The most interesting debate about the iPad's impact on the tech industry is around the coming clash with Google. The iPad clearly has the potential to replace at least one of our computer use-cases (eg the laptop in the kitchen/living room). In the past week, it dawned on me how radical the threat to Google really is.
Back in the dark days of blogging (over 3 years ago!), I wrote that Google was increasingly about navigation rather than search. In 2006, 5 of the top 10 Google searches were navigation shortcuts like 'Facebook' or 'Bebo' rather than searches for discoverable information. Google was fast becoming the gateway to the Web, ie the browser itself.
Fast-forward to 2009, and by now nearly all top 10 Google searches are not search terms (see right). Google's primary use by consumers is as a navigation aid. This means that the biggest risk to Google's traffic is people finding other ways to navigate to their favourite content. Google recognised this threat on the iPhone/iPod platform, and responded by launching its own phone and phone OS.
But the iPad poses an altogether more serious threat -- if a proportion of PC useage migrates to the iPad, and people use apps to navigate directly to their content without passing Google, then the volume of Google searches could be seriously impacted. Joe Mele of Razorfish describes the effect here.
It's unclear to me how this would impact Google's ability to monetise search -- none of the 'navigation' searches actually carry any Google Ad-Words alongside, so they are not monetised directly. But the traffic they generate must contribute to Google ad pricing. Perhaps someone with a better grasp of the Google Economy can enlighten us here?
The second part of Apple's assault on its former ally is the launch of the iAd platform to deliver adverts through apps. Whereas Google isn't even monetising its Top 10 searches, Apple is offering developers a way to monetise the destination sites themselves, and taking a 40% cut of ad revenue to boot (more than Google takes from its AdSense partners).
What these ads will look like, how they will be received by consumers, and whether they will be a big business for Apple all remain to be seen. But it's a clear poke in Google's eye, with no clear way for the search giant to retaliate.
The only way Google can now prevent Apple from eating into its browser/home page share and related search and ad revenue is to fight Apple on the platform itself. Thanks to Apple's contrarian approach to vertical integration, we have come full circle: control of the endpoint is important again.
iPhone vs Android? I know where I'm putting my money...