Google Aims For Apple

 In News


Someone once told me imitation was the sincerest form of flattery. I’m sure you’ve heard similar advice. I don’t think Eric Schmidt and the leadership at Google have been offered that old axiom though. If you were keeping an eye on the announcements coming out of the Google I/O conference this week you noticed they all had a similar theme; all were a reaction or move against a similar Apple offering. It seems Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) is intent on flattering Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) in as many ways as possible in the next year.

MacRumors provides a good rundown of how Google’s announcements line up with current Apple offerings. If you don’t believe Google sees Apple as its direct competition, reading the article will convince you otherwise. Of particular note to iPhone owners are that three of the four major Google announcements are moves against the current iPhone OS environment. Interestingly enough, Google didn’t frame these announcements in terms of their individual strengths and uniqueness but instead in terms of their differentiation from the iPhone OS. Granted, they didn’t directly juxtapose the two architectures but the implication was there. I’ve said in a few different articles that it feels like a mistake for a company to form their product from a list of things the competition doesn’t have. Yet, that seems to be what Google has done.

The most prominent of those announcements was Android 2.2, the so-called Froyo build. Froyo is a further evolution of Android which, in a lot of ways, is a very innovative platform. Unfortunately it also suffers from some very apparent flaws; some of which aren’t even in the operating system itself. The two major announcements around Froyo are the ability for a phone to act as a wireless access point and Flash 10.1 support. On the surface these seem like important divergences from the iPhone OS but if you look under the surface you see they are reactionary moves. Google’s sudden belief it needs to fully support Flash? Well if you don’t get the back story on that you have some catching up on the news to do. The wireless access point mode is an interesting idea but really this is Google taking a feature from the “Things iPhone OS Doesn’t Have” list. Tethering is something iPhone OS has supported since version 3 but something AT&T has famously blocked due to alleged concerns about the load on their data network. The mobile AP feature is an obvious dig at the lack of tethering support. It’s an interesting feature but it distracts from the underlying problems still inherent in the Android system.

Unlike iPhone OS, Android is a horribly fractured operating system. There are currently at least four major versions of the product with a fifth on the way when Froyo comes out. People on the lower versions of the OS have little or no hope of a direct OTA update of their product which is dependent on both the abilities of their hardware and the willingness of the mobile carrier to allow it to happen. Google’s attempt to strong arm its Android partners into unification with the Nexus One and Android 2.1 failed; something signaled by Google’s withdrawal from direct to market selling of the Nexus One. In short, Android suffers not only from strong competition externally but internal divisions as well. Google can use Android to imitate iPhone OS and add features Apple isn’t ready, or prepared, to include all they want; as long as their own house is in disarray they will never make a concerted push against Apple.

I read a good book last week I think sums up Apple’s view on all of this attempted one-upmanship coming out of Mountain View. The book was REWORK by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, the founders of 37Signals. It’s an excellent business philosophy book and I would encourage you to read it as well. The part of the book germane to this discussion is where they discuss what to do about the competition. To briefly paraphrase their thoughts (and with my apologies for doing so to Jason and David), they say who cares what the competition is doing. You need to focus on making your product the best it can be in accordance with your vision for it. People should love your product for what it offers them. If they don’t love your product then you shouldn’t go into endlessly recursion chasing the competition’s feature set, that’s a fool’s game. Apple has never made an attempt to chase the Android feature set, or the feature set of any other product. Apple has a solid vision for their product and the will to follow it through. Some people love Apple for this and some hate it. At the end of the day though Steve Jobs gets to go home knowing he’s making what he wants, not something dictated by a distant second place rival jumping up and down to be noticed in a crowd.

What do you think? Will Google’s run at Apple and the iPhone OS increase their market share or just give the reputation of a “me-too” competitor? Will Apple’s single-mindedness cost them customer base in the end? Let us know in the comments section.


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Showing 9 comments
  • Miguel

    Who cares about what the competition is doing??? Erin, have you had the chance to try an android phone? I'm afraid Jason and David may have skipped a huge chapter in their book, where they should've talked about a little business tenet called KNOW YOUR COMPETITION. I believe that the reason Google has made big gains in Apple's territory is that they are making products that people find practical and useful. If a lot of their product features come from a list they wrote about what Apple DOESN'T do, it's probably because they are listening to what the consumer DOES want (pardon the Droid commercial bit). All in all, they are both hugely successful companies, and that is why Steve Jobs and Eric Schmidt are infinitely more rich than you and me. I just think it's crazy that people are so caught up with the philosophy behind a product that they start vilifying the people behind them. As a consumer, I want the product that fits my lifestyle, I don't care much about its creator other than knowing that he wants to keep innovating to bring me new ways to enhance my already hyperbusy life. For me, android does it (especially nexus with Froyo, which you should really try sometime. You wouldn't be disappointed). I'm looking forward to seeing how the new iPhone will perform as a smartphone, but ultimately I want good blend of performance and form factor, and you can't deny that android comes action-packed with both. But hey, like you, I'm a techie, just want to know where we're headed with all of this 🙂

  • patlang

    Apple obviously has put some thought into the roadmap of how they want current customers to migrate to new products as they release them. If my wife's 1st gen iPhone that we bought 3 years ago doesn't support 4.0 it is expected, her contract is up and she can get a new phone at a good price. Its a good customer experience and we will be happy to buy other Apple products.
    Google on the other hand is just throwing release after release over the fence without regard to how customers that own previous products will make the upgrade to the next product. Some call it innovation, but I call it bad judgment in a rush to be first. They are totally ignoring the customer buying cycles (my guess is they are inexperienced in this area because most of their other online products are free?). Its just a matter of time that potential Android customers hold off on making purchases because “the next great thing” is already in the press or have remorse because their 3 month old EVO, locked into a 2 year contract, can't be upgraded.

  • Erin Peterson

    Thank you for words of support Summa. I believe every one is entitled to their opinion and the best way to discuss an issue is to engage and not ignore it or degrade into senseless name calling. Besides, I don't think he meant a bigot in the racial sense but in the sense that my opinion was unduly biased towards Apple without regard for Google. Google is an amazingly productive and innovative company. I just think around Android they are concentrating too heavily on trying to be what iPhone OS isn't instead of following their own vision for the product.

  • Summa

    Why you would even both to respond to such an insulting comment? Geez, he even called you a bigot (I have no idea where that came from). Would you reply if he can you a mass murder pedophile?

    A lot of people have lost a lot of money on Google's stock recently and they are bound to take out their anger on anyone who says anything negative about the company. Just ignore them.

  • Erin Peterson

    Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I love hearing from everyone that reads my articles. You'll notice I didn't get into Google TV or WebM in my article. Perhaps another day.

    The main contention in my article is that Google has chosen to expand Android OS by chosing features who's main utility is in the fact they aren't in iPhone OS while Apple continues to innovate by doing simply what they want to do. You can have Android on your refridgerator all you want, I'll take iPhone OS on my iPhone thanks.

  • franzkafka

    well you really need to gather more information before writing such an article.
    google tv and apple tv in common only have the word tv.
    iPhoneOS and AndroidOS the common thing is the word OS, maybe you want to compare the new features in Froyo (Android 2.2) with the features present in iPhoneOS. I don't seem to remember iPhoneOS running on apple TV, android does microwaves too 😉
    The keyword is innovation here and I am afraid AndroidOS, GoogleTV, WebM are way more innovative than Apple's products (which, dont get me wrong, have been innovative in the past).
    You confused imitation and innovation. If Apple goes 4G and bigger display is because Google did that before and heated up the competition. So Apple is forced to innovate and the users win. Make no mistake, android devices are far superior nowadays than the iPhone, now the iPhone needs to push its limits to compete, so will Android after that. Competition leads to innovation.

  • Erin Peterson

    Thanks for your input Alvaro. I merely pointed out one article among many the reader would be interested in looking at. There has been a plethora of coverage on Google I/O this week and I've stayed abreast of it as best I could. I appreciate you taking the time to read my article. I hope you come back to Touch Reviews often.

  • Alvaro Jose Rey

    Well you should look for different sources of information, making a whole article because you read another one in apple insider website and assuming that they are the only side of the story makes you naive to said the least. Lazy, incompetent and bigot also comes to mi mind

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