Eyeball to eyeball

In the Magazine

Not since the Cold War have two worldwide titans gone head-to-head with such spiteful vigor as in the running battle between Google and Apple. At stake is the post-Microsoft world in which mobile and apps have inherited the valuable ground once firmly held by PCs.

The latest front in the Geek Wars is more than the short-lived Battle of the Maps, in which Apple tried and spectacularly failed to oust Google Maps as the world’s favorite go-to tool for getting from point A to point B. In that humiliating defeat, Apple packed up its tents and retreated from the field. Richard Williamson, the general who presided over that debacle, was put before an Apple firing squad.

But the Battle of the Maps was a skirmish. Still smarting, Apple has quietly dropped Google’s YouTube from its latest iPhone, the just-released iOS 7, in favor of its own Vimeo app, in a bid to steal Google’s lucrative screentime audience. 

The figures tell their own story: More than 1 billion unique visitors watch more than 6 billion hours of YouTube videos a month, up from about 4 billion hours a month last year. That’s an audience well worth fighting for.

Vimeo, meanwhile, has one tenth of that. According to industry traffic site, YouTube attracted 175 million viewers in August and Vimeo just 18, so there is all to play for. By obliging its new iPhone users to use Vimeo, Apple hopes to win over Google’s audience by default. 

By leveraging its phone dominance into the videosphere, Apple is set to deal a severe blow to Google. In the first weekend following Apple’s iOS 7’s release, more than 200 million people downloaded the software, which allows users to share videos and photographs from their camera or library with a single touch. They soon discovered they could not sync their iPhone with their YouTube account as easily as they could with advertisement-free Vimeo.

Meanwhile, Google is making good progress in winning smartphone users from Apple. Google’s Android OS overtook Apple’s iOS in 2011 and continues to gain market share. The two companies also compete over laptops and software. 

The big Apple-Google battle looming is over wearable technology, with Google Glass – smart spectacles – going up against Apple iWatch, the ultimate smart timepiece. Geeks, take your corner.

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