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Apple vs. Google Part Deux: Social Networks And The "Battle For The Living Room"

Most of Apple’s announcements yesterday were anticipated. Still there were a few surprises; for example the specifics of the iTunes-based social network Ping, as well as the pricing of Apple TV 2.0 ($99). Apple pre-empted Google to some degree with both products.

Business Insider does a nice job of contrasting the two TV initiatives and their differing strategies. In a nutshell, Google wants to bring the internet to the living room in all its unruly glory, while Apple is bringing a more elegant and limited version of internet content to TV. Apple TV is mostly focused on professional entertainment (though it does offer YouTube) in the form movies and TV, with structured content relationships that include ABC, Fox and Netflix, in addition to iTunes.

The two approaches are something of a mirror of the differences between Android’s “open” market and the more controlled iTunes app store. One could contrast Google’s “Dionysian” vs. Apple’s “Apollonian” approach — or should I say “Apple-onian”?

Apple CEO Steve Jobs told the audience that “[People] don’t want a computer on their TV . . .” (a not-so-indirect reference to Google’s strategy). JobsĀ  also took aim at Google’s Android activation figures (200,000 units daily). He said, “We think some of our friends are counting upgrades in their numbers” as he reported Apple iOS activations of 230,000 devices a day.

Google later in the day responded:

The Android activation numbers do not include upgrades and are, in fact, only a portion of the Android devices in the market since we only include devices that have Google services.

The percentage of Android devices that don’t offer Google services is relatively tiny but growing.

This activations debate is reminiscent of the old search index size debates between Google and Yahoo that went on for several months, with each claiming to have the larger index until they got tired of it.

But more interesting than the activation tit-for-tat is how Apple may have created something in Ping that Google aspires to create but may not be able to.

Google has been hiring and investing to build what appears to be a social gaming destination as the basis (or partial basis) for its new social media strategy. (Apple also announced social gaming for the iPhone and iPod Touch yesterday.) My guess is that “Google Me” is bigger than games but games seems to be the “hook” or near-term focus.

There are many people who flat out don’t believe that Google can succeed in taking on Facebook or building a successful social network. I don’t reside in that camp but many among the blognescenti do.

Leveraging its 160 million iTunes users, Apple may have created a social network, built around music, that will successfully coexist with Facebook and Twitter. It may also be a death blow to MySpace (we’ll see). I suspect that Ping will be very successful regardless.

Google will be trying to do something similar but without the installed user base and natural audience for its offering (beyond Google users generally). So in addition to phones, browsers, music, games and TV, you can add social networking to the Apple-Google competitive matrix.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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