For many Windows devotees, the first experience with an Apple product came in the form of the Windows iPod. For starters, Steve Jobs made sure that the Mac faithful were the first ones to use the iPod, iTunes, and even the iTunes Music Store - in fact, he resisted making them available on Windows at all. Luckily for Apple, cooler heads prevailed, and iPod/iTunes became a little Apple oasis on Microsoft's operating system starting nearly ten years ago, in July 2002.
Windows still dominates operating system market share worldwide, but the numbers show Macs as gaining ground since then, although they vary quite a bit. Anecdotally, it can be hard to find anyone using Windows in many WiFi coffeeshops. Everywhere you look seem to be Macs. In part, this is because individual users choose Macs more often than large-scale enterprise buyers and IT departments do. Not coincidentally, individual users also buy iPods and iPhones, whereas enterprise departments aren't as involved in those decisions.
For years, the iPod - and now the iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV - have functioned as large-scale advertisements for all things Apple. If they can make a music player that great, the thinking goes, why not try their laptops, phones, and tablets?
Apple's next target: Android, Google's mobile operating system that grabbed 61 percent of U.S. smartphone purchases in the first quarter of the year, over Apple's 29 percent. Google accomplished this in large part by employing the same strategy Microsoft did to compete with Apple back in the day: licensing the operating system to a variety of hardware manufacturers.
This time, Apple has a different weapon, given that Android users have already chosen a different portable: leveraging its massive advantage in connecting smartphones and other entertainment-delivering devices to televisions and stereo systems with its Apple AirPlay technology.
As it turns out, Android apps can also stream to those same AirPlay devices. We were pretty surprised, the first time we found an app capable of bridging the gap from Google's smartphone operating system to Apple's proprietary AirPlay - however, once we did more digging, we put together the Top 7 Android Music Apps for Apple AirPlay, and had plenty of options to choose from.
Every day, for months, the most popular search terms to Evolver.fm have been "airplay android" and "android airplay." This is no coincidence. Android users are gravitating towards Apple AirPlay because Google is dropping the ball when it comes to connecting smartphones to home entertainment devices. And the same way Windows users "switched" to Apple after tasting the forbidden fruit that was the iPod, Android users who get their first taste of Apple via AirPlay could be similarly tempted. If they like what they taste, their next phone could be an iPhone, their next tablet an iPad.
Google's AirPlay problem could get even worse, now that Zapstreak has made an Android/AirPlay SDK (software development kit) to make it much easier for Android app developers to embrace Apple AirPlay. AirPlay is quickly becoming a standard for wireless audio and video in the home, even on Google's Android OS.
Weirdly, Google doesn't appear to have much of a strategy for dealing with this issue, other than waiting for other companies to try to solve its problem.
After I spoke at a conference in Cannes, France earlier this year, I happened to catch an airport shuttle with two senior Google staffers who are involved with the company's music initiatives. Fighting back the hangover I acquired on the final night of the event, I swiveled around in my seat to mention that, even back then, "android airplay" was the top search term on Evolver.fm, as it continues to be.
Their response, possibly meant in jest: "What is AirPlay?"
If they don't already know, they'll find out soon enough.