2006 King of Content: Google or Apple?

I’ve had a bit of blogstipation this past week, which is thankfully clearing up tonight. I’ve been meaning to write this as a follow-up piece to Now They’re Doing a Browser?! (on Google Browser rumors) and .Mac Addresses Storage; iLife vs. Google for a a couple of weeks… but Robert Scoble’s excellent post My Message In A Bottle To Bill Gates has finally pushed me to get it done…

First, a grounding in a bit of personal philosophy on mankind (I promise it won’t hurt or be too long)… In short, Man is an idea machine. We take in data, add perspective (forming information) and use it to form ideas, constructs, concepts, etc. Those ideas are given physicality through our corporal interaction with implements (pen, ruler, hammer, etc), machinery (computers, printing presses, etc) with the output being what we generically call “content”.

As such, content is a really big deal. Always has been, always will be.

So what? Let’s dig deeper…

In one corner, we have Apple, the undisputed (in my book at least) current King of Content Creation. As a turnkey solution, Apple hardware and software is the platform of choice for amatuer, pro-am and professional creation, manipulation and consumption of print, images, video and sound. This is clearly seen in their generally excellent digital lifestyle application suite, iLife. What’s more, the iLife applications are artfully tied together with their online consumer service, .Mac, which makes it easy to share/present/etc the content created in iLife on the Internet.

In the other corner, we have Google, current King of Content Retrieval. Looking for anything ever published online? It’s a safe bet that Google can help you find it as or more effectively (in aggregate) than any other single search provider.

And here (finally, dear reader) is where things get interesting.

Much of Google’s internal development and acquisition strategy appears to be focused on vertical (backward) integration; that is, focused on content creation tools, creating a virtuous cycle with its search and advertising offerings, and of course fueling user lock-in and profiling:

Blogger.com (Pyra Labs) – Acquisition. Blogs. All about self-expression, creating and publishing content.

Gmail – Internal Development. Email. Content creation, sharing and receiving.

Picasa (Idealab) – Acquisition. Sure, the photos are “created” on the camera, but Picasa gives them a bridge, and represents their first real consumer software offering (toolbars don’t count in my book, sorry) and is on par with Apple’s iPhoto.

Naturally, this also begs the question of forward integration, into content consumption, beyond search result pages and your Gmail inbox.

Browser? Email Client? Yeah, sure, Google could go there. But Why?

I’ll put a stake in the ground and say that they “get” the content lifecycle, and will continue to move up and down its value chain to feed (off) their core competency: search.

And where might that leave Apple? Hard to say, but it doesn’t seem to point to a happy place. Apple charges for software and services (enjoying far better margins than on its non-iPod hardware), and it seems unlikely that Google will want or need too; rather, they’ll focus on their virtuous cycle and monetize via search.

Apple’s search strategy? Well, they’ve talked about desktop search, but I’ve read nothing about web search.

2006 King of Content? A toss-up for now, but the next six months should be pretty telling.

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