Apple vs.: Google and Android, Microsoft and Windows 8

As the spotlight shines on Apple and its annual Worldwide Developers Conference, which kicks off today, here’s a look at the company’s battle with Google‘s Android and Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8, which will fight Apple’s popular iOS.

• First, if it seems like the cool apps come to the iPhone and the iPad rather than Android smartphones and tablets, the New York Times explores why. The reasons it cites: Apple’s cultivation of its developers, who lined up starting Sunday night in San Francisco for what some say is the biggest conference of the year; developers say it’s easier and cheaper to develop for iOS rather than Android makers’ different versions; and iPad’s dominance in the tablet market so far.

One of Apple’s reveals today is expected to be an app that will replace Google Maps on iPhones and iPads — an important front in the smartphone war between the two Silicon Valley giants. As Brandon Bailey of the Mercury News reported last week when Google unveiled new bells and whistles for Google Maps, maps are among the most popular smartphone apps, and analysts predicted Google Maps could lose perhaps half of its mobile users because of Apple’s expected move to its own service.

• Then there’s Windows 8, the upcoming Microsoft operating system that will go head to head with Apple’s iOS and what it has wrought — the emergence of smartphones and tablets as a threat to PCs — and its possible effect not only on Microsoft and competitor Apple, but also on chip maker Intel and PC manufacturers. In Reuters‘ wrap-up of last week’s Computex trade show in Taiwan, it quotes UBS analyst Jonah Cheng: “Is [Windows 8] going to be a major resurrection? Well, at least it’ll help stop tablets from cannibalizing the PC laptop sector.”

Windows 8, which is expected to be released this fall, aims to marry a traditional PC desktop experience with a tablet interface called Metro. (See Peeking at Windows 8.) Some write that it’s a change so “radical” that people will hate it. Although Farhad Manjoo of Slate predicts some people will “grow to love,” Windows 8, he also says it’s “an enormous update that will sow turmoil in the lives of millions of people around the world.”

The Reuters article also says Windows 8 is a huge bet by Microsoft, Intel and PC makers. For Intel, Windows 8 not only represents a shift in its longtime relationship with Microsoft — which is allowing Windows 8 to also run on ARM chips — it’s also an important part of the Santa Clara chip maker’s long-awaited efforts in mobile. (See ARM wrestling: Intel finally putting up a fight in mobile.) As for PC makers, “Microsoft will live and die on how well the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers that include parts suppliers) implement the features of Windows 8,” Forrester principal analyst Frank Gillett told Reuters.


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