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Opinion – How Google can Trump the iPad

googl labs
Can Google trump the iPad..?

Please note, that this article was originally published on JAMM, back in May 2010. Ok… no brainer announcement of the century – Apple has totally captured the digital media market. The iPhone/iPad/iPod Classic/Touch rule the school when it comes to traveling with your digital goodies. With iTunes you can buy, collect, organize, and synchronize

  • Photos
  • Videos
  • Movies
  • TV Shows
  • Music
  • Applications, and
  • eBooks

You can also synchronize your

  • Address Book/Contacts
  • Calendars
  • e-Mail Accounts

and use all of your iDevices to stay in touch with all of your online, social networks via MySpace, Twitter, Facebook (et all). Through you iDevice of choice, Apple provides you with a way to stay in touch and stay connected. It just works…all the time, everyday out loud. Period. You really don’t have to think about HOW to sync and centralize all of this cool stuff into one place. iTunes does it all for you. When you go away from that hub-o-all-things and come back with new stuff, iTunes brings it all together on your desktop/laptop so you can manage it with other connected desktop tools like

  • iPhoto,
  • iMovie
  • iWork
  • iLife
  • iETC.

This eco system if you will, this food chain of interconnectivity and easy-for-the-masses-to-understand-and-use tools, is what makes things like the iPhone, iPod and iPad rule this space, and the individual spaces that they’re in. And let’s face it, they DO rule this space and the spaces that they’re in. Everyone’s heard of an iPhone killer; but have you ever heard of an HTC HD2 killer, or CLIQ killer, a Palm Pre Plus killer or <gulp!> a Nexus One killer? No. You haven’t; and until Microsoft, Google or someone else gets their butt in gear and creates just as connected, easy to use, centralized competing eco system that provides some sort of attraction to make people either switch or jump on board, no one ever will. However, there’s one company that has a chance at doing this. Here’s how Google can score and WIN in this arena. While the following may seem like a huge row to hoe, its definitely doable, considering Google’s deep pockets and huge resources. If they intend to make Android a viable and REALISTIC alternative to both the iPhone and the iPad, then Google needs to act on this while the plans for an Android tablet are still in flux. Once an Android tablet hits the market, the window will shut quickly.

doubleTwist
Goodness, doubleTwist looks like iTunes, doesn’t it?

Acquire doubleTwist
doubleTwist is the multimedia sync tool that I mentioned in my Nexus One review earlier this month. Google needs a foundation to build the eco system on, and doubleTwist has the best chance to be this ecosystem foundation. There are a number of reasons, but the most important is doubleTwist’s agnostic device support
. Currently doubleTwist supports (as of the original publication date, May 2010)

  • Most Android Phones, including Google Nexus One, Motorola Droid and CLIQ, all HTC Android phones, and Samsung Galaxy and Moment Android phones
  • BlackBerry
  • Sony PSP
  • Palm Pre
  • Archos 605
  • INQ1, INQ Mini and INQ Chat
  • Nokia N & E Series phones
  • Sony Ericsson Walkman & Cybershot phones
  • Windows Mobile 5.0/6.0 devices
  • LG Viewty and Shine
  • Motorola (V9 and V3xx) and most Razr phones
  • Sansa View and Sansa e200 series MP3 Players
  • Amazon Kindle
  • iPhone (supports v3.1.1 firmware. PC only as of this writing)
  • iPod (PC only as of this writing)

Its obvious from the above, that doubleTwist’s compatible device list is just the basis that Google needs to build from. (It even supports iPhone and iPod..!) If they can extend this compatibility to the ENTIRE eco system (for those devices that actually support the entire eco system), then the success for this effort is nearly assured. The support for the entire eco system (depending on complete device compatibility) must be solid. If Google doesn’t extend the current level of stability of the components below to the devices listed above, then attacking this market through this plan won’t be successful. The reason why no one’s been able to crack this nut yet is two fold – Apple’s been the only one to pull it all together and no one else has put enough of an effort behind it. Microsoft could pull this off IF and ONLY IF they got organized behind the Zune/WP7S/Kin and built out WMP to the eco system it could be with their synchronization solutions, but its doubtful they will pull the teams together and focus them on this effort. Their solution will also likely only support their products, a la Apple and the iPhone/iPod/iPad. It won’t be as open as doubleTwist’s. Why? MS is concerned only with Windows related products, and not a more open (sourced) initiative. and If they were going to do it, they would have done it already. Adding support Zune HD, WP7S and the Kin would be just that, an addition/afterthought/ simple device extension. MS also doesn’t have a Mac presence for Windows Media Player. doubleTwist does. …and let’s examine that for a second – doubleTwist has a Mac presence. Google can insure that nearly every computer user, with the exception of Linux users (but how difficult will THAT port be after the Mac version is finished..?), has a fully supported eco system/ synchronization solution for their device. It would be the only solution of its kind, as iTunes only supports APPLE devices, and Microsoft Windows Mobile devices. Again, this could be a HUGE win for Google, provided they move quickly. The fact that doubleTwist is SEVERELY reminiscent of iTunes and its interface, from an end user perspective, doesn’t hurt it at all, either.

  1. Integrate Android Market for Applications into doubleTwist This is obviously, an Android only component; but building this into doubleTwist would work for ALL Android devices, including tablets, and could be huge. If this could be added to doubleTwist, then it would likely get the attention of every Android user on the planet. With doubleTwist’s current support for Apple playlists already built in, the acquisition and Android Market integration and support would cement the foundation of the eco system. The fact that doubleTwist currently supports MacOS AND Windows means that Google could capture users in both operating systems, especially if they use a Nexus One or other Android device, further ensuring adoption of their services and revenue models moving forward, as an iPhone competitor. I have no idea what the current market value of doubleTwist is, but as a small company, and having worked for enough of them over the years, I would think that part of their business model is to be acquired by someone with big enough pockets to help them complete their mission.
  2. Integrate Amazon MP3 Store for Multimedia Purchases into doubleTwist This already exists on every Android device I’ve seen so far. Extending this to the desktop hub of the eco system allows users to purchase content and sync it to their devices the same way iTunes does.Can you say, “duh?” This is a no brainer; and shouldn’tbe too hard, depending on the operating system (I would think…); but I’m not a developer, so I don’t know for certain. However, I know the API’s are available, and with cross compilers, write once-compile for many should be possible (not only for this piece, but everything connected to this effort). Amazon has a decent MP3 Store. I’ve used it through Shazam on my wife’s CLIQ to purchase music for her so she could play it on both her CLIQ and iPod Nano. The store is well organized, easy to use, and integrating it into devices as well as desktop clients may either require modifications to the licensing that Google already has with Amazon and/or additional agreements established between the two. If this is the case, it may take a while to make this a reality, but again, seems very logical. We just need either Google or doubleTwist to get this thing going.
  3. Integrate Google Sync for Mail, Contacts and Calendar into doubleTwist iTunes allows you to integrate Google Contacts and Calendar synch into both iTunes and iCal, respectively. This gives Google some sort of presence into the iPhone/iPod/iPad; but with recent developments between Apple and Google turning sour, who knows if this will continue to be supported in future iTunes releases. Since iCal and Outlook both support synchronization with Google Calendar (support for Windows Live Calendar (part of Windows Live Mail) wasn’t easy to find, and may not be supported at this time), getting your Google Calendar to your fat client of choice isn’t too difficult. Since you can sync your Android device right to the source over the air, setting a sync point between the device and the desktop isn’t as required as you might think. What Google can do here is NOT sync from the desktop to the device, but setup the desktop sync between the fat client and the web service. This is similar to what Apple does, I think, but the hub of the effort is having the supported device (an iPod Classic won’t present the options in iTunes, but an iPhone or iPod Touch, and I assume, an iPad, do). If you don’t have a supported device, the options to set this up don’t appear in iTunes, and you won’t be able to set the sync up. Google Sync Services are very close to providing this kind of functionality to begin with. This is where Google can excel. Allowing doubleTwist to hub this for your calendar is where Google can make a huge value add. Extending this to both mail and contacts will be huge. The nice thing is that you can use the GMail web interface to make it all work on the desktop.
  4. Integrated Desktop/Fat Clients I am a fat client kinda guy. I’m used to Outlook, and it would be nice to be able to sync all of my services to my fat client of choice, with minimal setup effort. Having support for Firefox, Windows Live Mail/Services, Hotmail and other popular desktop/fat clients would allow users to work with these services in the application they are most comfortable with. This is the cherry on top of the cake. Apple also provides desktop applications and services that allow you to edit and manipulate your synchronized content on your desktop/laptop. Applications like iMovie and iPhoto make getting home movies back and forth, with edited changes, to and from your device easily. While this is an area where Google will either need to provide something, extend something (like Picasa or YouTube perhaps?) It would make a lot of sense to have something like this connection available.

The secret to Apple’s success lies in its eco system(s). Pulling both desktop and sync services together that make sense into a centralized offering, iTunes, iMovie, iPhoto, etc. make perfect sense. Its also been a HUGE hit. Its been so successful, that Apple was able to hold off the RIAA and the rest of the record industry for nearly 10 years when it came to popular single song purchases (they recently went from 99 cents to $1.29, which, while not great, still isn’t too bad). What is the one, single thing in this world that makes the iPad success? Simple. iTunes. Do NOT be fooled. Without it, the iPad wouldn’t have nearly as much interest as it does. iTunes gives users the ability to centralize their online life in a form factor, and in a “window to the internet” that is much easier to navigate, use and love. It centralizes all aspects of the device’s life. You buy music, movies, TV shows, eBooks and applications, etc in the iTunes Store. You manipulate movies and photos in iMovie and iPhoto. You manage contacts in Address Book, calendar events in iCal, and mail in, well…Mail. iTunes pulls it all together in a single spot, and extends the services to fat client counter parts allowing you to manipulate your content, add to it, and then sync it back. If Google wants to be successful in the mobile device/tablet market, the first thing it needs to do is develop an easy to use, centralized eco system that will allow users to incorporate their digital life into an easy to use set of applications and services. They have MOST of this stuff already developed. The only thing left is to integrate them. doubleTwist could be the start of all of this. Hooking things like Picasa, YouTube, GMail, and the Android Market into doubleTwist shouldn’t be too difficult (though in truth, I haven’t totally investigated it as I am NOT a developer). Google Calendar Sync exists for synching Google Calendar to Outlook. IMAP support for GMail is available, so you should be able to get all of your PIM information back and forth. Again, the problem is ASSEMBLY of this eco system under the Google model. All the components are there; and they support just about every device under the sun including most Androids AND iPhone/iPod Touch.

So, Google..? Are you listening? Will you take up the challenge? I sure hope so… Apple’s success in the iModel, is hinged through iTunes. Microsoft could pull this together with WMP and Windows Live; but they’re too disjointed to organize enough to get it done (though it would be cool if they surprised me). Google has the best chance to get this together because they are hungry enough to do it. They have the funding required to acquire doubleTwist, the corporate machine to implement the business relationships/contracts, the SDLC to create, test and implement the functional and technical requirements, and the marketing machine to communicate and advertise the value to the end user. I’ve been cooking this over the past couple of days, that’s it. If I’ve missed something, I’d love to hear from everyone. Please feel free to comment below.

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