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New game: Apple = Microsoft = Google?

At Amsterdam’s Schipol airport, I noticed something I had predicted early last year, but am yet to see in India – an MP3 digital music player pre-loaded with songs in genres such as classical, country and lounge, writes N Madhavan.

india Updated: Apr 11, 2010 20:59 IST
N Madhavan

At Amsterdam’s Schipol airport, I noticed something I had predicted early last year, but am yet to see in India – an MP3 digital music player pre-loaded with songs in genres such as classical, country and lounge. I had thought it would be a logical extension of the industry, because increasingly, the digital technology game is less about the machine but more about what you put in it.

Even as I was mulling on this “Content Is King” thing, within days of launching the iPad slate computer machine, Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the iAd platform. In the days since the April 3 launch, iPad has sold 450,000 units, but more important, some 600,000 e-books had been downloaded for it, and 3.5 million applications sold.

Jobs next effort is to link ads to the consumption of everything from news to software applications and share 60 per cent of it with developers. He expects one billion ad impressions per day.

Now, go back to the times when Google was just a search engine. Then it found a way to make money through its advertisements built around search results, and has since come up with revenue models for both bloggers and content producers and later for developers who create Google Labs applications.

I think it is only a question of time before Google, which is producing mobile phones based on its Android platform comes out with its own iPad-like slate device.

Meanwhile, Microsoft (which already has an advertising platform as well as a search engine in Bing) is slowly unveiling details on its planned “Pink Phone” – billed as a killer of Apple’s iPhone. Google offers essential software for downloads among goodies that a free e-mail Gmail account can get you. Microsoft has gone way beyond its Windows platform age.

So, whether it is the digital player or the slate computer, the game is shifting to content, and Apple, Google and Microsoft are beginning to resemble each other – with all of them doing a similar mix.

What if Apple’s developers gang up to create their own search engine? I won’t be surprised. This is how things move in a game that I call the Other Convergence.

Nokia is my wild card in this. Before the year is through, I expect it to come up with an alliance with Microsoft or its own service platform that goes beyond selling applications on the Web.