It's iPad week on the Web: Thanks to Apple there are precious few items of technology news out there that aren't concerned with it. But that's got Amazon and Google in a tizzy, and they're trying to remind you they're newsworthy too.
First up is Google, with an odd little piece of news released via its Mac blog site. Its all about Google's capacity to store your email archive in the GMail cloud, via Google Apps—which has the advantage of "Gmail's threading interface" and the fact you can search "email from home, from work, and from any computer on the Internet." But notably, people's personal archives of e-mail other than Gmail will likely stretch back before Google Apps arrived. Those who use Gmail but wanted to take advantage of accessing, say, Eudora email history via Gmail, were stuck.
Until Google's Greg Robbins developed his "Google Email Uploader for Mac," which lets you "push your archives from Apple Mail, Eudora an Thunderbird up to your Google Apps email account." For the time being it can't do it directly to Gmail—only Google Apps mail—and there is already a similar system for Windows and Web mail-based accounts. But the Apple tag is the key here: Google's chosen this week to remind you it's got powerful tools that might be better than Apple's. And, of course, Google's cloud storage web-based email might well be accessible through that neat iPad thingy too.... Really though, like almost any other Google maneuver, this is about access to your data, in the hope of earning money: Google is hoping you'll do it, likely so it can trawl your digital archive and refine its user profiling powers.
Meanwhile Amazon's own Jeff Bezos, normally incredibly tight-lipped about the exact details of the Kindle's much-touted success in the e-reader game, chose to let slip a tiny—really tiny—fact about the Kindle's sales figures and those for e-books. It came during the company's extremely up-beat fourth quarter finances event, with Bezos saying: "Millions of people now own Kindles. And Kindle owners read, a lot. When we have both editions, we sell six Kindle books for every 10 physical books."
Considering Amazon's never before made mention of any sort of sales figure related to the Kindle, this is a bit like Leonardo da Vinci's ghost suddenly materializing to explain exactly how the Mona Lisa's smile works. It also implies that there are more Kindles out there than may have been expected—over at TechCrunch they've heard from an Amazon insider that Jeff's "millions" means about three million, beating expectations of 2.5 million sold by the end of this year. Clearly the huge majority of those are sales in the US only, since Amazon's only recently realized the rest of the world exists with its half-hearted International Kindle, but it's still impressive. As is that six-for-10 e-books figure, especially since it relates only to paid books, not free ones.
What's Jeff's agenda here? It's blindingly obvious. The iPad is, despite many commenters doubts on the matter, a very serious threat to the Kindle hardware. And though Amazon might be expecting to make a bundle on Kindle books sold via its iPhone app (and presumably iPad app, soon), Apple is also threatening that business model too, with its iBooks electronic bookstore. It's closely integrated with the iPad, and far prettier and more functional than Amazon's digital bookstore offering, with the promise of cleverer, more interactive e-books and better terms for publishers than Amazon offers too. So Mr. Bezos is rattling his saber a little: "Our Kindle is very successful! Don't write it off so quickly!" he's effectively saying. Whether or not this is an empty gesture, made too late in the day, is impossible to predict right now. Lets give it six months or so, and see how many e-books Apple reports sold—because we know that Apple at least loves talking about sales figures.