I’m not sure why Google, Apple and Microsoft all need to compete in all of each others’ lines of business. It seems to me that Apple’s incipient stranglehold on the mobile internet put Google into a “the best defense is a good offense” mode. This, in turn, caused Apple to respond in kind. In some more rational world, Apple would provide the platform, Google would provide ad services, and a million developers would provide content. I assume that someday we will arrive at that point, but the path to get there is murky.
One point I made two months ago bears repeating. In mobile advertising on the iPhone, Apple has something that nobody else does: they know who you are. They have software on your computer that connects to your phone and to the internet. They also probably have your credit card number and address. They can link behavior between your mobile, your web and your real life*. This puts everyone else trying to target ads at a massive disadvantage. It is also a privacy nightmare.
[Update: Read Greg Yardley’s take on the deal.]
* I don’t know if this is true or not of Google on Android devices. Anyone?