Dogfight

Dogfight: How Apple and Google Went to War and Started a Revolution
© 2013 Fred Vogelstein
272 pages

Fifteen years ago, Apple inaugurated a technical and social revolution when it released the first iPhone.  It did so in close partnership with Google, advertising the inclusion of its Maps and YouTube apps with the device.  Within five years, however,   Steve Jobs regarded Google as a treacherous competitor,  for promoting a competitor to his new wunderkind.  The growth of Android isn’t as simple as being a copycat iphone, though, and in Dogfight Fred Vogelstein argues that the competition between these two tech giants has done consumers a service,  even as he speculates that one day the fight will conclude in one giant owning an effective monopoly, like Microsoft in the 1990s. 

‘Smart’ phones and tablet computers were not a new concept in the early 2000s, as numerous tech companies from IBM to Apple  had tried and failed to make them a reality. By the 21st century, though, miniaturization and battery technology were just advancing to the point that pocket devices could become a functional possibility.   Prior to the iphone announcement, Google had been at work on its own smartphone, using a newly-acquired mobile OS, Android.  The release of the iphone made Google developers realized their prototype device ‘Sooner’  would be an inadequate alternative,  relying as it did on the same D-pad navigation that digital cameras, cellphones, and similar devices were still employing.  Despite Jobs’ showmanship and the sharp look of the iphone, though,  Android developers could see shortfalls in Job’s new baby –  its outdated cellular radio, for instance, and the inability to add custom apps – or indeed, customize anything.   The smartphone market was too lucrative to abandon to Apple,  especially given that iOS was a closed system,   pushed out to consumers as a finished product that they needn’t worry their pretty little heads about modifying or changing.   In response, Google created the Open Handset Alliance, bringing together industrial manufacturers, network providers,  and software developers to create a less proprietary ecosystem.  Apple didn’t rest on its laurels: not only did it begin aggressively using patent lawsuits to slow the growth of Android,  but  it released the iPad  – a revolution in its own right, one that began fundamentally altering people’s relationship with media, just as the iPod had ten years prior.  The rivalry between Apple & Google thus forced each to improve the quality and scope of their own offerings.

Dogfight is only a partial history. The author believes that the Google-Apple  rivalry will one day end in one party have the final victory, but a decade after this book’s release that seems unlikely.  They continue to spar – Apple attempting to create alternatives to Google services like AppleTv and Apple Map, Google abandoning the pretense of being strictly a software developer and creating not only a line of Pixel devices, but the ChromeOS as well –  and have developed two rival ecosystems, but that competition is contained mostly within the United States. Globally, Android prevails – and Google arguably has a larger target in its sights,  competing with Microsoft with Workspace & Chrome.  Although Dogfight is more oriented toward corporate deals and lawsuits than the technically-based One Device, it’s an interesting look back at a fight that continues to transform our world. Neither Apple’s signature devices nor the Android alliance are ignorable.

Related:
The One Device: A Secret History of the iPhone, Brian Merchant
The Perfect Thing: how the iPod Shuffles Commerce, Culture, and Coolness, Steven Levy
Jobs, Walter Isaacson
In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives, Steven Levy
How the Internet Happened, Brian McCullough

About smellincoffee

Citizen, librarian, reader with a boundless wonder for the world and a curiosity about all the beings inside it.
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