Monday, July 04, 2011

Apple Versus Google

by John T. Spencer

An operating system used to be device-specific. However, as we move further toward a completely cloud-based, mobile experience, the definition of an operating system becomes somewhat elusive. Windows lost in its failure to capture the smart phone, tablet and netbook market. Now the war shifts toward a Google versus Apple dual.

Case in point: Apple recently created iCloud and enabled cloud-based iTunes while Google introduced Google Music (which I'm loving, by the way) and the Chrome netbook-laptop-or-whatever-you-want-to-call-it. Meanwhile the smart phone market has shifted almost entirely toward Android versus the iPhone, with endless apps offering device synchronization.  (Note: this is not meant to be a product-by-product comparison, but simply a short description of the cloud-based trend)

While it might seem like a simple rivalry between two software giants, both companies offer a very different vision for our online multimedia experience. Apple sells content while Google sells advertising. Apple is betting on a model akin to a movie theater experience where consumers will pay more for quality and convenience. Google is betting on a model akin to cable television where consumers will prefer freedom and value.

Apple wants to customize the hardware and software to be as user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing as possible. It's why an iPhone on AT&T and Verizon look nearly identical and why that same operating system runs seamlessly with an iPod and an iPad. Apple needs people to buy multimedia products - whether this is a two dollar app, a dollar song, a three dollar ebook or an annual service that allows consumers to house what they buy on multiple devices.

Google wants to offer a customized service that runs quickly and allows for more user freedom. It's why Android looks different on various phones and why the Chrome OS is entirely different than the Android. Whether it's a piece of software, an operating system or even the laptop itself, Google needs access to consumer data so that advertisers have access to one's multimedia experience. This is why ultimately Google might want to buy Pandora as an end-route into getting Google music on all the iCandy.

The point is that regardless of the product (a textbook, an iPod touch, a Chrome laptop), there is a power structure and an economic incentive driving the sale and implementation.  As long as we treat these items  as a simple list of supplies, we deny the political, economic and social nature of each device.

If we, as educators, support a bring-your-own-device approach, to what extent are we allowing these two very distinct business models to shape how out students learn?

Are we okay allowing iEducation to monopolize our purchases and limit our flexibility in learning tools?

Are we okay allowing Google to stream endless advertising into our classrooms?

John T. Spencer is a teacher in Phoenix, AZ who blogs at Education Rethink.  He recently finished two books, Pencil Me In, an allegory for educational technology and Drawn Into Danger, a fictional memoir of a superhero. You can connect with him on Twitter @johntspencer


  1. This doesn't look like anything in the books. And the revolutionary shift is only going to grow with Generation Y. ipad apps
    mobile website

  2. @john Who are we to determine what way people choose to learn...our monopoly has been with it!

  3. I'm not advocating a teacher monopoly on information. I don't see this as something to "get over" either. Re-read the post. I'm suggesting that all media have power structures and that educators need to think hard about these structures.


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