However, Apple can tweak its strategy without competing head-on against Google, Sterling said. He said Apple’s Siri voice assistant and its new maps software offer a type of search. And as tensions rise with Google, it could change the Safari search engine to Microsoft’s Bing, or another.
Analysts say it remains unclear to what degree device makers will try to block out competing browsers, and if this will trigger a government response. In the 1990s, Microsoft’s efforts to lock out competing browsers prompted actions on both sides of the Atlantic.
The battle for control of the mobile Web raises questions about Facebook, which is groping for a mobile strategy after a troubling response to its massive share offering.
One report said Facebook was eying Opera, which could solve some of the perceived problems for the social network giant by offering a platform to get better data on mobile usage for targeted advertising.
“It wouldn’t surprise me” if Facebook were to acquire or tie up with Opera or develop its own browser, Hilwa said.
Another player to watch, said Hilwa, is Amazon, which has developed its own browser for the Kindle Internet device — a move that can also steer users to various services, earning cash along the way.
Hilwa said Amazon, like the others, is pursuing a strategy that includes hardware and software, but can also sell goods and services.
“They have content, they sell stuff, they have Web services,” he said. “They have a lot of assets and have been successful. I would watch them.”