Clash of the tech titans: Apple versus Facebook. Will we have to pick a side?

By Harriet Piercy

Published Feb 15, 2021 at 03:50 PM

Reading time: 3 minutes

If Apple or Facebook ruled the world, separately, rather than in parallel as the tech giants arguably do today, whose team would you be on? Because that question may just be one we all have to ask, and pretty soon too. What exactly led to the feud, and what does it mean for both Apple and Facebook users?

What’s happening with Apple and Facebook?

Apple and Facebook, or rather their CEO’s—Tim Cook and Mark Zuckerberg—have been in a very public spat since the end of 2020. Well in truth, since as far back as 2018, although the years in between have been somewhat more ‘amiable’. The drama first became obvious in an interview during Facebook’s notorious Cambridge Analytical scandal, when Cook was asked how he would lead Apple if it were to face a similar crisis, to which Cook responded by batting the possibility away completely and saying his own company would never have found itself in such a jam. Zuckerberg shot back, and said Cook’s comments were “extremely glib” and “not at all aligned with the truth”. Behind Facebook’s closed doors, he was even harsher, “We need to inflict pain” he told his team, according to reports by The Wall Street Journal. Feisty, and it gets worse.

In January 2021 during Facebook’s earning call, Zuckerberg said that Apple will only grow into a bigger threat to the social media company and accused the opposition of using its platforms to interfere with how Facebook operates—specifically how it will affect the advertising industry, which Facebook relies heavily on.

Now, Apple is dialing up its pro-privacy stance with its intention to release an iOS and iPadOS feature that will require apps and data companies, such as Facebook, to ask for users’ permission before tracking them across other sites and websites. Cook tweeted that Apple simply wants to give users a choice about whether they wish to be tracked or not.

According to MacRumous, Facebook argued that Apple’s move was actually “about profit”, and that it will leave apps and websites with no choice but to charge subscription fees or add in-app purchases to make their ends meet, which in turn leads to an increased App Store revenue. Obviously, the tech giants have a dueling vision when it comes to the future of the internet, which is fundamentally what’s at stake here.

When looking at the two CEO’s on a personal level, Zuckerberg built Facebook on the concept of radical openness and global connectivity. Cook, on the other hand, is a deeply private man who climbed the Apple ladder as a specialist in supply chain logistics.

Apple in a sense has taken the role of the ‘protector of privacy’, and Facebook has become more of the support ‘small businesses enabler’, but all in all, that’s Facebook’s most humanitarian argument, which threatens its own existence. Facebook wants to monetise every possible device, and Apple wants every possible user to be holding their hardware. The market in which their share (us) will effectively, in the long run, have to choose between two similar dominators if the tech giant’s spew isn’t resolved. One product needs the other, but have incrementally different values, which may lead them to create their own version of the other’s product. This looks like it’s already starting.

The Facebook smart watch

Facebook is currently building a smart watch that looks an awful lot like Apple’s, and hopes to release it by 2022. The watch will allow users to send and receive messages using Facebook’s services. According to a report from The Information, “Facebook’s planned foray into smartwatches would inch the company further toward CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s aim of controlling the next computing platforms after smartphones.”

The report claims that the wearable technology will have its own cellular connection too, which will allow it to work independently of smartphone tethering. Initially it will run Android, but Facebook apparently is working on its own operating system in the longer run.

What the Facebook vs Apple clash could mean for mutual consumers

Over all, Facebook and Apple could realistically represent two very different kinds of consumer personalities, making the iOS vs Android conversation a little more serious. What I hope is that these two potentially separate platforms will not lead to further segregation in the literal conversations consumers potentially might have on their devices of either kind. I highly doubt that one will out rule the other, Facebook and Apple will continue, but I also can’t help but think—is their feud cracking open a previously impossible to access gap in the market? Do we, when thought of as the data they’re arguing over, have any say in it?

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