When historians write up 2007, they will surely highlight three things. Of course there's the subprime mortgage disaster and the reunion of the Spice Girls (a subprime pop group?), but my topic here is the mega marketing clash of the huge tech titans.
I've been in tech for some years now, but unless it's a case of the nearer the clearer, I can't recall such furiously fought marketing battles.
The last big battles, by popular concensus, were won by Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Google's search. They appeared to trounce the competition, the first by anticompetitive practices according to the European Union, and the second by peer-beating capability. Do you recall an advert for IE or Google?
But now, possibly as the functional differentiation narrows between competing products and services, the marketing strategy becomes more important than ever. There's increasing emphasis on depositioning, the skill with which one organisation can take the wind out of the competitor's sails.
And that takes me to this afternoon's anticipated Google announcement. Just days before the iPhone is due to debut in markets outside the US, just weeks before consumers consider their Christmas mobile phone options, Google calls a press conference. The message (I think!)... Google owns mobile too.
Now I might be putting my neck on the line here, and we'll know within hours, but I don't think this is the launch of a much-rumoured GPhone, but the official announcement of the very fact that a GPhone project exists and what they're planning. And why? Just to keep the Google momentum going.
With no real success since search (1998) and maps (2005), Google has had to rely on simple World dominance to sustain share of voice; no small thing of course! But, as 9 years have passed since the last major search engine innovation (Google's pagerank algorithm) and as Google makes 80 per cent of its profits from ads served on its search page, they must be nervous that someone could sweep their lead away. Remember Alta Vista? (See Newsweek's "Searching for a better search engine" for an incisive summary of the search market.)
And Google isn't the only example I could have taken here. Microsoft finds itself in a similar position, as do Dell and Yahoo!
There's a lot riding on tech marketing in 2008. Long regarded part of the armoury for attacking a market, it's now needed as much for defence as offence in tech markets.
Update 18:03 GMT
Yep, Google has announced their new wireless initiative, due second half of 2008.
"SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 5 — Google took its long-awaited plunge into the wireless world today, announcing that it is leading a broad industry alliance to transform mobile phones into powerful mobile computers that could accelerate the convergence of computing and communications.
Mobile phones based on Google’s software are not expected to be available until the second half of next year...."