The biggest threat to Google: Facebook or Apple?

With Groupon telling Google thanks but no thanks to a $6 Billion offer, the shine of Google appears to have dimmed just a bit. Then again what do you expect from a company who has a valuation of $180b and over 20,000 employees? Usually when companies get to be that size they “slow” down, become hindered by the inevitable bureaucracy that comes with the weightiness of being a bigger company. Of course Google is still…well Google. A company known for its free massages, gourmet meals and other perks associated with the traditional high tech start up. The fact they have been able to maintain that image is not small feat, and by all accounts for the most part it remains true. Of course all good things must come to an end, and just as Google rose up and became the coolest kid on the block, someone else will do so as well. The leaders in the club house – Facebook, Twitter and Apple. I realize this is not a news’ flash.

The question becomes, are there other players that could emerge a dark horse? Groupon? Foursquare? Wikipedia? Netflix? Okay I jest, I think that we are already seeing the new bullies in the block are Facebook and Apple, with Twitter learning to be a bully…or at least trying. So which of these will become THE bully? My bet is on Apple. Why? They are well positioned from a platform and solution basis. Platforms – iPhone, iPad, iPod, AppleTV and good old computers. Solutions – app store and iTunes.

I realize the Android operating system has made a meteoric rise in the mobile platform space, which would be remarkable had Apple not done the same with their iPhone. Unlike Google, Apple’s OS is proprietary to their own product, two very different strategies. Both have their merits. But all you need to see is where do developers go first…iPhone/Apple. Of course search is still Google’s bread and butter; however, how long will the reliance on the web remain. Now I am not saying the world wide web is going away anytime soon, just the way we interact with it. It is an App world and web addresses are just trying to latch on to their own icons. For example, and I realize it is a data point of one…recently I was looking for some information on my local CVS. Did I turn on my PC? No. I went to my iPhone and did I go to the Google or Bing app? No. I went to the App Store and searched for CVS, low and behold a CVS app! I downloaded the free app and leveraged it to get my information. Granted I might have down a more traditional web search…had I turned on my iPad. Does this data point mean that no one will use Google? Of course not. But as web sites gravitate towards the app world for devices such as your smart phone or tablet and as the reliance of the PC diminishes, we will be more likely to look for information via our apps rather than opening a browser and searching or typing in a URL.

I realize that “traditional” computers will remain a vital cog in our information access pantheon, but even as we evolve into the mobile and app world we will interact with the world wide web via apps rather than search engines. Book marks might go by the way of the dodo bird. Finally you cannot carry around Google nor Facebook, there remains a “coolness” when it comes to the Apple devices. A MacBook or iPad or iPhone has become a fashion accessory…not sure Google search or Facebook holds the same aura.

Combine the coolness, the Apps and the content aggregation and I can see Apple becoming, if it has not already, the tech bully on the block. Amazing for a company that a few decades ago was seen as dead in the water.

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