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Why Google is the new Apple.

Everyone seems confused about Google these days.

Disgruntled former Google executives, tech pundits, regulatory officials, the media and even the Google-using public are confused about Google's transformation since co-founder Larry Page took over as CEO a year ago.

Here's what's happening: Google is becoming more like Apple in three fundamental ways.

(And that’s a good thing.)

Please read my column!: http://www.datamation.com/feature/lets-face-it-google-is-the-new-apple-1.html

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77 comments
 
"Google used to have no discernible vision. Just crank out as many products and services as possible, and let the market pick the winners and the losers.

All that changed a year ago. Now, the company knows exactly what it’s doing and where it’s going."

Keyword: Discernible. Your second paragraph is only worthwhile if that first assumption is true. There's a big difference between not being able to discern a vision and there not being a vision.
 
Google is NOTHING like Apple. Apple was about being disruptive, changing how people think for the greater good. Google doesn't have anything like that. Google doesn't have the culture or the vision that Apple has. Google doesn't have a figurehead of someone with a vision at its forefront.
 
I prefer a Google+ interface which allows me to do all the key services as Gmail, Search, YouTube etc from one single page and preferably in a tabbed interface.
 
Great article.

I was always struck by the Google founders old statement that they saw the company as a $100bn company but were coy about whether they meant turnover or profit. Everyone thought it was just young, ambitious guys throwing out a number but you get the sense that +Larry Page and +Sergey Brin know exactly what they are doing.
 
Thanks, +Mike Elgan! Hope Google doesn't get too much like Apple. So far Google has been a refreshing alternative.
 
I agree with you that google is becoming more like apple and that is a good thing. I think a difference is that google is providing some flexibility to their platform and how you and others form outside the ecosystem can collaborate compared to Apple. It seems I have a choice of how deeply I have embraced google and its portfolio of products.
 
The purchase of Motorola mobility if resulting in Google's own hardware products will complete the transformation to an Apple like highly integrated company.
 
This was a great read and continues to drive home what I've been seeing. My personal gmail and my work google aps accounts play nicely together. Very nicely together on my android phone. G+ is well integrated in Google Play, gmail, search, etc.

I wish I could get one acquaintance in particular to read this; he closed his G+ account and gmail account because of the privacy statement modifications...but kept Facebook. Unfortunately, it's a little too complex for him.
 
+Michael Gaines Google is funding rocket flights and building self-driving cars. While those aren't in lockstep with the current integration initiative Mike writes about, it's hard to argue Google lacks vision to "change how people think for the greater good."
 
Google will definitely continue doing offhand breakthrough experimental technologies. But as a corporation in terms of how they integrate and market themselves as well as in product line they will soon look like Apple.
 
Great article. As a designer I applaud google's new approach to simple, elegant functional design.
 
I think something very important (although not apple-like) is that google is becoming more social and open. They're posting videos of engineering team meetings, acquistions, hires, developer pages/blogs etc. Its a very good direction that they're taking.
 
But I still believe someone at Google need to be more in touch with end user reality.
 
More like Apple: You either buy into the Paradigm or you don't...
 
+Barry O'Neil - Are you sure everything isn't "in lockstep with the current integration initiative?" Ha-ha, Yes tongue-in-cheek... ... for now. :-)
 
Great article!
As far as integration goes, Google's purchase of Motorola Mobile is worth mentioning as well. We will surely be seeing phones specifically designed to work with Android based operating systems.
 
Recently I've been thinking that just about every step Google is making is going in the right direction. I want all the pieces of Google to work together. I want a more customized search experience. I want what Google now seems to be working towards.
 
Excellent read +Mike Elgan. Although I am loathe to admit it (as I am not a fan of Apple), you make a sense here. Still not convinced it's a "good thing" however.
 
Good article Mike, but I would have liked a little bit more substance, like "what is Google's new vision".
 
I do believe that Google touches people lives more than we care to admits...how many people will type Google.com in their URL before going to any other site or start by going to Google as the home page first....as so many people already said Google need to consolidate their products to make it easier for consumers and developers such as their mobile OS.maybe they already did that with the ICS.
 
I cant help but hear in my mind the capital letters Martha Stewart put on "Good Thing" every time +Mike Elgan said it in his article.
 
A friend of mine once said
"It occurred to me that Google's real business isn't search, or social, or even Tech... At it's most inner core, Google is a needs satisfying machine.

Just think about it, when you have a need for something (shoes, information, news, directions, contact with your gang, science facts, new ideas etc) what do you do? You access the needs satisfying machine, i.e. you turn to Google. Search, as well as all the other Google products, are just a means to an end. Tools they use to satisfy your need."

+George Kozi Are you listening?
 
Good article. Thanks for sharing it. Maybe it's just me but Google privacy strategy makes sense. I don't see the point in wanting different identities in different products. If you want multiple identities, open another account with one of your other your personalities' name on it.
 
makes sense and I i also agree..its a good thing....
 
Excellent point about Google getting design-savvy and that a lot of people don't know what to make of that.
 
+Michael Gaines My point isn't that Google is like Apple in every respect, but that Google has changed, and in every respect that change has made it more like Apple.
 
+Mike Elgan Well, in that case, why not compare them to Microsoft? They changed by getting into the gaming business. Apple never really changed, they just lost their way when Steve was kicked out in '85. The years under Sculley and Amelio were the worst ever because they lost their vision. When Steve returned, the company returned to profitability because they had someone at the helm to guide them forward properly, but I wouldn't say they changed.
 
+Mike Elgan and +Michael Gaines - I'm hoping that unlike Apple, Google will refrain from trying to make all of us look the way "they" have decided we should look.
 
I hope they do get design savvy, not only with their web presence, but with Android devices.

I own an Android phone and tablet. But I'm not a fan boy could be swayed back to Apple. The main thing holding me back is the difficulty in unlocking the SIM on an iPhone. Something very appealing about iPhone/iPad is the wealth of accessories. Vendors can do this because the devices are very standard. No two Android devices are alike so it's harder to make cool cases, keyboard portfolios, etc. for them. I would like Google to produce four reference devices (small & large phone, small & large tablet) and say to get the "Google" logo your device must look like this, or at least close enough to accessories work. I know it might seem like a trivial thing, but it's really not.
 
Google will probably become more like Apple with a hint of MS in there somewhere but I doubt whether Google will ever apply the draconian control measures that Apple applies to most of its products. I wish not.
Having said that I am an Apple fanboy because of the finesse in its products and a Google fanboy as well.
 
Google is surely going in the right direction, but sometimes seems to be confused... for example, I feel they are still confused whether they want to seriously get into content distribution business... on one hand they have renamed market as play, but on other hand they are allowing Google music to die a slow death
 
Brilliant article! The part about no one being up in arms about Facebook privacy for sharing info across products is spot on.

For at least 4 years I was writing about and hoping Google would do EXACTLY what they are now doing. Integrate, simplify, and beautify their products. There is a way to merge the best of being open and some out of the box ideas with the elegance of Apple.

I'm still hoping there's more to come. The communication products are in need of desperate integration and simplification. There's Talk, Messenger, Voice, Hangouts, Gmail, Google+, and more.

Here's hoping they don't become too much like Apple and start raiding people's homes over IP bull.
 
Why does anything have to be "the new" anything? Google is google, not apple (and THANKFULLY so). Apple can kiss my ass.
 
"In the Plex" by +Steven Levy opened my eyes to what Google is all about. Now I agree that Google is becoming the new Apple (innovation). But I also think that Apple is becoming the new Microsoft (control) and Microsoft is the new IBM (irrelevant).
 
The underlying value of integrating all Google's existing services and functionality portfolio under one platform is simply much greater than the summed value of all non-integrated services and functionality separately put together. I believe this is the most obvious strategy considering the alternatives to keep such mega-cap blue-chip company's business growing.

Innovation, on the other hand, is a totally different story. Unrelated to the specific business economics above, I believe a clearer direction is not an obstruction to insanely innovate and add new valuable stuff into the portfolio. Given the new strategy, it is probably harder to manage the geniuses inside now, but that's a challenge which is to come anyway. Sooner or later whatsoever for Google.

It is quite unfortunate that I don't own any Google's stock as of now.
 
+Michael Gaines Dude where were you during the 80's and 90's? Apple went to Xerox Parc, saw the desktop metaphor/mouse/etc and then built thei UI (and yes, they did it better). Apple's initial "vision" was born out of Xerox Parc; so by that measure Apple can only be credited with changing how people think as much as Microsoft was with Windows (you could actually say MS played a larger role since they were the 800lb gorilla). Similarly, Google took the concept of a search engine (which Altavista, Excite, Yahoo, etc had done) and vastly improved on it, disrupting search as we knew it and just about made every other player insignificant.

Looking further down the line, after almost going bankrupt, Apple got their act together and came out with the iPod. Again, this wasn't something "new", there were already music players, Apple just did it better. From there on out they started pushing the envelope with the iTunes store, the iPhone and the iPad.

How is that really any different than Google? Google is just newer to the game. You might argue that they're disrupting faster than Apple ever did. It took Apple ~25 years before the iPod. Google went from search to email to social in ~13 years. Sure looks like vision to me.
 
Something else I often have to remind myself of. I'm a technology geek. And I'm guessing most people reading this thread are too. I remember fondly the days of having to compile my own browser and working on the command line. Most people are not like us. The unwashed masses just want something that's intuitive, easy to use, and just works. Giving people a unified Google experience will capture a larger audience for Google.

And to hijack this back to Android. :-) I think it's very important that Android come out with a workable answer to iTunes. Google Music isn't a solution and non-geeks (I'm thinking of people living in my house other than me) haven't a clue how to get music from their computers to their Android phones. My son got an iPhone for his birthday and my wife is getting one for hers. A large part of the problem is Android is too hard for them to use. iPhone isn't. Yes, Android is more versatile. But the masses want simple.
 
I completely agree with your stance on it. I would only add that the one thing that Google is doing very differently is the inclusion versus exclusion model of business. They still heavily Open Source their products. They still use open formats and open standards for their coding and work. They release libraries for public use. They are all about leveraging the community or being leveraged by the community. Apple wants everything to be Apple and funneled through Apple resources and running on Apple hardware. It works well for Apple, for sure, but there are a lot of "haters" of that mentality. (I just happen to be one of them. Just a li'l bit.)

I think the thing bugging people is Google's failure to demonstrate that they are still in the innovation business, as you mentioned. That they have "Google Lab" products that are still beta-ing ... somewhere. Maybe not available to the public as it once was. I still want to see Google as an innovation company. That vision has been obscured in order to demonstrate that Google knows how to polish. (As you said, the consistent Design aspect has taken center stage.) Their change in focus doesn't shake my fanboi-ness, but it may have affected others.

Thanks for the article! Food for thought. :D
 
I'm not so sure that Google becoming the new Apple is a good thing for their users. Would this imply a limitation in user's freedom?
 
Roberto, I think you're taking the comparison too literally. Google can focus on the product and focus on the customer experience without locking customers in. At any time you're free to download everything you have in your Google account and go elsewhere with it. I don't think this will ever change.
 
I agree with you John, and hope it remains like this forever.
That's what I like most about Google, that they offer you an awesome service at no cost and yet you are the owner of your data.

I also agree with Mike's article. I think it's good that Google pays attention to design and integration among their products. Let's see, though, if Larry is as talented as Steve Jobs was for Apple.
 
I don't think they're more like Apple, they're more like a company that has a vision.
 
+Mike Elgan You've summed this up really nicely and I agree 100%. Google will be a stronger company with better products.
 
Apple never had fragmentation the way +Google does. +Google seems to embrace it, and Apple abhorred it. Fragmentation will keep Google from Being Apple.
 
I don't believe that google has the ability to remake products in a way that apple has done. Apple revolutionized products. Google, not so much
 
+Bill Weber Apple had huge product bloat when Steve made his return, multiple versions of computers, printers and the newton handheld device all had to be culled.
 
+Mike Elgan This really makes sense. It seems now all google products are full heartedly and confidently supported by google's top management(as in larry page) with conviction. First the company should believe in their products then only people can believe. It was not the case before but it is happening now.
 
very good column!! Your post are always interesting!!!! keep up the good work!! :D
 
wonderful article +Mike Elgan ... it let's a non-tech savvy like me understand some points about google ... reading your piece it seems like google does indeed some of apple's attitudes and i agree with you ... as long as it stays with vision, design and integration this is probably a good thing ... let's just hope they won't become like apple in other ways ...

envy and jealousy seem to rule that company (the main reason why i wouldn't buy an apple product if they were the last manufacturer on the planet) ... today's apple seems to spend more money on court cases over patent violations and things the others do better than apple than they spend on innovation ... i still believe in surpassing others by being better than they are, rather than putting them down ...
 
All this uniting approach of different products into one kinna buggled me at first. On the other hand, switching tabs every single time I want to go into gmail, gdocs etc bugged me more. I just hope it will keep its inconspicuous approach it always had from the start the "crank out" approach. Sounds visionless no real marketing approach. But I think thats what made Google successful, just plain and simple...
 
Being like Apple isn't a good thing. I wouldn't be pleased to find Google acting more Apple like.
On the other hand, I am pleased that Google has focused lately on building an integrated, cohesive, ecosystem. These changes have been very exciting as the cross platform capabilities of the Google ecosystem have increased. Even little advances like concurrent collaborative document editing in Google docs are an exciting hint of things to come.
 
There is one key difference between Apple and Google. Apple's customers are end users, so Apple has incentive to make products that end users enjoy. Google's customers are advertisers, so Google has incentive to makes product that advertisers like. Want technical support with your Google products? It's fantastic if you are an Adwords advertiser, but almost non-existent with their other products (Ok, Google Apps may be an exception as they have paying customers, so presumably there is decent support).

I'd like to see Google become even more like Apple: focus on making products for paying end-users, and offer great support.
 
Apple's largest weakness is that they are a content provider that also sells content delivery devices. There is an inherent conflict of interest in this. It causes Apple (or anyone who does this) to stop being customer driven. Their devices are no longer innovative. Oh sure, they make new and great ways to sell you the same walled garden jail of content delivery. In the end though they are just fancier vending machines. Ultimately, everything Apple engineers do has to answer yes to the following questions or it will not be allowed to happen.
1. Does this drive content delivery (ie grow iTunes sales)?
2. Does this compete with, distract from, or allow users to bypass, iTunes content delivery?
For example, apply these rules to the new iPad and the unbelievable fact it didn't have an SD-card slot or USB host port.

My greatest concern with Google is that they get themselves into a similar situation where their core focus becomes something that conflicts with putting customers first.

It's touch and go right now. On the one hand, they've done great things with Android and cloud integration with Chrome, Docs, etc. But on the other hand they've added Google Books and Music. Hopefully Google won't get too caught up in content delivery other than as a service to customers.

Here's to the future. Hopefully it's bright.
 
I used to like Apple but I have come to hate them, I used to like Google but soon I expect I'll be using Bing for searches and going back to fb!
 
+Rod Borghese That's great, and it shows that Apple does not provide any services that are necessary to day to day life.
That said my point was more related to Google's business model vs. Apple's and how it impacts their focus on customers.
 
Regarding Motorola, it's really not clear (and in my opinion, not likely) that Google will transform Motorola into the hardware wing of Google. I really do think they'll just let it continue as a separate company.
 
+Mike Elgan FWIW, I can't see Google turning Motorola into its hardware wing either. They want it primarily for the patents, and, if they're smart, they'll just let it run as a separate business.
 
You do a good job of pointing out ways in which Google is becoming more like Apple (integration of services and design sensibility). Hopefully they keep that up while avoiding the bad parts of how apple operates. (closed ecosystem, use of proprietary hardware, 30% cut from developers)
 
No. Actually, every company on the planet is transitioning from a specific goods or specific services company to a unified service that sells you life. Google leads the pack. Apple is becoming more like Google.
 
Interesting article and it certainly things seem to be going the way you've described. I hope that Google won't become too directive in what they believe is best for the consumer. I liked the options even if they weren't best for them as a company.

Also, if things become too dependent on a single person (Larry Page) to provide vision/direction things can get messy when they're replaced. We struggle with this in education, a great administrator can drive many great programs but if their successor has other pet projects or ideas then a lot of work can be thrown to the wayside.

Person dependent vs. Systems dependent. Not sure which is better.
 
+Mike Elgan Once again you are blowing away the dust and revel the truth. Your columns are so often so useful to understand what's happening. Thanks, Mike.
 
Another well-written article that helps to explain the big picture about what Google is up to.
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