Google, meet Apple. Apple, meet Google.
Oh, you two already know each other? Great! Time for the two of you to hurry up and tie the knot, then. Or at least start working together.
It’s easy to see why tech fantasists root for a future tie-up between the two companies. Their fan bases would view a Google (nasdaq: GOOG – news – people )-Apple (nasdaq: AAPL – news – people ) collaboration like a super group, all-star sports team or celebrity romance–all in one.
And the children would be beautiful. Imagine a Google integrating its search prowess deep into Apple’s slick operating system. Or iPods that come loaded with Google maps, plugged into a wi-fi system powered by the search giant.
Or lower your expectations, and simply imagine what would happen if Apple integrated Google’s YouTube into the Apple TV product it shipped this spring. Suddenly the device, which has received respectful reviews but little buzz, becomes much more compelling.
So how realistic is a joint project? On the one hand, Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs is famously devoted to controlling whatever product his company releases. On the other, the two companies have already been flirting for quite a while. Last year Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt joined the Apple board, and Genentech (nyse: DNA – news – people ) Chief Executive Arthur Levinson also sits on the boards of both companies.
Granted, a seat on the board doesn’t guarantee anything beyond a seat on the board: Oracle (nasdaq: ORCL – news – people ) chief executive Larry Ellison sat on Apple’s board until 2002, and his spot didn’t result in a slew of Oracle-inspired Apple gadgets.
But Schmidt has a habit of raising expectations of some kind of collaboration with blog-stoking quotes like, “Google and Apple are doing more and more things together through the normal course of communications. … We have similar goals and similar competitors.”
Listen to the Google guys and you figure it’s already a love affair. A group of Apple devotees from Google recently made a visit to Apple’s campus to gawk and eat lunch. After a chance sighting of Jobs at the salad bar with industrial design guru Jonathan Ive, the Google guys were floored. The official Google blog says it all: “Our Google group and many other folks stopped eating long enough to follow the two rock stars around the room for a while.”
Apple has already made a Google search box the default search engine of choice in the Safari browser that comes with all Mac computers.
Further Google-Apple collaborations seem inevitable, and AppleTV plus YouTube content partnership is only one of the possibilities. We’ve wracked our brains to come up with the most desirable, lucrative and fanciful offspring the two companies could create. You won’t find a Google-Apple mobile phone on our list. That’s because it’s already here–the upcoming Apple iPhone will already feature integrated Google maps and search. Of course, Yahoo!‘s (nasdaq: YHOO – news – people ) also onboard the iPhone with a mal application, thus diluting potential for Google-Apple phone branding.
Neither do we think Apple’s iTunes store will be filled with Google advertising any time soon. If Jobs wanted to make money that way, he would have done so long ago, we figure.
Instead, we’ve listed combinations that follow both companies’ paths down the road a little bit, and a lot. Google’s got a robust desktop search product while Apple has the less functional Spotlight tool in Mac OSX. We imagine Google’s desktop offering integrated into Apple’s operating system. On the wilder side, Google’s got in-Game advertising through recent acquisition AdScape, while Apple is reportedly recruiting game-design students. Could the iPhone or another platform become a Google-supported gaming system? Even further along, we can see the makings of a sight-seeing product for tourists based off GPS-powered iPods that take advantage of Google maps.
Why not? Stranger things have happened. What at one time seems impossible from Apple, can indeed become a reality. Who would have ever thought that Macs would one day run Windows, or Intel (nasdaq: INTC – news – people ) chips? And against all odds, the iPhone turned out to be real, and it’s almost here.