Google Pushes On iPhone Apps

Google's Sundar Pichai reveals why the company makes apps for Apple's iPhone but not for Microsoft's Windows Phone.
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7 Slick Siri Alternatives
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Sundar Pichai, the man behind Google's Android and Chrome platforms, revealed on Thursday that the company is preparing a version of its Google Music All Access application for the Apple iPhone. Google Music All Access allows people to create and stream radio stations in their browser, as well as on Android devices. It also incorporates the user's own music library, and it makes sharing and discovery fairly simple. Pichai said the iOS version of the app would be ready within a month.

Google Music All Access is just the latest in a long line of applications that Google has ported from its Android platform to Apple's competing iOS platform. Other apps that appear on both platforms include Chrome, Hangouts, Google+, Gmail, YouTube, Google Maps, Google Search/Now, Google Voice, and so on. AllThingsD's Walt Mossberg asked Pichai why Google would do this when Apple does not reciprocate.

"In Google's DNA, we wanted to be universally accessible," answered Pichai. "The goal with search was to make it work for everyone in the world, and I think that philosophy extends today. We brought Google Now to iOS. A couple weeks from now we will launch Google Play Music All Access for iOS, the teams are working like crazy to do it. We care about reaching users all over the world, including the five billion users who don't have smartphones today. It's a difference in approaches."

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Pichai's comments fall in line with what I wrote on May 8: There are more than 100 million iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad users out there. Google is an advertising company, and it can't ignore that many eyeballs.

There's a flip side to this coin, however, and that is Apple's approval of Google's iOS apps. Given the numerous lawsuits being staged around the globe between Apple and Google's hardware partners, why would Apple give Google a foothold with its customers through apps?

It has to.

Apple might have its own Maps app, browser, messaging service, and its own email service, but were Apple to block iOS users from using Google's numerous online services, its customers might flee to Android. Apple has already lost the market share battle with Android and it can't lose too much more. Apple CEO Tim Cook may say publicly that Apple doesn't want to have the most sales, it wants to make the best products, but at the end of the day Apple's iPhone business represents a huge portion of its revenue.

Mossberg was smart enough to follow up his question about iOS apps with a query about apps for BlackBerry and Windows Phone. Pichai's response was telling: "We want to reach as many people as possible. For platforms that don't have that many users at scale, we have great HTML5 apps. If they get more users, we will make apps."

In other words, the measly 4% or 5% of the smartphone market that Windows Phone calls its own doesn't represent enough in terms of raw users for Google to bother. The sad part is this boils down to a chicken-or-egg problem. Many people might be more inclined to use Windows Phone (or BlackBerry) if more Google apps and/or services were available to the platform. Pichai didn't indicate what the magic number is that will convince it to begin coding Windows Phone and BlackBerry apps.

In the meantime, Microsoft is left scrambling to write its own YouTube app for Windows Phone so that its users have at least one tie-in to the Google universe.