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Are Apple and Google Flaming Out?

Over the last two weeks, the discussions surrounding Apple and Google have me wondering whether both companies have completely lost their collective minds. The US government now has a series of investigations surrounding both firms, ranging from collusion between them, to Apple pulling Google Voice off the iPhone. To be clear, this is like trying to find out if the companies were working together closely as criminals, or whether Google is Apple’s kick toy.

At Black Hat, one of the large security conferences where Microsoft is typically the whipping boy, Apple was front and center, with stories of potentially catastrophic problems on every product but the low-end iPods. Apple’s response to these, apparently, was not to return calls.

I’m starting to wonder if both companies are tired of making money and want to experience the fun and excitement of major layoffs.

Google HeadquartersGoogle: Striving to be Dumber

There is, or was, a lot of buzz surrounding the work going on with Android and a class of products called smartbooks that would soon be arriving to market. Smartbooks come in at the small side of the netbook market, are based on cell-phone technology, and trade off Windows compatibility for purchase price, battery life, and constant connectivity. They were supposed to be the hot new thing.

So hot that a wide variety of PC manufactures, cell phone companies, and even telephone services companies were rushing to get them to market this year. Now you would think that Microsoft would have a minor coronary and move heaven and Earth to block these products. Evidently not . It was Google that shot this effort between the eyes, and they did it with ChromeOS.

You see, none of these vendors knew ChromeOS thing existed until last month, and suddenly they are wondering if Android is a dead platform on smartbooks. Google is no help, because they can’t reconcile the two platforms, and have become a FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) engine against their own products.

I only work with the PC OEMs, and these guys were pissed at Microsoft for the Vista screw up, Windows 7 pricing, and the ones that build cell phones were very upset about the delay in Windows Mobile 7. They wanted Google to succeed desperately, and with the ChromeOS, Google shot them between the eyes and embarrassed the folks driving Android smartbook initiatives in front of their managers. Suddenly Microsoft isn’t looking so bad.

Apple: MacBook Air Head

I attended two major analyst events, one at Microsoft and one at HP, over the last couple of weeks. Strangely enough, the break discussions had little to do with either HP or Microsoft. We were talking about Apple, and not in a good way.

Apple HeadquartersThe most visible was the fallout from Apple pulling the plug on Google Voice. This focused attention like a laser on Apple’s insane process for approving iPhone applications. One application called the Shaking Baby Application, which grew to national infamy, was approved and then later pulled. Meanwhile, apps like dictionaries, which contain the same words as the built in OS X dictionary, are blocked, and only let in with massive modifications and a 17+ rating. It’s not that Apple appears to be a control freak. We knew that, and it’s generally thought to be one of the company’s advantages. It’s that Apple is starting to look like an insane control freak. Radio stations in Silicon Valley have been replaying a news spot of a developer comparing the process of getting an application approved to playing Russian roulette.

But this pales to the discussions on security. An SMS exploit was discovered for the iPhone that some theorized could have brought down the entire AT&T wireless network. This became a running joke, because Apple was arguing that jailbreaking the iPhone would do the same thing, with the only consistent part being that the iPhone was a terminal risk to AT&T’s ability to stay in business. Actually, Apple went farther and connected jailbreaking to terrorists and drug dealers at the same time the Obama administration wants to make the process legal. Hmm, connecting President Obama to terrorists and drug dealers, now that is a good idea…

It didn’t stop there, though. Evidently, the way Apple performs encryption on the iPhone is so lame that it could be easily overcome because the keys to the encrypted drives were accessible on the phone. This is like putting massive locks on your home and then putting spare keys under the front mat.

One of the analysts was going on and on about how you could turn a Mac Keyboard into a keylogger, which is a tool used by hackers to capture passwords. I wasn’t as concerned about this, because they would need physical access to the keyboard (it does mean I won’t ever use a public Mac, though).

Apple’s primary historical defense has been sicking the Mac faithful on anyone who writes about this, which actually does keep a number of folks from writing about it. Or at least it did, not so much now , because we can put links into our pieces. (Note to the Mac Faithful, check the links, like this one, before flaming). By the way, if your iPod Touch explodes, and you want a new one (assuming you survive), don’t tell anyone. Right.

There is now a running bet how long it will take before Apple has a Microsoft moment, and that a major catastrophe takes out the majority of Macs or iPhones. Evidently, President Obama uses a Mac, and my money is on him getting hit first. Then again, the Secret Service is kind of aggressive on this stuff, and Obama may use a PC by now. I mean, he can’t use an iPhone because it is evidently a threat to national security.

Is Microsoft Blessed?

Over the years, I’ve watched every major Microsoft competitor, from IBM and Lotus, to Novell and Netscape, and now Google and Apple (and Apple has done this several times) gain an advantage and then gleefully piss it away. It’s almost as if a switch goes off in their collective heads that causes them to go haywire and do stupid things when competing with Microsoft.

Don’t get me wrong, Microsoft has its own issues. For instance, on the eve of the Windows 7 launch, there is a massive effort to retool netbooks that were supposed to run the new OS to run Windows XP, thanks to some boneheaded Microsoft decision. Maybe it’s simply that in summer, too many folks’ brains go on vacation, and we just have to wait until they come back.

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Rob Enderle
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Rob is President and Principal Analyst of the Enderle Group, a forward-looking emerging technology advisory firm. Before…
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