Google begins new assault in technology war
With the launch of the Nexus7 last week, Google has become the latest of the world’s tech giants to produce a tablet computer, opening up a new battlefront in a trillion-dollar business war.
Today’s world has been shaped by war. Great powers have clashed for thousands of years. The winners build thriving empires – the losers are forgotten.
Last week, a mighty superpower made a bold move in a very modern war. By launching a brand-new tablet computer, Google has mounted an audacious, carefully thought-out attack on its enemy – Apple. The Nexus7 will compete with the groundbreaking iPad – and threaten Apple’s dominance in the lucrative tablet market.
Google’s latest product will face fierce competition. There are five heavyweights – Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook – fighting to define the future of consumer technology. Now, all but one are manufacturing tablet computers.
Tablets are just one species in the dazzling menagerie of consumer gadgets that are invading all areas of modern life. Each of the big five wants to extend their technological ‘ecosystem’, promoting their own products while driving out those of their competitors.
To achieve that mission, each company deploys a unique set of war assets. Apple is famous for sleek high-quality machines, beautifully designed. Google is expert in organising information online, from searching websites to maps and email. Amazon’s Kindle is a gateway to a huge range of products, from films on demand to garden furniture. Microsoft is still number one for business, while on Facebook, everything is social.
The competitors often employ merciless tactics in the struggle for greater market share. When Facebook introduced search tools, Google responded by launching its own competing social network. After Apple launched the iPhone, Google made an assault on their smartphone territory by developing its own mobile operating system: Android.
This year, Apple is fighting back. Legal action against Android was followed by two threatening new products: Siri – a voice-activated search tool – and Apple’s own version of Google Maps. If these succeed it will be a bitter blow to Google, which depends on its search monopoly to make money.
The big five tech companies, added together, have a total value in the region of one trillion dollars. If any single company could defeat the other four, it would be comfortably the biggest, richest and most powerful company of all time. No wonder the tech war is increasingly fierce.
But although each of the big five is desperate to win, some analysts point out that victory might have an unexpected downside. At the moment, the intense competition is driving all five companies to new heights of excellence and keeping prices down. If one company claimed dominance, that essential competition would disappear. But so long as no company claims victory, the consumers win.
- Which of the big five tech companies is your favourite?
- How useful and accurate is war as a metaphor for business?
- Write a satirical short story set decades from now, when huge companies have moved from fighting business wars to fighting real wars with tanks and guns.
- How many products from each of the big five companies do you use in daily life, and how often. Make a chart showing which of the big five is winning in your family, and compare yours with others in your class. Remember, some of the big five own other smaller tech companies e.g. Instagram (owned by Facebook), Skype (owned by Microsoft) or Lovefilm (owned by Amazon).
Some People Say...
“If there’s a tech war I want my favourite company to win it.”
What do you think?
Q & A
- This Nexus thing – it’s like an iPad?
- That’s right. But it’s a slightly cheaper, more basic model. It costs $199 (£127) – the cheapest iPad costs double that amount.
- How do they manage to sell them so cheaply?
- Google and Apple have very different business models. Apple always makes a profit on iPhones and iPads, Google Android doesn’t. Instead, Google – like Facebook – collects data on how people use its software, and sells that to advertisers.
- It’s quite controversial! But a lot of the data is anonymous: Google Maps, for example, uses data about all users’ movements to track traffic problems and advertising keywords get matched with users’ search terms.
- Operating System
- An operating system – or OS – is the most important piece of software on a computer. It performs essential tasks like recognising input from the keyboard or showing the results of actions on screen. Apple’s operating system – called iOS on the iPhone – can only be installed on Apple products, and be used with other Apple programs. Google’s operating system, Android, is more open, and is available on a wide range of phones.
- Tablet computer
- Although early models of tablet computer were being produced as early as the 1990s, they only came to prominence with the launch of the Apple iPad in 2010. Since then, other manufacturers, including Samsung, Google and Microsoft, have followed suit with their own tablets. The devices look like smartphones, are usually between 7 and 10 inches long, and can be used to read articles, email or watch movies.
- All but one
- Microsoft joined the tablet wars for the first time last month, with the unveiling of the Surface tablet. Only Facebook has stayed out of the hardware game.
- Legal action
- Apple has taken legal action in an attempt to ban several Android products – most notably Samsung Galaxy phones and Samsung tablet products. The company accused the Korean phone manufacturer of copying elements of design and technology from Apple products. Recently, the case delayed the launch of Samsung products in several countries.