Is the iPhone evil?
They are two companies which appear to have a lot in common. Both see themselves as having a mission beyond the purely commercial, both have won the loyalty of armies of users who see themselves as fans rather than customers. Apple and Google used to be bosom buddies - but suddenly they're feuding like cats in a sack.
It's not surprising that two companies which have moved onto each other's territory are at odds. What's interesting is that the argument is about the very nature of technology and how we use it. And the focus of the battle is Apple's iPhone - is it the perfect technology tool liberating the masses to roam free across the internet, or a symbol of an increasingly closed web, controlled by powerful corporations which want to restrict our web freedom?
Now a technology veteran who has just joined Google has weighed in with a strong attack on Apple and what he sees as the dangerous philosophy of the iPhone.
Tim Bray, who in the 1990s was involved in developing web technologies and then spent years with Sun Microsystems, will now be helping to develop Google's Android platform. Here's what he said on his blog about Apple's rival vision of the mobile web:
"The iPhone vision of the mobile Internet's future omits controversy, sex, and freedom, but includes strict limits on who can know what and who can say what. It's a sterile Disney-fied walled garden surrounded by sharp-toothed lawyers. The people who create the apps serve at the landlord's pleasure and fear his anger.
I hate it.
I hate it even though the iPhone hardware and software are great, because freedom's not just another word for anything, nor is it an optional ingredient."
And Mr Bray is not alone. Jonathan Zittrain, the Harvard law professor and electronic freedom campaigner believes Apple has betrayed its early mission. He contrasts what he calls the "generative" technology of early Apple computers which allowed anyone to to play around with their innards, with the closed nature of the iPhone where Apple is the gatekeeper.
Others feel that the likes of Zittrain and Bray are becoming just a little hysterical in their warning about the iPhone's threat to our cherished freedoms. After all, they argue, most people just want a device that does fun things and works, rather than being desperate to hack it, unlock it, or use it as a tool to combat global oppression.
Here's Adam Thierer, from a technology think tank, arguing that claims that Apple's app store is part of some Orwellian nightmare are ridiculous:
"These things are neither good nor evil; they are just choices. They represent different ways of promoting innovation."And there are now plenty of choices for people looking to buy an innovative smartphone - for every "closed" iPhone, there are dozens of "open" Android mobile devices. So we'll soon find out just how interested consumers are in the ideological merits of their mobiles.