Google takes on Apple with phone

Sergey Brin has been busy promoting Google's computerised glasses, part of the new battleground of wearable processing power.  Photo / AP
Sergey Brin has been busy promoting Google's computerised glasses, part of the new battleground of wearable processing power. Photo / AP

Google is growing up. This may seem a strange thing to say about a company that has long been one of the most profitable digital enterprises. But until now Google's software success has been achieved on machines made by other people.

While its products reach around the world, they do so virtually.

But all that is changing.

This August, Google will begin recruiting 2000 workers for a plant in Texas. From here, it will make what it claims are the only United States-assembled smartphones.

Google is ready to take on Apple in every way - not only with its already-bestselling Android phone software, but by designing and assembling a machine to run it.

And, as Apple begins to look like it is running out of ideas, Google is eager to prove it can become the new digital game-changer.

In 2011, when Google bought the ailing US handset maker Motorola, everyone assumed it was for the patents.

It was thought the manufacturing business would be auctioned off once Google had extracted the intellectual property needed to protect Android from lawsuits.

But Google's plan was much more ambitious. Apple's success has been built on being able to control both the hardware and the software. Now Google will go one better - it will control the manufacturing too, by bringing it closer to home.

Has Google grown up enough to become the new Apple? The search engine created by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, by sucking in the world's information and making it retrievable, has shaken the media industry.

And despite being launched after Apple's iOS phone software, Android has become the international standard. Three-quarters of the smartphones sold in the first three months of this year run it.

This year, the two companies will go head to head. Apple is overhauling iOS, and the current rumour is that it will release updated versions of everything from iPads and iPhones to its music store iTunes at a big-bang event in September.

Motorola's relaunch will be before October with the futuristic Moto X - a phone so clever it can guess what its owner wants to do next.

But technology's new battleground is not the small screen in your pocket. It is wearable processing power - the computerised glasses Brin is sporting at catwalk shows and Oscar parties in the hope of making them fashionable, the smart-watch Apple is reportedly developing.

Google's founders have proved they can, like Apple, create disruptive technology that works. But Steve Jobs added a flair for design and presentation that made his products desirable.

Apple's stores are built to feel like palatial art galleries. If Google had retail outlets they would be more likely to look like a cheap and cheerful supermarket.

- Observer

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