I realized something today. Google is innovating quickly. Their release early and update often strategy has served them well since they released their search engine all those years ago. Other Google products like Gmail, Google Reader, Google Calendar, Android, Chrome, and many others all followed this whole “release early, update often” ideal. When Gmail first came out, it didn’t do much more than send and receive emails. Slowly, the ability to delete messages, do sub-labels, do POP3 and IMAP connections so one could do offline work, chat and calendar integration, and then eventually Google Labs for Gmail which allowed people to develop their own features for the service. All of this is just one example of how Google does new products.
As I was listening and occasionally watching the Google I/O Keynote for today, where the focus was on Android and the newly announced Google TV, I realized that Google is eventually going to beat Apple when it comes to innovating. I saw on Twitter where someone said “Apple is getting Microsoft-ed by Google” and there’s a lot of truth in that statement.
Be Open and Push Open
One thing that was repeated over and over at both keynotes for Google I/O was “we’re opening this up to you” or “we’re releasing this as an open source project” and other similar quotes. Google is all about doing their work in the open, this brings in people that can build things and build upon their work. You never know what your users will do if you let them and in many cases they will surprise you if given half a chance. Google’s message has been about being open, allowing more people to work on and build on their work to the betterment of the product.
Apple is the exact opposite. They tightly lock their software and hardware together to create computing appliances. They ensure you can only develop a certain way and only develop certain things for their products. If they don’t like your work, they reject it. Sometimes they do it without giving you a reason. This is not always a bad thing though, Apple products have a tendency to “just work” in a way that other computer companies would love. But it is widely known that Apple and Google have different ideas on computing and openness.
Moving Things Forward
When Apple TV came out people liked it. It was the first product to bring downloaded content to a TV screen without a lot of hacking or trial and error. However as many geeks will tell you, it is severely lacking. You can’t bring in your own media, and watching stuff that falls outside the iTunes wall is pretty much impossible.
Google announced Google TV which brings the web to your television. Instead of dumbing down the web for TV, you are given a full internet experience. Built on the Android platform Google TV can use Android apps, which means that developers can write applications that target Google TV. Meaning that Google TV is expandable and customizable, all while giving you a nice mixture of the web and TV. While the initial demo of Google TV doesn’t look overly impressive, I have little doubt that Google will maintain their “release early, update often” methodology on it and in time we’ll see Google TV grow into something awesome.
GoogleTV is the perfect example of how Google is innovating. They’re working on bringing to the TV what Apple tried to do but in a way that is more open and customizable. If you look at the most recent Apple product, the iPad, you might notice that it’s basically a larger iPod Touch. Google TV is what Apple TV wishes it could be and that says a lot about the kind of work Google is doing.
Google Will Beat Apple (Eventually)
I think that long term (in other words, not in the immediate future but probably 7-10 years from now), Google will have replaced Apple as the most innovative tech company. I realize that I’m saying this as Apple’s own developer conference (WWDC) is weeks away, but Google really brought their A game over the last few days. Even with the demo failures they showed that they are interested in moving things forward and changing the way we think about technology. Their dedication to being open, using open standards, and creating new open products is proof in the pudding. Apple may have it’s fan boys, but I’ll stick with Google.