In 2007, Apple rocked the tech world with the announcement of the iPhone, featuring a single button on a 3.5-in. glass screen and an interface designed to be manipulated with fingers using touches and gestures. The iPhone, like the iPod before it, had access to all of the content in the iTunes/App Store as well as many specialized accessories. In 2010, Apple followed with the iPad, which has become a conduit for users who want to access a wide and still-developing media universe.
Google started in 1996 as a collaboration between two Stanford computer science grad students: Larry Page and Sergey Brin. The service was known as BackRub during its infancy; in 1997, the duo officially adopted the Google moniker.
During its first decade, Google made massive headway in the field of Internet search, an area that had remained relatively stagnant until its arrival. It wasn't until 10 years into its existence that the company really seemed ready to break out of the box.
Google's first steps into the media world happened in the fall of 2006, when Google announced it was acquiring a consumer video startup called YouTube. Then-CEO Eric Schmidt described the merger as a way for Google to provide "a compelling media entertainment service" for users, publishers and advertisers alike.
YouTube paved the way for a rapid expansion of Google's entertainment empire. The company announced its plans for the Android mobile operating system in 2007, with the first consumer handset -- the T-Mobile G1 -- launching a year later alongside the first incarnation of the Android Market.
And things didn't stop there: Google unveiled a Web-centric operating system called Chrome OS in 2009, a television platform called Google TV in 2010 and services for online movie and music streaming in 2011. With each move, the simple search box moved further into the background of Google's persona, although search itself remained at the core of the company's business.
"The search business isn't just about search -- it's about attention," says James McQuivey, a principal analyst with Forrester Research. "Google's newer ventures represent an expansion of the ways the company can get that."
In tech years, Microsoft is an ancient company, founded in 1975 -- nearly 40 years ago -- by Bill Gates and Paul Allen. Back then, the furthest thing on the founders' minds was anything related to entertainment -- they were focused on products such as a BASIC interpreter, and then (with a contract in late 1980 with IBM) on operating systems like PC-DOS. The earliest PCs that ran DOS were far from gaming machines; many games required that users install add-on boards such as those made by a company called Hercules.