As this year's WWDC (Worldwide Developer Conference) approaches, Apple fans are furiously speculating on what kind of news will be dropped on us in San Francisco. We already know about the Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard preview, and no doubt Apple CEO Steve Jobs will have something to say about the iPhone. But from what I know about the players and the IT landscape, I think Jobs has another "just one more thing" up his sleeve.
[ For the latest from the show, read Tom Yager’s Enterprise Mac blog. ]
I've been looking at what Apple and its partners need to do to fill gaps in their product line-up. At the moment, I think the Macintosh platform's biggest weakness is its reliance on Microsoft Office for productivity software. Microsoft has always built solid products for Mac -- but they were always just a bit behind or somehow incompatible with their Windows equivalents. Entourage does 90 percent of what Outlook does, but it lacks features right where it hurts: In enterprise settings. Word for Mac doesn't have the same Macro or OOXML support as the PC version. PowerPoint files are still not 100 percent compatible between platforms.
Basically, Apple and its customers get the short end of the Microsoft stick.
Add to that the industry move toward Web 2.0 applications and Cloud computing -- and a number of other recent shifts in the technology landscape -- and you have a climate for change. I don't think Apple wants to wait on Microsoft to delegate how its business applications will work.
In fact, I think Apple would like to move forward with a leading-edge partner like, say, Google and create business rather than follow in it.
That's why I think Jobs will take the stage at WWDC next week and announce that Apple and Google are going to team up to bring Google Apps to .Mac customers.
Let's connect some dots and see what picture emerges:
In a recent stockholder meeting, Jobs admitted that .Mac has hasn't achieved its full potential but said the company is working on it.
Eric Schmidt, Google CEO and a member of the Apple Board, has said there are a lot of Apple-Google partnerships to come because both companies have "common competitors." Hmmmm. Microsoft is a common competitor, and its bread and butter -- aside from Windows -- is Office. We've already seen a flurry of Google Applications for Macintosh, plus GMaps and Gmail on the iPhone, so why not Google Docs and Spreadsheets integrated into .Mac? Seems like a perfect fit.
Using iChat as a guide, we know that another network -- AOL -- allowed .Mac users to use their own firstname.lastname@example.org address as their AOL Instant Messenger screen name. Google could do the same thing in Apps. Perhaps the whole mac.com domain would be ported to Google Apps.
Google has lots of cheap, fast space. It also has the ability and desire to search it and advertise on it (monetize it).
Gmail has won the battle against .Mac's mail for most Macintosh users. As for calendar/IM/address book integration, disk space, and spam detection, Google wins most of the battles hands down. Google spends $5 per domain for Apps users through its Adsense subsidiary. It wants more non-paying users, and Apple would be happy to offload its .Mac users. Those users, who pay $100 a year as .Mac members, could get a premium version of Google Apps with desktop backups and larger file space as well as the benefits they currently enjoy. Apple's focus is on hardware and software. It should -- and should want to -- stick with what it does best.