Is Google Apple’s competitor? It certainly seems like it when we read about Android’s smartphone market share. Or the new Chromebooks from Google. In reality, Google isn’t competing with Apple at all, and, in fact, never can.
As we all know so very well, Apple is a company that excels in the user experience. Advanced technology is made usable via superb software — the user interface. Because of that linkage between the hardware and software, Apple builds hardware that we want to own. Covet might not be an exaggeration.
Google doesn’t sell hardware, and they don’t sell the user experience. The goal of Google is to make money by giving away free services, like search, that make money on the back end with ads. In essence, we are drawn to Google because their products are free, but we’re left with that lingering, nagging feeling that we’ve given up something valuable, our privacy, location, our likes and dislikes, for free services.
Even though Google’s business model has made them billons, it’s not a business philosophy that’s designed to earn our love, loyalty and respect.
Understanding Human Nature
It’s very hard right now, in many places, to just walk into an Apple retail store and buy an iPad. The adequate supply of components is not yet within Apple’s grasp. But lots of people know one thing: they want an iPad, and nothing else will do.
Compare that to Google’s dubious roll out of the Chromebook - a PC-like notebook that is a solution in search of a problem. The Chromebook doesn’t have local storage. You can’t install your own apps. It’s an Internet appliance designed to force you to live in the cloud, living only in a browser. Period. As Mike Elgan points out very clearly, it isn’t a very desirable device, we give up a lot of control, it doesn’t meet the needs of home users, and there’s no guarantee that Google will support it once they lose interest. It’s just a silly experiment born of too much cash and undisciplined thinking
If we need further proof that Apple is building products that people like rather than technologies that try to seduce us, Horace Dediu has published an analysis that shows the following: in Q1, Apple’s iPhone had five percent of the mobile phone volumes, 20 percent of the revenues and 55 percent of the profits.
People buy iPhones to have that particular product from Apple and its fabulous, fairly secure ecosphere. People buy Android phones for many other reasons, but it’s not related to affection for the hardware or the OS. And as we know, Google has had a hard time working with the carriers to roll out the latest updates — sometimes with security issues that are fairly serious.
Google’s entire business model is sustained by a desire to use advertising to drive revenues behind free services that then allows them to dabble in advanced software technologies that they can then roll out for free, maintaining the cycle. Android may have have a lot of customers, apps, and smartphone market share (spread across many hardware makers), but Apple remains firmly in the business of earning the customer’s money by making hardware we love. That’s a long term, sustainable business.
Apple earns its loyalty and earns its profits in a very special, customer oriented way. Steve Jobs understands people. The dizzying array of software technologies that Google keeps throwing at us (and at the wall to see what sticks) isn’t going to change that and, ultimately, cannot compete for the hearts of customers.