What is the difference between Google's Android 3.0 and Apple's iPad? Technically, there's really not so much of a difference. I know, some would strongly disagree. In my opinion, however, the real difference lies in their strategic positioning.
The real difference between Google and Apple is their strategic positioning. Consider the following key aspects:
Apple innovates putting a substantial amount of resources into R&D. It has proven extremely successful at getting inside the consumer's head first, leading new product categories. Every product and software design challenges existing paradigms of user friendliness.
What about Google? Yes, a lot of Google revenue goes into R&D. But most of all, Google sticks to search, no matter what. Why? Because it makes Google "the information company". Whereas Apple continually has to come up with new products, Google can rely on great ideas from others and simply copy them by leveraging competing power with software that explores new ways to utilize highly interactive "information driven" software, such as Google Earth and many other online applications. It's Google's way of using information that gives them the added online or cloud computing position - which users love!
In mobile development both Apple and Google develop their own key applications, but strategically they rely heavily on 3rd party development. Still, they have distinctly different ways to market. I could mention a long list of strategic differentiators, but most of all notice how Google does not - at least for now - charge the market for their software. No, adds is their thing, i.e. Google AdWords, which remains their main source of income.
Oh, and let's not forget their social profile. Apple has no problem admitting that they're proprietary and "closed". In fact, they announce their competitive power to be just that, assuring a quality offering through and through. Everything needs approval and hardware / software is communicated to be one and the same, of necessity. So far, Google is software only (almost ;-) and everything they do in the market place aspires to a playful openness that includes and appeals to the user. Almost as a direct result of this strategic choice, Google naturally welcomes any cell phone vendor to run their operating system.
Any wonder why I love my Apple computer? Any wonder why I use Google's software 95% of the time? I'm convinced both Apple and Google will do well, but in the long run, Google has chosen a much wiser - more robust - strategy focusing on the key generic aspect of the future; "information". A strategy that eventually will turn Google into the biggest most successful company the world has ever seen.