Can Google beat Apple?

The launch of the Droid by Google and Motorola was notable for one reason: It effectively ignored RIM (Blackberry) as the competition and instead targeted would be Apple iPhone customers. When you think about that it’s quite amazing. The Blackberry defined the smartphone market and still holds a huge share of the market. Yet the marketing of the Droid shows that neither Motorola or Google views RIM as the long term competitor.

This begs the question: can Google beat Apple? It’s a Goliath versus Goliath marketing war. Apple is known to be an marketing machine, whereas Google isn’t. Ask yourself when you last saw a Google advert of any kind? When did Google sponsor a sporting event? Have you received an email from Google promoting a new product lately? You do see a lot of PR from Google. There’s rarely a day when they’re not in the news and of course when you’re the go to search engine you don’t need to run TV ads. Though I could imagine some funny ads where there’s a Google guy and a Yahoo! guy.

But given Google is so used to having much of its marketing done for it, can it beat Apple? It stands a chance because others such as Motorola and HTC really want to beat Apple and will throw a lot of $$$ at the problem. But this means Apple has no real rival. It has lots of minor rivals but they are also competing with each other. Apple must love that.

Of course the battle isn’t just a consumer marketing battle, it’s a software developer battle. This is where Google stands a real chance and where it has been active on the marketing front. When the Droid launched there were apps available but only a few hundred. That number is rising fast but then so is the number of iPhone apps. Ironically Apple is in the position Microsoft has long been with the PC and Google us where Apple has been with the Mac. For years people thought the Mac was dead but then they released a really great machine and the tide turned. Today the Mac is an amazing success story. Sure its sales are still less than that of all PCs but any single PC manufacturer would love the Mac volume and price point. In other words if Apple can succeed against the PC, Google can against the iPhone. It just takes a great product and some great marketing. Right now they have neither and they don’t have forever to get it right which of course they are smart enough to know.

2010 promises to be a fascinating battleground if Google does produce a great product. But for them to win they will have to really learn fast if they want to win a marketing war with Apple.

2 Comments on “Can Google beat Apple?”

  1. Another factor is how the smartphone market evolves and continues to gain complexity. Everyone knows the overall pie is growing but not all smartphone users are the same despite media and even the Street’s tendency to lump everyone into a single smartphone category. Some love the simplicity/brand association of iPhone, others want the flexibility of Blackberry, still others want shiny new things like webOS. Hard to tell where Android the OS fits in today; the marketing for DROID though tells me they’re clearly going after a) males and b) hands-on users demanding high performance.

    Google’s great at a lot of things but I would assume they’re thinking very carefully about which segment(s) they can win and how, and whether that’s through its own phone or letting partners build various flavors on top of Android.

  2. timdyson says:

    Agreed on the Droid being pushed towards males. I find that interesting. They must clearly have data that suggests the male audience is the one to go for. Does that suggest the iPhone is seen as effeminate?

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