Google vs Apple: Innovation

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.

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27 Responses to Google vs Apple: Innovation

  1. Alan Smith says:

    Rubbish. Where is Google wave? Why has Google simply copied the iPhone? Why is it that their video codec not as fast as H.264? Why is it that gmail is ever so slow? What is so different about the Google TV that is truly innovative? What will happen if HTC is found to violate Apple's patents? And why is it that the Android/Verizon phones have to be given away at 1/2 price? Are they only worth half an iPhone? Please be innovative in your blog and stop supporting Google that holds all your search data, was caught stealing wifi data as it took photos in Germany. Google will now keep your viewing habits via Google TV and sell that to advertisers. Wake up.

  2. Steve W says:

    You are comparing products to promises. Vaporware is always on the cutting edge of innovation; products not so much.On the other hand, Apple's WebKit is so open that even Apple's competitors use it.

  3. PaulG says:

    Innovation is the abused “i” word that Microsoft has often used to little meaningful effect, describing things that are going to be wonderful and be received with acclaim as if that's a fait accompli. Innovation in and of itself is just a process on it's way to a POTENTIALLY successful product. There's good and BAD innovation (or what I call unnovation). Not all so-called innovation is a good thing nor should it be automatically lumped in with the “s” word – success. Microsoft has mangled the meaning of this word so much I think we need another one like “innovention” or just “new approaches.”

  4. Morgan R. says:

    I think the largest problem with your theory comes from the foundation of the two companies: Apple is a company which derives the vast majority of its revenue from a direct sale – they provide you cool technology in exchange for money. Google is not a technology company at all, their revenue comes from showing you advertisements – Google's users are the product they sell.The question of “openness” is a total red herring. Google's openness is focused on drawing more eyeballs that can be re-sold. Apple's open/closedness is focused on creating products that earn them money directly.My guess is the company whose core revenue is derived from innovation will lead in innovating.

  5. sixmemos says:

    <quote>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.</quote>Google I/O is clearly all about making developers happy.* The million-dollar question is whether in their business model, consumers will be happy.Intensely curated development + deployment on a two-platform system (iPhone/iPad) vs supported but noncurated development on multiple hardware platforms? I'm not sure which will win, but the next few years will be interesting indeed.*Side point: While Google I/O is about making developers happy, Google is about making Google happy. Best not to forget that.

  6. JW says:

    Apple makes money through selling hardware & software – they don't “open” any of these technologies.Google makes money through selling advertising – they don't “open” any of these technologies.

  7. MIke says:

    Apple does have fanboys.Google does too.You are one of them. 🙂

  8. TK says:

    Apple is an innovator. Google is a purchaser of innovation.

  9. synthmeister says:

    What I saw was Google throwing a lot of stuff at the wall and hoping that others will help make it stick. That's not really a long term strategy. For example, the Google TV. The problem with AppleTV (and soon GoogleTV) is not the technology, it's the cable companies and the content owners who are still scared of the tech. And BTW, it is simple to bring in your own photos, movies, DVD rips and music into AppleTV. Sheesh.Google doesn't open up any of its ad-money streams or methods to anyone. I quote from the Counternotions website:” It’s not as if… the rest of the world can see what’s behind Google’s perfectly opaque and proprietary search and advertising curtain, is it? Can you say “link farms”and SEO? Do you really know what exactly Google does with your click-stream history? Did you know Google has been snooping on European WiFi transmissions until a few days ago even though the company denied it previously? Do you really know what the man behind the curtain is doing?Just as Adobe is desperately trying to yell at the world, “Don’t buy into Apple’s walled garden, get locked into our own proprietary Flash,” so is Google trying to misdirect consumers’ attention from its own monopolistic sins to Apple’s mobile platform where 100 million users voted with their own money to enjoy 200,000 apps. The evil man behind the curtain in this scenario is not Apple’s curation, it’s the frightening prospect of Google getting cut off from search and ad revenue derived from its naked domination of the search box on top of your web browser. That, unfortunately, doesn’t sound like an appealing public cry, hence the “Curated Computing” misdirection whining.

  10. synthmeister says:

    Thank you.

  11. Don says:

    Google's so called innovation is nothing more and nothing less then good old fashion stealing! Android is not only a copy of the iPhone, but Google has the nerve to knowingly infringe upon Apple's multi-touch patents. Google's Chrome browser is built on Apple's OPEN-SOURCE WebKit, and its new Google TV is only their copying off of Apple TV, etc., etc. The Android store, yes, that idea was stolen from iTunes, and now they think they are going to take down iTunes itself! You do know that Google isn't so open as it would like you to believe. For one thing, there is lots of proof that they censor their search results and when it comes to being open… ha, try and copy any of their search algorithms and see how they treat you then?Google thinks it can just publish any old book, any old time that they want, without the authors permission, or copy people's WiFi contact info and deny that they did so until they are forced to admit it!And you do know that patent lawyers give Apple has a far better chance of winning its proxy fight against Google Android with Apple's HTC suit, which means that Android will suddenly find itself handicapped without multi-touch and the fact that Apple holds 65 percent of the patents for capacitive screens, ones that Android thieves love to use and we'll see just how: “don't do evil” mantra really is.!Remember: Apple is bigger, has more money in the bank, and is the one that is the real innovator; all others, Google included, are nothing more than copy cats. who's own innovation is basically that of adding higher specs, like a higher resolution camera. Don't these people know that Apple can beef up their specs just as easily, any old time they choose? That's hardly what I call real innovation.

  12. Michael Koby says:

    Apple's Webkit doesn't belong to Apple. It's a fork of an open source project called KHTML which Apple had to release as open source or be in violation of the the license in which KHTML was released under.Webkit does in no way belong to Apple and several companies submit patches to it.

  13. Michael Koby says:

    0) See my previous response on Webkit. Webkit is NOT Apple's it is a FORK of KHTML and is an open sourced technology that Google puts just as many patches into as Apple. Learn your history before you post a reply.1) Android isn't a copy of the iPhone. Android was in the works long before Steve Jobs announced his iPhone and Google bought the company that was making Android. If anything Android is a copy of early Windows Mobile and is in constant development thus why it has SURPASSED Windows Mobile in both number of devices and features.2) Google's book thing is something a lot of people miss the facts on. One of the major issues was that of public domain books. Which means anyone can reproduce them without having to pay author's or royalties on.3) The WiFi data was unencrypted data sent over PUBLIC wifi networks. The personal data that was captured was no one's fault but the users who were using the wifi network. It's not like google hacked WPA2 to get to peoples data, they just grabbed what was going over the wire as plain text. Just because you don't understand privacy and how it's the USER's responsibility to ensure their data is protected is YOUR problem, not Google's.4) Can you point me to some of these patent lawyers assessments? Because HTC has their own patents too. In a patent war, no one wins because when two large companies fight it out they both have patents that the other probably infringes on. Also, if Apple has the better product why sue to limit the market? Is that the only way Apple can win? By suing the competition out of business?And this whole “Google ain't as open as you think” mentality that Apple fan boys seem to have is ridiculous. Google has open sourced MORE code than Apple would be willing to SHOW you. Yea they don't open source their search algorithm or adsense, but they build APIs that let you develop against them. Apple tells you “Use Objective-C or get lost” — yea, that's REAL openness there.And I'm sorry but while Google's on stage releasing APIS, new devices, and trying to push the envelope (where's that OTA app and music purchase on the iPhone? Oh yea, that's right DOESN'T EXIST) Apple's telling you what you CAN'T do on their devices. Programming should be about possibilities not lock downs. And Apple can up their specs, but for some reason the always choose not to. Usually under the statement of “Well you don't need that” isn't that what Steve Jobs said about 3G when the first iPhone was released? “Edge is 'good enough'” was the phrased used. So for all his innovation he has constantly settled on less tech and told his customers “it's good enough, you don't need that other thing that's been around for 4-5 years that's faster and better”I might be a Google fan boy, but I at least don't follow blindly. Google has issues too, they have privacy blunders, and they are constantly under attack for stupid decisions and stupid mistakes. When Buzz was released they recognized the privacy blunder, made an announcement within 3 days, and had a quick fix in. When's the last time you heard Steve Jobs say “hey, I was wrong” huh? But I'll take open and flawed over a dictator any day of the week.

  14. Morgan R. says:

    Mike, Quick correction on your point 2) above. The Google Books issue had nothing to do with Public Domain books, it had a little to do with so-called “Orphan Works”. Which is where the owner of the copyright is either hard to find or hard to reach. While Google really wants people to focus on that aspect of the deal, the real problem is that Google is trying to get away with asking for forgiveness rather than permission.To date, Amazon has been required by US Copyright law to seek permission first before using anyone else's work. It's been expensive and time consuming for them. Google comes along and uses people's work first, and then wants a special agreement that no one else, including Amazon, can get which would allow them to pay after-the-fact.That's the heart of the problem. Not orphan works.

  15. Interesting article but missed a few key points:1. We (users developers the world) do not want Apple or Google to win, we want them both to be significant, as the competition between the two is much more interesting than the old MS owns the world thing.2. Apple and Google have very different models from their revenue models to their design / development models they are different (and also very different from MSFT) .Google is very fast to out and updates in small increments often (actually their model is better described as data driven) wherever they can they put out multiple versions of updates and read the data as to what people like. This can give them very detailed insights but it tend to look backwards, following the curve rather than seeing the future, and is good for determining incremental improvements, rather than big directional changes. That is why Android (so far at least) is always behind the iPhone OS in terms of big stuff and jumps ahead in terms of the incremental stuff. The Apple mode is about a single vision and the user experience. To achieve this they try and control as much of the process as possible enabling them more control over the user experience along with the ability to make changes simultaneously on multi levels – hardware, operating systems, transaction model etc. Apple is also about selling stuff, google is about selling eyeballs, this is true at eh hardware level (apple sells hardware and google sells ads), but is also true at the transactional level. Apple has nearly 100 million credit cards on file that makes transactions (selling apps, music or movies) frictionless to both the customer and the content creator. Google is inherently at odds with the content community as they want to sue the content to sell ads not create revenue streams for the developers. Just to finish this rant – Microsoft is a totally different animal than ether Google or Apple, it is big and uses “Use Cases” to build products. They have teams that create “typical uses” of their proposed product and then try and write requirements for the product and then they combine the different use case requirements into a full spec for the development effort. This is why their products tend to be packed with features but have little focus. This tends to be slow, backwards looking and design by committee amalgamations.

  16. Michael Koby says:

    I stand correct, I just remember reading a lot of stuff on the googlebooks and the public domain books.I believe the issue was settled out of court too. In general peoplewho push the envelope rarely get it right the first time. The googlebooks thing ended up with google creating some very sophisticated OCRtech which was actually one of the good things that came out of thewhole debacle.Apple isn't exempt from making mistakes either. Or at least doingthinks viewed as mistakes. The suing the early Mac clone makers, whichheld Mac computers back from become more mainstream sooner. Some mightnot consider this a mistake now but at the time it wa widely regardedas such.Google is constantly trying new things apple built up a lot of hype ofa giant iPod Touch. We'll see why happens in a few weeks at WWDC.

  17. Michael Koby says:

    I definitely agree that neither should win and that the competitionbetween them both os a great thing.I should also note that I use an iPhone because at the time I got itthere wasn't an Android device on AT&T. Both Google and Apple makesome compelling products. And I think that Microsoft's Windows Phone7 is a good step for them (especially the use of Silverlight and XNA).Great things are going to come from all sides over the next fewyears. I do think that the recent Google announcements show thatApple isn't the only one working on cool new things.

  18. PXLated says:

    0) Yes, Google is now contributing to WebKit but before Apple took it on years ago, WebKit was not much and without all the Apple contributions it's questionable whether all the others would have adopted WebKit.1) I'm not sure you're accurate about this. The Android Google bought was against Windows Mobile and Blackberrys and the prototypes I recall seeing were pretty much copycats of a Blackberry, they were nothing like an iPhone. When Apple introduced iPhone, Android had to be retooled because the smartphone game changed. So, Android is – from everything I've read/seen – a copy of iPhone. Apple innovated, Google copied.3) No, it is Google's problem. Even though the data they got is pretty much useless, they shouldn't have been gathering it in the first place and they have even admitted that.4) HTC had something like 3 filed patents last year (or some ridiculously low number) . They are not a patent powerhouse. They did just license Microsoft patents but how many of those relate to the Apple suit is unknown – Apple and Microsoft have a cross-licensing deal also. As to why sue, Apple needs to protect IP. Google would sue also if someone touched their search IP. In many cases, companies are required to protect their IP or loose it.

  19. JS says:

    You are partially correct but you seem to want to diminish Apple's contributions to to the project by saying that Google has contributed as much to the project. You have no way of knowing that. isn't a copy of the iPhone….Yeah, it pretty much is. Winmo…really? Nothing worked like the iPhone UI before the iPhone now most of them are a derivative of Apple's UI. Again you seem to want to diminish Apple's contributions. Winmo wasn't even in the same ballpark & still isn't. What originality has Google brought to the table? I don't see it.) Can you point me to some of these patent lawyers assessments? Because “HTC has their own patents too. In a patent war, no one wins because when two large companies fight it out they both have patents that the other probably infringes on. Also, if Apple has the better product why sue to limit the market? Is that the only way Apple can win? By suing the competition out of business?”Then why have patents at all? Apple has every right to protect it's IP. In fact it looks like HTC licensing patents from MS. I guess that's one way MS can try to make money in the mobile market. And I'm sorry but while Google's on stage releasing APIS, new devices, and trying to push the envelope (where's that OTA app and music purchase on the iPhone? Oh yea, that's right DOESN'T EXIST) Apple's telling you what you CAN'T do on their devices. Programming should be about possibilities not lock downs. And Apple can up their specs, but for some reason the always choose not to. Usually under the statement of “Well you don't need that” isn't that what Steve Jobs said about 3G when the first iPhone was released? “Edge is 'good enough'” was the phrased used. So for all his innovation he has constantly settled on less tech and told his customers “it's good enough, you don't need that other thing that's been around for 4-5 years that's faster and better”Half of this paragraph is written out of ignorance. I'm not even sure what the hell it is you're talking about. The iPhone was released on the Edge network with AT&T because that was what AT&T was running at the time. Do you remember the first Google phone…it was a joke. I guess we could spin that in a negative way couldn't we? Apple's phone was under development When? You have no clue how long the phone was in the works. Apple says 3 years before it's release. Where was Eric Scmidt,,,HMMMMMM on the board at Apple. When did Google's first knock off phone arrive? Wasn't it just last year. Who's UI does it resemble? Oh yeah, you said Winmo…I'm sorry I can't stop laughing.”When's the last time you heard Steve Jobs say “hey, I was wrong” huh?”Again…what the hell are you talking about? Google totally screwed the pooch on customer support with the Nexxus One. It was non existent. I guess since Google is so open they don't have any patents that so Apple or anyone else can just use Google's IP & of course Google would allow it because they ride Unicorns & sprinkle rainbow fairy dust on everything they do. Google sells advertising…you can't give stuff away for FREE & make any money without advertising money driving their business model. Apple makes physical products that is what they derive their revenue from.

  20. JS says:

    :The suing the early Mac clone makers, whichheld Mac computers back from become more mainstream sooner. “When was that exactly?

  21. Michael Koby says:

    okay, I had to go back and research this to find exact dates (wikipedia to the rescue) but I mispoke (I was wrong) they didn't sue, they effectively revoked licenses from clone makers which caused the clones to become unusable. End result is still the same and many in the industry at the time viewed it as a bad move. This was around the time of Mac OS 8. fact that you weren't aware of this shows how much fan boys don't know about the history of the object of their affection.

  22. Pingback: One perspective: Google vs Apple: Innovation « Chicago Mac/PC Support

  23. Michael Koby says:

    Wow, lets start with the WebKit project1) it's open source so you can see who's commiting to the projet. While Apple commits quite a bit, other companies commit to it as well. I don't want to diminish Apple's contributions, I want people to understand that a) Apple didn't create it out of thin air (they built on technology that was publicly available in KHTML) and b) they aren't the only ones that commit patches and code to it. I'll see if I can pull actual percentages out of the commit logs.2) Again, history. Another company was building Android before Google bought them and the guy who ran that company had previously worked on the Sidekick. He was working on doing a better Windows Mobile before the iPhone came out. Once the iPhone came out Android was retooled, yes, but the fact that Android is open sourced means that it can be made to look like anything a company wants.Example are phones like the Motorola Backflip or Cliq. They are decidedly non-iPhone like. Not to mention, the Cliq was the first to really do address book integration with social networks. What's the current rumor? Oh right, Apple's going to allow people to sync contact data with facebook contacts. It was done first using Android.3) When the iPhone was released AT&T did in fact have a nationwide 3G network. I know this because I had multiple phones at the time that supported it. Yes they still had an edge network but they already had an almost 3 year old 3G network. So I'm not sure how I'm being ignorant when it's you whose actually ignoring facts.Eric Schmidt might have been on the board but that doesn't mean he was privy to the actual device. Heck even AT&T execs didn't get a look at the device until like a month or so before the announcement. And the Google Phone took over a year after the iPhone to come to market. By that time the iPhone 3G was out and the iPhone had already changed the smartphone world. To not make a device at least similar in specs to the iPhone would have been a poor business decision. Heck by that point LG already had like 2-3 devices that were very similar to the iPhone (at least from a UI standpoint). The first Google phone (G1) was horrible but the Nexus One, Droid Incredible, and the HTC EVO all have had rave reviews and have been spoken of as serious iPhone competitors. So while it might have not been so great at the start Google is working to make Android better at a fast rate. Also, actually having used many Android devices, Android might be similar to the iPhone is some respects, but it's not a copy by any means. Android and the iPhone OS are designed with different goals in mind and while Android has aspects that are very iPhone like, it's far from being a copy.4) The point of the last paragraph was to say that Google at least admits its mistakes. When's the last time Apple did that? They don't. Google realized the issue of no tech support for the Nexus One and they hired a customer service team to handle it (the job posting made blogs like Engadget, Boy Genius, and Gizmodo so I'm not sure how/why you missed that). Google's “release early, update often” mentality allows to them to adjust quickly when mistakes are made and realized.Also, regarding the idea of software patents, see my previous blog posts. I think software patents are horrific and need to be abolished. A good place to start is wikipedia for information on software patents and why some people are against them (

  24. Michael Koby says:

    I managed to pull numbers out. Granted only ~29,000 of the ~50,000 commits had email addresses tied to them, but the final numbers are that Apple commits about 47%, Chromium 11%, and the WebKit team itself 41%.That's just based off the numbers I could pull. So Apple does commit heavily to WebKit (and I never said they didn't) but others do push patches to the repository. Other company email addresses that showed up were RIM, Nokia, and TorchMobile.What should be noted is that we don't know who the people with email address work for (if anyone). It could be Apple, Google, or even Red Hat and Canonical (people who make Ubuntu).

  25. JS says:

    Many in the industry? Who exactly flunky writers for Cnet?The clone market was eating into profits of Apple. They were getting the license on the cheap & essentially helping to put Apple out of business. As a business owner what would you do? You would go out of business…yeah that's even better than ending clones. It was a business decision. Time to grow up. Apple is not MS. They make money from selling hardware. The software is there to enhance the hardware. MS is a software company. Dell just ensembles boxes. Technology has been held back all to protect MS's business model.

  26. JS says:

    “Welcome to the website for the WebKit Open Source Project!WebKit is an open source web browser engine. WebKit is also the name of the Mac OS X system framework version of the engine that's used by Safari, Dashboard, Mail, and many other OS X applications. WebKit's HTML and JavaScript code began as a branch of the KHTML and KJS libraries from KDE. This website is also the home of S60's S60 WebKit development.”I don't think it's that hard to figure out…do you, really? If it's still difficult for you to comprehend, this was very easy to find from the link you provided: not realize that you are putting out a product that will need support before said product is released is a huge mistake. Of course, in your mind, they need a break because they of course are not Apple. Try holding Google to the same standard (or any company for that mater). Also Apple never sued the clone market, Apple started a clone market & then discontinued that market.Yes the carriers can modify the OS to be anything they want, so what. How is that going to bring about consistency? The fact is they have all modified it to try & mimic the iPhone. Who is responsible for product quality if everyone just gets to do what they want? Who answers at the end of the day? I see fragmentation & confusion in the consumer space if Google doesn't get it's act together. NO customer support experience. No hardware experience. NO platform building experience. NO retail experience. etc.etc. Google isn't going to obtain those things over night. Apple has 30 years of those experiences. I agree with you competition is good but let's stay in the realm of reality here. Like I said where is the innovation? Google fairy dust & rainbows:Imagine your head would explode if this were Apple.

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