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Why Google and Apple are the Athens and Sparta of technology and destined to collide.

Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference keynote Monday made it clear to the world that Apple is escalating its conflict with former ally Google.

Pundits are speculating about how this separation, conflict and polarization of the tech world can be avoided.

It can’t be.

Conflict and enmity between Google and Apple is inevitable.

The reason is that Google and Apple are the Athens and Sparta of the tech industry. It’s in the DNA of both companies to rule the tech world. They will battle each other for supremacy and, in the process, greatly diminish each other’s power and reach. United, they could accomplish anything. But they will not be united. They will become increasingly divided.

It’s a Greek tragedy unfolding before our very eyes.

Here's why Google and Apple are the Athens and Sparta of technology:
Cristian Romero's profile photoMichael W. Moore's profile photoJean-Nicholas Thomas's profile photoIan McCully's profile photo
This war will be the greatest war in history. I'll be waiting for it with some pop-corn.
Good read +Mike Elgan  But I disagree with Google and Apple ruling the world together. Android had to be built, not having Android could of led to complete destruction of Google on mobile and basically make Google, beholden to Apple. 

But the relationship could of been better.

I also disagree with how you describes the relationship between Google and Apple. Apple is more focused on Google than Google is focused on Apple (that is not to say Google is not focused on Apple, because they are).

Google's biggest enemy is without a doubt Microsoft then Facebook.

Apple can't kill Google because Apple software is tied to Apple hardware. And Apple will never have a big enough hardware market share to kill Google software.

Microsoft and Facebook software are not tied to a specific hardware.

Apple hates/wants to kill Google.
Google thinks Apple is a douche/wants to compete with Apple.

Big difference.
I couldn't agree with you more... Apple has become the new Microsoft. People will start to hate them. Google on the other hand is doing a great job supporting a free internet and providing us with great free services.
The question is: who is Athens and who is Sparta?
as long as Troy doesn't get involved I don't see what the big deal is.
As long as the patent lawyers don't get too frisky I think this competition will be (and has been) good for consumers.
+Naval Gilles Exactly like Athens and Sparta. Like Google, Athens just wanted to keep expanding its empire, increasing its power and wealth. It didn't want anything from Sparta. But Sparta because obsessed with Athens' rise, and that's what the war was all about. It was about Sparta feeling threatened by Athens and taking action. 
I've always loved this line from Jeremiah Johnson:  "Amongst lnjuns...a tribe's greatness is figured on how mighty its enemies be."
+Mark Baldwin I have to duel with you on this. People are not hating Microsoft. They are just "livin' with them". Plus, Google and Apple and Microsoft are all very different companies. Google is mainly search and ad-focused, of cos they would want everything free so that more people can use their stuff and thus, more data for them to mine. Apple & Microsoft however is a hardware/software tech company, they make profits by selling stuff, not giving them for free. That's the difference.
+Jay Flemming I'd be more worried about Persia; they were the ones getting mixed up helping the Spartans last time Athens and Sparta went at it, and by the time everyone was done hacking at each other the Macedonians could just waltz in and conquer everyone still standing. 

OTOH, we did get a world-class civilization out of that aftermath. So maybe these clashes of the titans aren't so bad as a way to push the world out of one phase and into another.
+Mike Elgan Technology is a broad industry. I think Google and Apple are more like, Oranges and Apples. They have very different focuses and different methods of earning money. I've never been a believer of a thermo-nuclear war.
Google is #Spartans ,but like #300 , they will not die.

What you people think about #Apples joining hands with #Twitte and #Facebook ?
+John Ryce Microsoft has come a long way with their image. Apple like Facebook is in the business to control markets and users. Which is stunting innovation. I agree that their product offerings are totally different. But I do believe what Apple is doing now is very Similar to the late Microsoft. History repeats itself.
Fantastic article, +Mike Elgan.  Thanks for sharing... and, of course, writing it in the first place.  :-)
+Mike Elgan agreed. Apple has the right to be upset and to protect their market. I think they are going about it the wrong way. Never have a full blown enemy in the tech world, and never give part of your kingdom away in order to combat your enemy. 

If Facebook has any success in growing its empire, Apple will be in the same situation a few years from now wanting to throw Facebook out of ios. 

Apple took it personally. Too personally. While Google could care less, as long as it gets its money from Apple one way or another, it doesn't matter.  

But this is how the tech world works.

Now its Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple ect.. vs. Google. 5-10 years from Now Apple and Google could be best buddies again. Competition is good, I just think Apple is taking it to the extreme. 
I can't hear Greece and Euro anymore.
I don't care about Apple and/or Google. 
I disagree that we get less.  I believe we get more.  Competition is a good thing as each of them looks to one-up the other.  This would be like saying that Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, etc. would give us more if they were all just one big Ma Bell again.

Apple has been far more guilty of the things folks supposedly hate MS for.  I tried the Apple switch and didn't enjoy it as constantly felt held hostage.  That's just me.  There's always been a crowd that felt completely the opposite and I'm glad there's that choice.
War is such a strong word. They are still collaborating with each other, even with differences. Like +Ghuney Hahleq said, competition is necessary. The word "thermo-nuclear war" comes from Jobs but the company is under Tim Cook now so things might be different. We all know what kind of person Jobs is. Just saying...
so, how do you call people that use Apple and Google??
Google has my vote and is so far superior to others!  Long live Google!  Do not shoot the messenger!
Before opening your article, I thought that FB must be the Persians.

I suppose FoxConn is the Helots on this analogy. 
It's so interesting to see how each progresses and the lengths they're going to to outdo each other.
So who would be the Agamemnon that would unite Athens and Sparta?
Someone new?
Amazon might be the Macedonians who come to dominate all the Greeks.

But I doubt it. We'll go with Thebes, instead. 
sorry, divided is good. Competition is the only force.
Plus dont forget the remaining horsemen - Amazon and Facebook.
I think you nailed this +Mike Elgan and the situation makes me sad. Just imagine what these two could have done together: Google's cloud tech combined with Apples interface and hardware design capabilities? Oh that would have been nice... :(
You all are saying Google is Sparta only because they won the war, but the Sparta is oligarchic and Athens was democratic. Athens had a forward-thinking culture and yet Athens was laid back. Athens had more population... etc etc etc. I think the description for Athens fit better for Google than Sparta. (ref.
If not for the oracle of Delphi, king Leonidas would not have fought at Thermopylae. Just saying.
It's lucky for us to witness this extreme confrontation... 
SPARTA! the only difference is Google will win, unless anti-trust regulations take them down, which will eventually take down Apple as well.

Steve Jobs in dead, their relying more on other people's technology more than ever before, that goes against everything that is Apple.

Steve Jobs would never release an inferior product, until it was perfected. Just to name two examples of half thought out, half functioning products.
> Siri
> Apple Maps (which btw uses Microsoft Maps and navigation by TomTom, and their Maps products is inferior compared to Google Maps)

Not to mention that the features for iOS6 have been on Android for more than 2 years and that the reported #iPhone5 looks like the Blackberry 10 Alpha Device.

if Apple decides to make TVs, Samsung, Sony and every other TV OEM will double down on GoogleTV or some other smart TV alternative to destroy Apple in every they can. 

Apple started a worldwide proxy patent war, which it seems to be losing, or not effective #fail  
+Anthony Benel I seriously doubt Oracle is going to have any influence in the current tech wars.
What +Anthony Benel is talking about is that Sparta sought an oracle at Delphi and were told that either Sparta would be conquered by the invading Persian Empire, or Sparta would lose a King in battle. So Thermopylae was a suicide mission to deliberately sacrifice Leonidas to save Sparta. And since they were going to die anyway, they might as well kick some major ass. 
Competition is a good thing, it spurs on innovation.  Glad to see both companies pushing each other to improve.  Why do you assume it will damage both companies?

The Apple/Microsoft wars in days of old made both better.  Apple was dependent on Office to survive, just as Apple was 'dependent' on Google Maps.  In both instances, Apple came up with an internal replacement; I'll hold judgement on whether the replacements were better or worse.

If Apple starts blocking Google apps (not Apps) from their platform, then it could get interesting.  So far they haven't damaged their developer or user bases by maintaining their crystal palace, assuming they can keep creating things that "just work."
Google spends way to much on R&D to be "destroyed" by Apple.. They keep innovating, they will keep growing.. 
So you're saying one of them has painted on abs?  O_o   LOL just kidding.  :p
+Derrick Wallner Yes, they will keep innovating and growing. But they will also fritter away energy battling each other, and will both be in a weakened position to fend off the upstart startups (i.e. Alexander, et al). 
Yeah, they Totally should get a "Dot" Apple  TLD... 
But did Apple free Google, or Google free Apple from the Persian King.  Maybe its the Trojan war.  Apple found texts from Helen on an Android
+Robert Marshall Yes, and Google and Apple joined together to drive RIM, Nokia and Palm out of dominance in the smart phone industry. 

And after Athens and Sparta drove out the Persians, they turned on each other. 
+Mike Elgan  Excellent article...loved it! The comparison with ancient greek history was beautiful.... keep up the great job.. :)
+Mike Elgan   How do you think Microsoft with its Bing search and Windows phone come into picture you see Apple partnering with MS in its war against Google?
I am slowly losing my appetite for Apple products day by day. Great competition between Google, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, yes, it's good for the future of the internet and spurs on and accelerates innovation. However, the constant dragging competitors into court and playing bully against admittedly other very large boys in the playground leaves me less than enthused about a company who used to literally change the world through their own innovation. Time to sell my three shares in AAPL?
The question is who is Rome? The Greek Generals attempted to rule the world until the Israelites invited the Romans to help put down the Greeks.
Apple seems burned by Microsoft's success of the 90's and seems hell bent on not falling into that hole again with Google, Its all happening again, soon apple will be back to second tier....
+Mike Elgan This is an excellent post/article and analysis. Forbes used to do articles like this 30 yr ago when James Michaels ruled as Editor. Athens/Sparta analogy is a brilliant insight which unfortunately some of these commenters didn't get. I do believe that Apple rather self-righteously IS being blinded by its sense of self. I do not believe that Google is targeting Apple so much as targeting the myriad closed worlds & proprietary gardens developing which threaten search itself.
This seems quite natural as chrome gains more strength, and the world lives more and more in the browser. 
Who's alexander the great? :)
+Jerome A. F If Google and Sparta are the Athens and Sparta rolling at their full speed, Alexander the Great should not have shown up, yet... ;)
Haha, I like casting Facebook as the Persians. But I'm not sure who is Athens and who is Sparta. The easiest analogy is that Athens was the Americans of the day (a wealthy, glamorous, naval imperial power) and the Startans were the Russians (more egalitarian, land-based, boring). We know less about Sparta or the USSR, but that's because the other camp won.

The gleaming lines, elitism, and idealistic non-humanity of Apple products make me think of Athens. Whereas Google is more earthly, egalitarian, and functional, like Sparta.
In the larger scheme of things, you really don't want to be Sparta, both the Athenians and Macedonians left a much greater legacy. Sparta is primarily remembered as self-appointed arch rival of Athens and ...kicking someone off a bottomless pit of course.
+Pavlos Papageorgiou I think one could make the case that America is a lot like Sparta, too: Obsessed with military supremacy, relative equality of women, puritanism, religiosity, etc. 
+Larry Page looks like Themistocles, who lobbied to use the Laurian silver mine income to built the Athenian fleet
It's good competition, Can only served to push tech forward. I'm a Google man, as i see as the peoples choice... Spartans we are....
It will be interesting to see what happens.. In the case of big players like Apple and Google, competition is definitely good for the consumer..
Thanks for this.  I respectfully disagree that this is unhealthy and mutually destructive competition +Mike Elgan.  You may disagree with their moves, but I would be interested in having you name a major decision that was irrational.  
Apple's bet that Facebook is less threatening than Google might prove wrong, but it is quite rational.
+Dena Coe Apple doesn't offer "software" as stand alone products and no one buys Apple products for the software. What's making the headlines at new Macbook launch? the display. Apple is a hardware company.

If you're looking at revenue, Google and Facebook, little difference, both sell ads.
+Dena Coe they're all after the same asset: loyal subscribers. They monetize in different ways. Google with ads, Facebook with ads badly, and Apple partly from selling stuff but mostly as a publishing fee on their content store.
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