Apple controls access to the dominant device of the mobile web; Google controls access to one of the most important mobile applications, and so far, is making it available for free only on Android. Google’s prowess is not just in search, but in mapping, speech recognition, automated translation, and other applications driven by huge, intelligent databases that only a few providers can offer. Microsoft and Nokia control comparable assets, but they too are Apple competitors, and unlike Google, their business model depends on selling access to those assets, not giving them away for free.
It could be that everyone will figure out how to play nicely with each other, and we’ll see a continuation of the interoperable web model we’ve enjoyed for the past two decades. But I’m betting that things are going to get ugly. We’re heading into a war for control of the web. And in the end, it’s more than that, it’s a war against the web as an interoperable platform. Instead, we’re facing the prospect of Facebook as the platform, Apple as the platform, Google as the platform, Amazon as the platform, where big companies slug it out until one is king of the hill.