs $85.95 to have Apple replace it for you.

Instead of treating the tech community with suspicion, Google embraced the collective experience of professionals and enthusiasts all over the world. The Android mobile operating system and the Chrome OS are open source projects with code available and free for anyone who wants to play with, modify and improve it.

As long as Google continues to support open source, they have my vote.

Google also decided to eschew Apple’s strategy of exclusive deals with phone companies and device makers. Android is now found on 32 devices in the market and 15 that are forthcoming. (I’m sure these are lowball figures, too. They come from the Wikipedia List of Android Devices).

Ultimately it is Google’s willingness to work with so many different companies and the consumer’s ability choose a variety of mobile devices that will end Apple's domination. They should be used to it. In the computing market Mac OS X had a 5.11 percent market share in December 2009.

Who knows? The Google Chrome OS may even challenge Windows in time.

Apple’s model of “we know better than our customers” didn’t work in personal computing, and it won’t work for long in mobile technology either.

Champions of design.

The one thing that Apple really has going for it is design. There is no doubt that before Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1998, tech was UGLY!

Power Mac 5500 from 1997 and Twentieth Anniversary Mac from 1997:

 

 

 

 iMac from 1998 and choice of colors: 

        Color Options

 

Even after Apple began to make things that consumers wanted to possess--wanted to be seen with--to enjoy just for aesthetic reasons, the rest of the industry failed to get it.

Apple brought sexy back, and it worked.

Now its 2010 and other tech companies have finally gotten it. Striking design is just as important as cutting edge technology.

One of my favorite computer designs to come out in the last year was created by BMW DesignworksUSA for  Thermaltake. Here's a pic of the Thermaltake Level 10 Gaming Station:

 

Choice, personalization and open source.

The empire that Apple has been building since 1998 is being challenged. And while the comfortable citizens of that empire are clutching their iPhones and congratulating Steve Jobs on the iPad, the barbarians are raising their own mobile devices in defiance.

You can almost hear them shout: “By the power of Google, I have the POWER!”

[Photo Credits - Top Photo: dev.chromium.org; Power Mac 5500: Ben Boldt; TAM: www.allaboutapple.com, iMac: Flickr, Masashige MOTOE; iMac Colors Flickr, Masashige MOTOE; Thermaltake Case: BMW Group DesignworksUSA]

Advertisement

Tech Talk

IEEE Spectrum’s general technology blog, featuring news, analysis, and opinions about engineering, consumer electronics, and technology and society, from the editorial staff and freelance contributors.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up for the Tech Alert newsletter and receive ground-breaking technology and science news from IEEE Spectrum every Thursday.

Advertisement