Hardcore Apple Fans and Siege Mentality

Just got back from I/O and I run into a Twitter thread where +Farhad Manjoo John Gruber, et al are criticizing a strawman Larry's Q&A session where Larry talks about negativity in the tech press.

There's an  underlying current of siege mentality in the Apple blogger world, after years of teetering on the brink, Apple made a come back, but its hardcore users lived under a constant perceived threat by Microsoft, and Steve Jobs cultivated a cult like tribalist view of the community when it came to competing ecosystems as a defense, not unlike I think governments that whip up nationalist or patriotic fervor.

Now with Apple as the most successful company in the world, they still can't shake the amygdala urge to fight anyone in their space as an enemy.  Case in point, John Gruber refers to anyone who criticizes Apple in the slightest as a jackass, if you run a search restricted to DaringFireball for that keyword, the search results are ten pages long.

To a siege mentality, everything is zero sum. Steve Jobs once said: "We did not enter the search business. They entered the phone business. Make no mistake they want to kill the iPhone. We won't let them. This "don't be evil" mantra is bullshit." Is this world, competition is about utterly destroying your enemy until they no longer exist, it's evil, and Google and Apple were somehow supposed to have an unspoken "gentleman's agreement" not to pursue each other's markets. I guess this also applies to Job's involvement with anti-poaching agreements in Silicon Valley, or the eBook price-fixing.

But Larry Page is right, competition need not be a zero sum game, especially in circumstances where the market is growing. Note that while iPhone and Android are brutally battling it out in the smartphone market, both Apple, Google, and Samsung have all be enjoying year over year increases in earnings and user base. Yes, Nokia and Blackberry lost out, but that's mostly because feature phones  as a category are dying, and iPhone class smartphones were launched by them too late.

Overall, as far as Apple vs Android, so far, it has been positive sum for the two biggest fighters in the ring. Apple's biggest problem at this point is not Android, but saturation and overly high expectations.

Gruber and others like to imagine that people who work at Google hate hate hate Apple products and want to destroy them, and that may be the mentality on the Apple side, but I don't know many Googlers who spend time trying to devise plans to destroy the iPhone, many of them quite like iPads and use MacBooks and would be sad to see Apple fold. As Larry said, much of the focus is on problem solving, not being concerned with "destroying" competitors like you'd read in internal Microsoft memos. The world has perhaps never seen a corporation with management and culture like Google before in this sector, they can't process it, and the cynic has to suspect it's all bullshit, all a show.

Speaking of solving problems and doing stuff that's never been done before, Gruber says: http://daringfireball.net/ "Google is the company that built Android after the iPhone, Google Plus after Facebook, and now a subscription music service after Spotify. They entered the RSS reader market, wiped it out, and are now just walking away from it. Gmail? Webmail but better. Think about even web search: Google search wasn’t something new; it was something better. Way, way, way better, but still.

Consider maps. Google Maps entered a market where MapQuest and others had been around for years. That wasn’t something great that didn’t already exist. It was a better version of something that already existed. "

See the trick here? Google didn't do anything that was't done before. Gmail, Maps, Search, etc. Those are just refinements. But the iPhone? That's an entirely new thing from wholecloth. We won't say "the iPhone came after the Blackberry, after the Nokia Smartphones, after the PalmPhones", we'll just pretend they never existed. 

When does executing on something so radically better count as "never been done before"? Gmail and Maps were some of the first in a new class of Web 2.0 applications, a whole new class of interactivity for a web app. Do Google's datacenters counter as having never been done before? Co-loc points for hosting servers go back to the first dot.com boom, but to compare one of those with the way Google's Datacenters are engineered as just refining is completely ignoring the depth to which Google reinvented the datacenter.

For example, Google built online maps that had never been done before, at scale. If you look at the next-gen Google Maps for the Web, sure, there's been some toy webgl demos of 3D cities, but no one has completely re-engineered a Web based map the way the new Maps work, it's next-generation stuff far beyond what anyone else has done, and in my mind counts as solving problems  anew.

I for one am proud to be a googler because of things like the way Larry acquitted himself humbly, thoughtfully, and authnetically at I/O. I'm glad he doesn't engage in bitterness. Even if you think it's fake spin, it's still better than being an angry public jackass.
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