Is Google Trying to Steal Apple's Tablet Buzz?

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Are Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) set to become the tech sector's version of the Hatfields and McCoys for the next decade? It's beginning to look like it.

Go back in time a couple of years, and the idea seemed pretty farfetched. After all, the two companies' core businesses didn't (and still don't) intersect with each other, and they'd formed a healthy software partnership for the iPhone, with Google Maps and YouTube coming pre-installed on the device. If anything, Apple and Google looked like allies dealing with a common enemy in the form of that monopoly-wielding colossus up the coast, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) .

But today, Microsoft has to look like a toothless giant to both of these firms, with Zune, Windows Mobile, and its search endeavors all more or less having flopped. And all the while, the Apple-Google relationship has slowly gone from being friendly, to ambivalent, to outright hostile.

On one hand, we've got Apple trying hard to limit Google's presence on the iPhone: Its continued blocking of Google Voice has produced an FCC inquiry, and its summer acquisition of Placebase is widely seen as being done with the idea of having Placebase's software eventually replace Google Maps. And on the other hand, Google's Android platform, after starting off slowly, is emerging as the iPhone's most credible rival in the consumer smartphone space. Motorola's (NYSE: MOT  ) Droid, while overhyped as an "iPhone killer," is nonetheless off to a decent start, and 2010 should see a slew of Android phones arrive courtesy of Samsung, LG, Sony Ericsson, HTC, and maybe even Google itself.

So it should only be a little surprising to hear that Google now appears on the verge of delivering a competitor to what must be the most hyped and speculated-upon product this side of the first Star Wars prequel. Yes, I'm talking about the Apple tablet.

British site IBTimes recently reported that Google is developing a "netbook" whose specifications just happen to include a multi-touch display, a solid-state drive, an NVIDIA (Nasdaq: NVDA  ) Tegra multimedia processor, and 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity. With a feature set like that, and a reported $300 price tag (presumably with the help of Google or carrier subsidies), it's not hard to figure out which device Google's hardware would be directly targeting. Well aware of how it's playing catch-up in the smartphone market, it looks like Google doesn't want to be late to the tablet wars.

But there's quite a difference between being on time for a battle and being ready. Apple has done a phenomenal job of creating buzz for its tablet while hardly uttering an official word, and as long as the price is reasonable, that buzz should translate into strong initial sales. And more importantly, it's been reported that the tablet will be able to run the same apps that are written for the iPhone and iPod Touch, provided that they're modified to handle the tablet's higher resolution. This should guarantee a huge edge in available apps over Google's device, which is supposed to be based not on Android, but the company's recently developed ChromeOS.

If Google's engineers can develop an easy-to-use tablet with solid performance -- history tells me they're up to the task -- then it should gain a following at its reported price tag. But as is the case with smartphones, Google will probably be staring at an uphill battle against its new best enemy.

Eric Jhonsa still remembers the sense of awe produced by his first Google searches. He has no position in any of the companies mentioned. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection. Apple and NVIDIA are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. Motley Fool Options recommended a diagonal call strategy on Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Fool's disclosure policy watches out for you.

Read/Post Comments (11) | Recommend This Article (6)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2009, at 4:35 PM, Uruzone wrote:


    So first were the rumors of the Apple tablet device (but no confirmation from Apple). Then there were rumors of the unconfirmed device's release date, specifications and features. Now we have similar speculation about a Google tablet device with its own unconfirmed features, offered at a price point that someone pulled out of a hat. To cap it all off, we now witness the creation of an imaginary rivalry over the two unconfirmed, non-existent devices.

    Fabrication upon speculation upon rumor.

    At the risk of sounding cliche, what the heck happened to journalism? If you have nothing fact-checked to report, please close your laptop and go for a bike ride. It'll save a lot of us the time and trouble of reading editorial fiction in places where we expect news.

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2009, at 6:22 PM, dileepkrp wrote:

    Agree with the previous comment. Useless piece of article. The author proclaims Zune, Windows Mobile and Bing "flops" already. In his dictionary anything without 70% marketshare might be a flop. Somebody needs to fill your brains up with Business intelligence - I think Microsoft without Zune, Windows Mobile & Bing would be a huge flop since that's where the future is, and we are just scratching the surface. It would be foolish for Microsoft to not have products in this space. And from what I heard Zune HD is a really really good music player. not sure about Windows Mobile but they still have as much market share as iPhone. About bing, I personally think Google is so 70s compared to the Bing experience.

    Anyway, coming back to the article... dear author/Motley Fool - there are better ways to capture audience interest than a fabricated story based on no proof with assumptions pulled out of the author's..........err.... hat. I wish I get paid for writing non sense.

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2009, at 7:02 PM, plange01 wrote:

    google is nothing more than a online phone book desperate to be like apple....

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2009, at 7:58 PM, Fool wrote:

    The tablet will be a huge financial success.

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2009, at 8:01 PM, Fool wrote:

    Funny how that toothless giant has double and triple the revenue and profit of both of these companies. MS and Apple will bury Google. They should have played nice with Apple and maybe they stand a chance to be relevant in the future. Once someone bites into their only source of income (ads) they will fall while Apple and that so called toothless giant keep making money.

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2009, at 9:42 PM, ereaderuniverse wrote:

    Have some comments about your favorite readers?

    Maybe some cool video or pics you’d like to add to our community?

    Share with us here:

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2009, at 10:19 PM, shawnago wrote:
  • Report this Comment On December 30, 2009, at 12:20 AM, rfaramir wrote:

    The Droid is honorable competition, at best.

    Apple's tablet is likely about to become real, while Google's is a twinkle in an eye, at best.

    Google and Apple are best frenemies.

    I like Google, and nearly love Apple.

    I'm long AAPL.

    Rumor-mongering is fine, but be clear that that is what it is.

  • Report this Comment On December 30, 2009, at 1:36 PM, plange01 wrote:

    google is just a online phone book. when the hedge(trash) funds inflating its stock price move on like locusts they will disappear....

  • Report this Comment On January 01, 2010, at 2:33 PM, PulSamsara wrote:

    "About bing, I personally think Google is so 70s compared to the Bing experience."

    Is Microsoft still in business ? I thought they had gone under or had been bought up by an Indian investment group ? Hmmm...

  • Report this Comment On January 01, 2010, at 2:34 PM, PulSamsara wrote:

    Kiddies play in a sandbox.

    Go Android.

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