Low Concept

If Google and Apple went to war, what side would Obama pick?

Barack Obama finally declares for Google.

A Predator drone running Android 4.3 prepares for takeoff from Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, Arizona.
A Predator drone running Android 4.3 prepares for takeoff from Fort Huachuca in Arizona

Photo illustration by Jim Festante/Slate. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

Reminder: Matt Yglesias and Farhad Manjoo are wargaming a fanciful, definitely-not-actually-true version of what might happen if Google and Apple went to war. You can see how the battle began here.

As of Dec. 1, 2013, Google has:
Cash on hand
: $30 billion
: 45,000, plus the allied military forces of most Western nations
Territory controlled
: Democracies in North and South America, Europe, and Asia

Moments after Jony Ive unveils Apple’s new iPistol, Larry Page gets a call from a number with blocked caller ID. “We’re in,” a man says when Page picks up. It takes him a moment to place the smooth, deep voice, but when it dawns on him, Page smiles his first smile in two decades. This is it, he knows. Google has just won the war.

“Thank you Mr. President,” Page says. “I knew you’d come around.”

The Democrats had been sitting the war out. Even as Republicans had heatedly called for Apple to be punished for initiating a ground campaign and cozying up with Chinese hackers, President Obama and his party hadn’t been able to bring themselves to criticize a company whose customers skewed so reliably left. Instead, the White House replayed its Syria strategy—it had publicly urged all sides to remain calm, and privately pursued diplomatic efforts it knew would prove fruitless. Two weeks ago Obama had appointed Bill Gates as his special envoy to both firms, but neither Apple nor Google would take Gates’ calls for fear of appearing weak.

But Obama can’t stomach Apple’s latest plan—not politically, not personally. In a single stroke, Apple had turned itself into a pariah that had managed to violate both parties’ most cherished beliefs. Apple is now a militant gun-nut fostering its own army of vigilantes. It’s also in bed with the Chinese and has no respect for property rights. Not since 9/11 have Republicans, Democrats, and their European counterparts been so aligned. “Biden’s seething,” Obama tells Page. “He just threw his MacBook out the Acela window.”

The next day Obama adds Apple to the State Department’s list of international terrorist organizations. Warrants are issued for its top leadership. Tim Cook, Jony Ive, Phil Schiller, and other Apple execs hurriedly flee the country on their private jets, but Page assures Obama they won’t be able hide long. You can’t survive on the run without Google. The first time they turn to the search engine to look something up—charge iPhone 5 coconut battery—Google will turn over their location details to the CIA, and the Predator drones will come calling.