What do the floppy drive, the CD drive, and Adobe Flash all have in common?
Apple removed all of the following from at least one of its components, and life went on.
What’s even more interesting, however, is that by doing so Apple changed the mindset of the general public.
Removing the floppy drive sent a signal to the end users that the floppy was no longer the medium of the future.
Removing the CD drive from the Air highlighted a simple fact - we don’t need CDs anymore.
Removing Flash from the iOS has created a boom in HTML5 technology (particularly in the pre-App Store days).
And those are just a few of the products Apple has claimed to kill.
So how does this parallel with Google’s new rejection of H.264 in Chrome?
An ultimatum for the web, a test for Google
By removing H.264 from Chrome, Google’s sending the web an ultimatum - it’s them or H.264. Google’s betting on its clout as an internet giant (not to mention Chrome’s ridiculous growth) to change the way the internet views HTML5 video, much as Apple bet on its superior hardware to change the way the internet viewed video at all.
The bet comes at a crucial time for Google. Google as a company has been panned for hindering innovation through its corporate setting and is starting to look more like a stagnant brick and mortar company than the innovative startup it was when Page and Brin first started it.
The bet should also be pretty easy to win. On paper, all Google’s done is throw out a component of an emerging technology that no one’s really embraced yet. On top of that, it’s mostly concerned with the internet video arena - something Google already dominates.
But what if Google loses?
If Google wins, the general public probably won’t notice. The end user really doesn’t care whether he watches with Flash, Silverlight, HTML5 H.264, or even those awful Java applets. They just want to get their content. The developer will probably care more - they’ll see Google reinforce its role as a leader in technology.
But what if Google loses? The end user will most definitely notice; just like the consumer who bought the HD DVD player, so too will users be forced to shift away from Chrome. Home users have left browsers over far less important things than internet video. And developers? They’re going to be even less happy, having invested time and money into a technology that never worked (imagine developing for Microsoft Bob).
Clearly, this doesn’t mean that if Google succeeds, it will cement its role as leader of the internet, and that if it fails, it will perform a Yahoo-like slide to the gutter. But the results of and reaction to the bet will be an interesting litmus, to be sure.