My 2 favourite companies, Apple & Google. I feel like a child would feel watching parents fighting. You can’t take sides because you love them both and you wish they could just live in harmony all the time.
For the tangible products Apple delivers the best experience matched by no other.
For the intangible Google provides me with a bevy of free to use cloud services that also deliver on a user experience not to be found any where else.
In the real world each has a master it must obey. The share holder. A share holder wants to see growth even if growth means playing Romulus to Remus.
We have seen Google strike the first blow.
I talk about brands for a very good reason as I believe it is in the brands that the direction and outcome of this war can best be seen.
A brand is an emotional anchor, it is a religious icon to the consumer. Every brand has an ideal that consumers who worship it believe in. It secures their loyalty at both the rational and irrational levels of consumerism.
Apple as a brand stands for beautiful to look at, simple to use, reliable and productive TANGIBLE products. Try thinking of Apple as the company that only provides. Mac/MobileMe? That leaves most people cold and probably the majority completely turned off. (iTunes isn’t a service it’s a shop)
Google as a brand also has a pearl veneer of simple to use, free to use and productive INTANGIBLE products. Their claimed mantra of “don’t be evil”, that Jobs recently scoffed at, is the clue to their ambitions of who they want to be. Google is stepping in to the space that Microsoft has owned for decades. A market that Apple could have owned but failed to win for its belief in delivering a complete solution in house. The only way Apple can provide the level of product excellence it does is to keep tight control of everything.
Microsoft waged a clone war in the PC market and won. It focused on software and let others provide cheap hardware. The outcome was a product that left much to be desired by the user but was affordable and universal in format. Too often inferior technology wins the day over superior. Remember VHS & Betamax? We are witnessing the 2nd Clone war in the smart phone.
Google had it’s own phone but has opted now for the Microsoft route, let others provide the hardware.
However Apple has a head start this time, a significant head start. Take a look at how it found itself in the mobile phone business. The iPod & iTunes have given Apple 25% of the USA music market. 1 in 4 songs are sold by Apple now in America. Technology moved on and the phone companies tried to muscle in on the iPod by producing phones that were also MP3 players. Apple responded by doing what Apple does best, innovating. The smart phone market today is Apple’s creation, it defined the game and set the rules. It almost has a monopoly on the music market, a complete monopoly on the MP3 player market (80-90%).
Now the iPad arrives and Apples re-invents a whole market once again. Innovation not only in technology but in marketing and lifestyle. Sounds like Apple has it nailed doesn’t it?
How dated does a 2001 model iPod look? Ancient, bulky, low capacity, etc. Today it’s as small as your thumb and mass produced to almost a commodity. How will the iPad today be perceived in 10 years?
Jonathan Ives, Apple’s gifted chief designer was quoted as saying about the iPad “we are most proud of what we have left out”. Apple’s refinement of the UI has boiled the device down to nothing more than a slate of glass. In 10 years time that slate will be a commodity. The value left to harvest in the market in another decade will be not be the hardware. It won’t be the software either as Microsoft burned the world with a closed proprietary system.
Everyone embraces open standards now, software tie in is long gone. It will be the customer service and experience. Apple already is an expert in selling customer experience end to end. Just look at the Apple Stores.
If you can find a copy I highly recommend reading Pine & Gilmore’s paper from the Harvard Business Review “Welcome to the Experience Economy”. Would you pay just to enter an Apple store? In the future you might have to if these academics have got it right. The pioneers of selling consumers experience, Disney, now have Job’s as their largest share holder. Apple theme parks?
In light of all this it seems incredible that we have yet to see or hear anything that indicates that Apple will provide service and experience in The Cloud. No indication, yet, of an iWork’s online edition. Even Microsoft has conceded moving Office to the cloud.
Apple’s major investment in the North Carolina data centre has been assumed to be for supplying virtualised content (music/video/books). Can it also deliver cloud applications and services?
Why do we need to buy and own a fully featured computer at all? Why should we backup regularly? The majority on the internet are consumers, not producers.
Apple doesn’t have a crystal ball, it can’t see the future although has proven it can define the future. Job’s never saw the iPhone back in 2000 with the iPod. Fate, Karma, Moores-law & competition evolved Apple to that point. Unless Apple throws it’s chips on the table and calls Google on “The Cloud” it has no hope of a long term future. It’s brand will peak now and fade with time. Google doesn’t need to win the smart phone war, it’s just a side show, a distraction.
Was it a planned move on Google’s part to antagonise Apple into fighting and moving into Google’s space? The world benefits most and history will remember a war that leaves humanity much in it’s spoils.
To the victor in this war go the greatest honours and history will remember them.
Just like Romulus and Remus.