Google and Apple have jousted on just about everything this year and tried to pretend they still love each other. So why should competition over the Lala and AdMob acquisitions be any surprise?
What's appeared to be a drama-free coexistence between Google and Apple these past few months has actually been a competitive minefield, where Apple and Google have both been eyeing the same acquisition targets. No surprises there, given the competitors involved, but according to reports, Apple's grab of Lala and Google's grab of AdMob could have been the other way around.
A report in The Wall Street Journal this week revealed Google had been wooing online music stream service Lala just before Apple pulled the trigger on its $85 million deal. In November, Google successfully nabbed mobile advertising upstart AdMob -- a company Apple was reportedly after -- for $750 million.
Both deals say much about how the two companies are encroaching on each other's turf. For one, Google's Android mobile OS is spreading like wildfire -- seen on some of the hottest smartphones of the year already -- and so is its mobile search platform.
On the other hand, Apple is already a music powerhouse with iTunes but lacks an online streaming platform. With Lala, probably the gem of the quickly consolidating online music streaming market, it gets one, and it can stave off potential competition from Google's similar One Box service. The Lala service -- which Apple may integrate into iTunes -- was treading water, and now it'll have a big-ticket innovator to prop it up.
Expect the competition to continue, with no shortage of escalating tension. Both Google and Apple are, according to their most recent financial statements, notably cash-rich. And no one's forgotten the year's earlier Apple-Google drama, which saw Google CEO Eric Schmidt resign from Apple's board and Apple CEO Steve Jobs comment on "potential conflicts of interest" as "Google enters more of Apple's core businesses."
Rest assured startups like Lala have picked up on the competitive vibes, too, and will continue to hang "for sale" signs in their windows in hopes of leveraging those vibes in their favor. It's working.