The specter of Apple lingers at Google's developer conference.
One of the first things Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced during the company's Google I/O developer conference this year was a pair of new messaging apps, Allo and Duo, that aim to simplify the chat experience across text and video.
Later, Pichai announced Google Home, a new way to experience Assistant, a direct interface into Google's growing database of knowledge and experience on the web.
Finally, Daydream, Google's most recent virtual reality volley, purports to commodify mobile VR into something a bit more hardy than Cardboard, while keeping costs well below that of newcomers (and PC-tethered) Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.
While, in years past, most of Google's antics would be Android-first and other later, this year it was taken for granted that all of the company's major product releases would include iOS in some form, though the hardware-specific nature of Daydream headsets may prevent that from happening.
Increasingly, Apple is a silent companion at Google's developer conference, a consequence of Pichai's emphasis less on siloed platform and more on machine learning-powered experiences that extend beyond any one particular device or ecosystem.
Increasingly, Apple is a silent companion at Google's developer conference
From a practical perspective, Allo and Duo were both announced with simultaneous Android and iOS releases (slated for later this summer), while Google Home, like OnHub before it, was sold as a voice-based companion for anyone, irrespective of smartphone availability. While Google didn't explicitly state it, Home's front-end will likely be an app that lives on either app store; its true brain will be platform-agnostic, on Google's cloud.
Recent projects like GBoard, a custom keyboard exclusive to iOS, prove that as important as Android is to Google's broad goals, Apple's affluent and significantly North American user base factors considerably into Google's product roadmap. That extends to more audacious projects like Daydream, which despite launching on Android N later this year, will come to iOS shortly thereafter.
There is a sufficient business reason to move forward with roadmaps that include iOS every time.
Indeed, Google has an advantage in optimizing Daydream for iOS, since there are far fewer handsets to certify for the platform. On Android, Google is setting script limits on compatible devices based on performance, screen resolution, and sensors present.
Google's consistent and overt support of iOS over the past few years is more about maintaining its dominance in the search and services space than any overt love for the platform. But it is clear that there is a sufficient business reason to move forward with roadmaps that include simultaneous releases on both platforms, even when, with the other hand, it continues to tout Android's dominant market share.