Is Blink Bad News for Apple?

Fun aside, I think this post by Krzysztof Kowalczyk gets a lot right:

For Google the viability of the web is life or death situation and as such they’ll pour as much resources as necessary to make Blink work. In contrast, Apple is rumored to be pulling engineers from other projects and making them work on iOS 7, because iOS is late and iOS is the priority for them.

For Google, there will hardly be a higher priority project than Blink. It’s a foundation of pretty much everything else they do.

Which is why Apple is in a tight spot: if WebKit suddenly looses [sic] non-Apple contributions, they’ll have a hard time catching up with Blink. And while they really don’t care if web technologies advance quickly, they’ll be forced to at least keep pace with Mozilla and Google, both of which are putting the foot on the pedal recently.

The analysis is strong. This move does seem to put Apple in a tough spot. Consider their options:

  • Adopt Blink — Yeah right. The rendering engine is a fundamental piece of any OS, and Apple isn’t about to hand those keys over to Google; it’s the flipside of why Google, at least in my view, had no choice but to leave Webkit.
  • Match Blink Feature-for-Feature — Kowalczyk suggests Apple has to keep pace with Mozilla and Google, presumably for the sake of feature lists. Imagine is Blink had feature X, and Webkit did not! The geeks will riot…and normal users won’t care. Which means Apple will likely…
  • Fall Behind Blink — Yet remain the target rendering engine for web devs everywhere. Thanks in large part to the iPad, it doesn’t matter if Webkit falls behind, just like it didn’t matter that IE6 was an utter disaster (until it did, of course). Ultimately, it matters where the users are.

Google had to make this move; giving Apple veto power over a core component of their central strategic play going forward was untenable.

As for Apple, while this is a blow, they will be fine in the short to medium term (Oh, and wouldn’t it be something if Microsoft chose this moment to adopt Webkit?). If the iPad ever becomes an insignificant player, they’ll have much larger fish to fry.