Even a year ago, most would have scoffed at the idea of Apple having to partner with Microsoft to fight off Google.  Google and Apple even shared two Directors, including Google CEO, Eric Schmidt.  Microsoft, on the other hand, has been Apple’s traditional rival since Windows was released two decades ago.

What a difference a year makes.  As RWW and PCWorld point out, the idea isn’t as far fetched now.  Apple and Google are no longer friendly, no longer share directors and most importantly now compete in key areas.  Apple’s most important product for the future is the iPhone platform and Microsoft is hardly competing in this area.  Google, on the other hand, seems to be the up and coming threat to Apple’s iPhone.

This rivalry has been getting nasty lately with Google swopping in and picking up Admob before Apple could buy it, then Apple buying Lala after Google started making bids.   Before that, Apple turned down Latitude and Google Voice (and Navigation?) on the iPhone.  Google has started to release its products on Android first, if not on Android-only.  Apple bought Placebase this year, according to some, to replace Google Maps on its iPhone platform.

Google also has a new laptop OS on the way that will run a WebKit based Chrome browser which could compete with OSX/Safari.  They also have free office apps which compete with Apple’s paid-for platform.  Speaking of paid services, Google offers a free alternative to Apple’s MobileMe.   Microsoft also competes in these fields but it might make sense for the two giants to fend off the up-and-comer at some point.

Microsoft and Apple already have done work on the iPhone to support Exchange, while Google Apps is more difficult to get working natively on the iPhone.

Would it surprise anyone to see Apple offer Bing as a search alternative in Safari?  How about Microsoft building iPhone versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint?  That’s only the beginning.

If Google continues to encroach on the two giants’ main revenue generators, I’d expect to see much more ‘cooperation between Cupertino and Redmond.

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