Nilay Patel just posted an editorial on The Verge, titled, “Apple’s Bravado Clouds The Company’s Real Challenges” and seems to base his thoughts on a foundation that is incorrect. He goes astray by making the assumption that Apple and Google are competitors, taking this to the incorrect conclusion that Apple is still failing due to their inability to meet Google toe-to-toe on data and services. Here’s where most bloggers get it wrong:
Google and Apple aren’t competitors as they both occupy completely different markets.
By incorrectly assuming they are, the clearest metaphor would go as follows: Toyota and Kenwood are competitors because Toyota uses Kenwood stereos in their products, thus for Toyota to beat Kenwood, they need to start building Toyota-branded stereos and outsell Kenwood.
Google is a data and services company that profits from advertising and access to accumulated personal data. Apple is a device manufacturer that produces both the hardware and the software needed to operate it. Google’s end-game is not in making pretty hardware… it’s to get their services on as many devices as possible to increase ad exposure as that’s what generates profit for them. To put any weight in the argument that, “Google is getting better at design faster than Apple is getting better at web services,” is ridiculous as Apple’s game is not the collection of data for advertising. Or maybe it’s a misunderstanding of Google’s intentions rather than Apple’s. Google isn’t in the hardware or OS game to beat Apple. it’s in those markets to further increase the amount of users for them to expose their ads to while providing them the service of search in exchange for a user’s personal data.
Google strives to remain platform agnostic not to compete with Apple, but to piggyback off Apple’s success. For Google, when Apple wins they also win, as long as Apple users keep using Youtube, Google search, Gmail, etc. on their shiny new iPhone, iPad or Mac. More simply, Google isn’t in it to beat Apple with Android. In the opposite of Apple, Android is the means to Google’s advertising end as it ensures that users will use Google’s services, providing an open channel to monetize their users. Compare this to today’s iPhone that no longer uses Google services by default. This is Google’s only interest in Android, or ChromeOS for that matter. As long as every hardware platform they’re on combines to equal 100% of the market, Google has maximized their profit potential. It’s why Google recently put up such a huge stink about an unauthorized YouTube app on Windows Phone: no ad potential.
Apple uses services like iCloud to build value in their hardware. Google uses hardware like the Chromebook Pixel to expand their services.
Apple’s hostility against Google is often confused by the loudest bloggers who falsely assume that Apple is defending their data and services turf. They argue that locking Google out is Apple’s focus; to limit their access to data and services is their primary argument. Wrong. While these two companies business models are polar opposites of each other, the only frustration that exists is on Apple’s part: Google’s distribution of Android manages to hurt Apple if potential Apple customers are choosing an Android based device instead. This is what Apple’s fighting for, plain and simple as a lost sale is a lost sale when it comes to hardware.
If you doubt these facts, just ask why Google’s partners are willing to nearly give away their hardware for free without even the slightest protest from Google while Apple goes to great lengths to uplift the ownership experience.
Services like iWork on iCloud or iTunes Radio is designed to get more people into the Apple ecosystem. There is no hidden premise of Apple trying to compete in the data and services space. It’s actually a coup d’etat; where iPod was once a halo device that brought new users into the Apple fold based on a positive experience, iWork on iCloud is a product to help do the same as it exposes yet more people on competing hardware to OS X. Apple is targeting the “iPhone owner on a PC” by putting iWork on iCloud by giving them just a taste while building more value in a tangible way to push even more PC users into making the not insignificant financial plunge into Mac hardware. The side effect being that current OS X users will benefit from additional value.
The only bottom line is this: Google doesn’t care if their partners sell hardware at cost since Google profits from marketing, ads and data. Since Apple is a hardware company, this is a huge issue every time a potential customer forgoes their more expensive hardware. If one profits via exposure while the other profits from sales, clearly they’re not competitors. Just like with Microsoft, Apple doesn’t have to “win,” they just need to ship superior products.