How the War Between Apple & Google Will be Won

| Particle Debris

“Millions of men have lived to fight, build palaces and boundaries, shape destinies and societies; but the compelling force of all times has been the force of originality and creation profoundly affecting the roots of human spirit." -- Ansel Adams

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Apple and Google are engaged in a fight for our technological souls. With a temporary lull in activity from Apple, it looks as if Google is winning the war. But really? What will determine the winner in the long run not simply new product announcements. It's something else.

Competition between the giants Apple and Google is heating up at an enormous pace. Sure, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft are in the mix as competitors in a formal sense. However, the two companies battling for our technological way of life are Apple and Google.

Google is working with systems that are open to all. There are few constraints, and anything goes. When there's nothing to hold a company back, except those negative people in the press Google's Larry Page complained about this week, the sky's the limit.

From one perspective, the agressive development of technology and services, like Google Glass, Android, Google Now, Google+ and Google Hangouts can generate a lot of jazz. (I remain enthusiastic about Google Glass.) Journalists see exciting new technologies that can help them in their jobs. The discussion of the potential of the technologies earns them their living: a lively discussion of the gadgets of our time.

On the other hand, such a rapid change in technology creates fear, uncertainty, nervousness about loss of privacy, possible government snooping and possible misuse or misinterpretation of personal information. Many people are wondering about the trade-offs. Does a given service truly serve them?

Who Do you Trust?

Let's be blunt. Apple and Google are both in business to make money. They are at each other's throats in maps, smartphones, search services, music, books, apps and, indirectly, the courts. Both companies are wealthy, and both have the means to develop disruptive new technologies that appeal to us.

However, it has become, from what I've seen, unfashionable to talk about what the ultimate motivation of each company is. It's a sticky, unsavory proposition that takes sides. All technology is much more fun and profitable to write about. However, where is the important conversation about what each company ultimately wants to achieve?

In the end, the company that wins, or at least surges ahead of the other, is the one that understands how to meet basic human needs and fulfill our spirit better than the other. Fundamentally, human beings want to feel in control, not be betrayed or tricked, have others respectful of their time and privacy, and feel that their choice of tools serves them well.

For example, if I set a geofence to remind me that when I'm at at the grocery store, I should remember to buy eggs, then that facility serves me and my family. If, however, a Google map API allows Starbucks to push a coupon in my face when I'm within a certain distance of a Starbucks establishment, then I feel tricked, manipulated, panicked. The underlying technology is the same, but the vision for how it's used and who profits by it is different.

An even bigger question is: how does Apple help us formulate this conversation? Certainly, one contrast is the recent iPhone 5 TV ad that celebrates what we can do with the camera. Compare that to Android ads that celebrate the snark and the geek side of technology. Emptiness. Even so, when it comes to Big Discussions about technology at the tech websites, that nuance is mostly overlooked. We end up with sterile, dreary discussions of how Google is kicking Apple's behind. "The Epic Battle Between Apple & Google Is All But Over - Who Won." In that article, the author doesn't even begin to properly assess Apple's true strengths. It's as if he just landed on planet earth.

Changing the Conversation

Google, to be sure, is aggressively developing new and exciting technologies, but the end result of all of them has a single unifying theme: using information about us to help them and their business partners make money. How far we go in accepting that value proposition is the challenge of our time.  Naturally, salesmanship means that keeping the conversation focused on these exciting new technologies helps Google distract customers (and tech journalists) from Apple's valuable approach and vision about what it tries to achieve with technology.

Human beings want to live a considered life of productivity, recognition, peace, family, respect and dignity. Apple's focus has always been on developing products that bring out the best in us, inspire us, and remain true to the human spirit. That puts Apple at a disadvantage at times. The company cannot just throw stuff out there at a relentless pace to see what sticks. There must be some calm measure, some attention to what makes products great. That takes time and patience by all concerned. Have we forgotten?

In the final analysis, that's what we want from a company. We don't mind making Apple rich if we share in a mutual vision. But to become a mindless automaton, endlessly buffeted by advertisers, crying out for attention, pleading for our money and time, prying into our behavior and preferences, carried to extremes, is demeaning. The trick is to seduce us into thinking we're ever so cool even as we're being manipulated. Shall we fall for that?

Right now, Apple doesn't have a visible, vocal, charming spokesperson who is skilled, articulate and persuasive to remind us. That's why it's helpful, from time to time, to reflect on why we are Apple customers. And why, in the long run, working with the fundamentals of human needs will be how Apple will earn our loyalty and remain competitive.

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Tech News Debris for the Week of May 13

One of the afflictions of our age is TV commercials. In the year 2013, the networks and carriers have still not figured out how to target ads on network TV. As a result, happy and devoted Subaru owners cannot watch TV without being pummeled by ads for Chevy pickups.

It's all a monumental waste of time, and as Internet technologies, independent efforts on Netflix, tablets and apps gain an ever stronger foothold, people are finding new and better ways to pay for entertainment. Here's a nice synopsis: "Good news for Google Fiber: Broadcast TV audiences are cratering faster than ever." I have always felt that if Apple is going to make real progress in its rumored HDTV project, attention to this new way of watching TV will have to play an important role.

Have you heard of the "Network Effect"? Ben Bajarin explores the Network Effect and how Microsoft has missed out on it. It also relates to the money to be made by developers of iOS apps. The fascinating analysis by Mr. Bajarin is here: "Microsoft is Missing Apps the Same Way They Missed the Early Internet."

Along the lines of my discussion in the preamble, one has to dig a little to find the off-mainstream analysis of some of today's services like example Google+. Molly McHugh writes, insightfully, in "I finally figured out why I don’t like Google+: It wasn’t built for me."

And that’s because Google+ isn’t for us –- it’s for Google. At a fireside chat during I/O, Google+ developers address some of the lurking questions about why we should be using the service. 'There happens to be a product at plus.google.com and an app,' said G+ director of engineering David Glazer (via Forbes). 'But really it’s a way for Google to get to know our users. Who they have relationships with. We give them the ability to share. That layer, that spine, that backbone, is intended to help us make search, Maps, YouTube, Gmail, etc. better. That’s the real point of Google+.'

[What? You didn't know? -JM ]

...the wide reach of Google’s services means that the layer of G+ is doing plenty when it comes to amassing user data -- but it’s why we continue to feel unsatisfied whenever we login and actually look at Google+."

Some sort of basic human need seems to be missing. Hmm, I seem to have heard about that before.

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Tug of war and TV ad via Shutterstock.

Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro's observations and opinions about a standout event of the week combined with a summary of articles that didn't make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holidays.  

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17 Comments Leave Your Own

Stephen Adams

Who do I trust? A company that *I* pay. I’m not the product, I’m the customer. That’s the ultimate problem with Google, Facebook or any other company that makes its revenue by monetizing users. In the end, it’s about how much of my life they can infiltrate and sell to third parties.

mhikl

I am even more convince that in the corporate world there is neither friend nor faith. At best there are frienemies and opportunities. Apple could buddy-up with StartPage or DuckDuckGo or design its own search engine that does the famous Apple-disruption boogie-woogie (to Google’s Raison d’être) on grounds of security to the Apple user’s data. Add to the mix that search has become a tiresome trade-off between function and fervent advertising and what better excuse has Apple than servicing its users in this area. The gloves of silk do not work when money and power are at stake, so trust is no longer in the game. As a company serving quality, string-free hardware for its lifeblood, the impetus for goodwill, profit and growth is satisfied and the pleasure found through quality services and ecosystems, without intrusion, would further engender happy, returning consumers. And yes, John, the orchard does need a good Shepard to dance the story of Apple.

aardman

One of these days Tim Cook’s Apple has to come up with a Think Different type of ad campaign where they lay out Apple’s values and philosophy:

Who are our customers?  The people who buy Apple devices and software are our customers. Not the advertisers, not other smartphone manufacturers, not the cellphone carriers, but you. -the person who bought an iPhone, or a Mac, or any of our devices.

What is our promise to you, our customers?  We will not gather, package, and the sell or share information about to any advertiser without your permission.  We will not share any more information about you beyond the minimum that is necessary to deliver the best experience possible with our products.

You are our not a product.  You are the customer.  Our customer.

mhikl

Aardman, here, here!

CudaBoy

I don’t see a “war” at all. Both companies and platforms are doing fine thank-you very much. Apple suffers a little from hype and unrealistic expectations but that’s because they set it up that way -  they put out several incremental improvements and fixes to their phones and stuff but have had no new thunder in 2 years thus causing this l’il period of “doubt”. 
Google just keeps rolling along with no heavy (broken) whole widget to worry about; seems lighter on their feet than Apple, and keep coming up with Ideas both soft and hard. Who can fault that?
The consumers will win - either way!!!

daemon

Did you just create a new acronym? FUN?

“such a rapid change in technology creates Fear, Uncertainty, Nervousness “

Guess it’s better than spreading FUD about the future.

John Dingler, artist

Regarding commercials with heart, how about that car commercial with the two Spoks? Funny as heck! And the MS commercial that mocks Google is terrific. These two have the inspiration of a typical Chiat Day ad.

wab95

John:

Some excellent food for thought in your prologue to the PD this week. A couple of thoughts.

1) The first is, the original Twilight Zone was a bit ahead of my time for me to appreciate its cerebral content, however, I watched one Rod Serling’s later offerings featuring Stacy Keach as a balding but vain fellow in need of a hair transplant, which he secures having seen an advert for the service. The only catch was that he could never cut it. Ever. Keach agrees, gets the transplant, and is one happy hirsute. Over time, headaches and other symptoms arise; he makes a connection with the transplant, and attempts to cut it, when one of the hairs detaches from the root turns and hisses at him. Too late to undo the damage, he discovers that his ‘hair’ is an alien life form that is feeding on his brain.

I am involuntarily reminded of that episode, as well as the time-honoured traditions of goat and cattle ranching, in which the rancher provides shelter and food to the herd, but the price of that service is to die for. Whenever any company like Google or FB attempt to woo me with ‘free’ or massively discounted products, but state up front that they will harvest and own my data, I feel as if my privacy and perhaps my well-being and that of my family and colleagues - depending on what data are harvested - is being consumed for the company’s disproportionate benefit. There has been nothing that any of these companies have ever offered that incline me to feel that such an exchange is a fair one.

While I’m on this point, let me parenthetically add, that while I concur with you that Google Glass, and whatever incarnation may supplant, is both disruptive and has many potential advantages to humanity, it poses severe, and within the present limits of the law governing privacy, unacceptably high risks to the populace. Specifically, not unlike tobacco, an individual is free to use it if they choose, however, it took decades for us to appreciate that in its incendiary use, non-users were being put at severe and unacceptably high risks to their health. Tobacco users were not simply choosing for themselves, but imposing that choice, and its associated health risks, upon others, and new laws had to be passed to curb its consumption for the protection of non-users. I feel the same will need to be applied to a technology such as this, that involves not merely the privacy of the Google Glass user, but the unwitting public. We are not there yet; fortunately neither is Google Glass, but time is short.

Second, not all customers are of equal value or investment. While Google’s Android marketshare (as just one product) is substantially greater than that of Apple’s iOS (leaving aside the discussion of the forked and fractured instal base that is labelled Android), survey after survey illustrates two things: a) in the main, apart from the activist and vocal geeks, usage of these devices begs the question of whether they even compete in the smartphone space in practise. Specifically, in internet use, search, app purchases and active participation to Google’s online store, the overwhelming majority of these sales are as inert as noble gases. These sales do not benefit Google’s bottom line, and as you point out above, Google and Apple alike are in business to make a profit; b) for most customers (and no, most are not Americans) the choice is driven solely by cost and availability. These are not customers making an informed voluntary purchase based on brand recognition and sustainable brand loyalty. These are opportunistic purchasers who, by all accounts, are not even using the tech for the purpose for which it was designed. In practise, they do not even compete with iOS purchasers, in the main. These are hard data driven conclusions. In short, Google (perhaps their OEMs as well) have appealed to and garnered the low hanging fruit as their instal base. While it may be too early to tell, a company’s ultimate well being is not driven by the transient client, but on how firm, secure and enduring is the client foundation. This is the tech titan version of the Tortoise and the Hare. In the longterm, I would argue that Apple’s foundation is far more secure, with far greater sustainability and growth potential. That is at least my assessment of the hard data.

We are only at the beginning of the post-PC era. It is far too early, in my opinion, for anyone to declare victory, when only the opening movements have been played.

nealg

Nice article John and I think it is right on point.

What would be nice if some news outlet would do an in depth piece on privacy and what companies do with our data. I know that no company is in it for nothing but all this lack of privacy is worrying. And from what I know, Google is the worst offender.

John Martellaro

daemon: I know I’m doing the right thing when readers dissect and analyze my writing with such enthusiasm!

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Ultimately, there will be two winners. One winner will play nicely with the market, expanding its reach by letting others do expensive and risky dirty work. That winner will embrace competition where it works and cooperation where it works. That winner will know that no single company can’t own a customer, and that bridging legacy and competing products is imperative to deriving value from customers.

The other winner will pretend that’s all cow malarky and build a really tall fence.

wab95

Further to my point above about Google Glass and privacy of users and non-users http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-22567061.

Perhaps we get such laws sooner rather than later.

rogifan

Apple needs to do more commercials like the “We Believe” iPad 2 commercial. Get their philosophy out there without ever mentioning the competition.  Let Microsoft take Google on directly.  Let Samsung look like jerks for making fun of Apple customers.  Just show off all the great things you can do with an Apple product (that don’t involve you being sold to advertisers).

Lancashire-Witch

” Right now, Apple doesn’t have a visible, vocal, charming spokesperson who is skilled, articulate and persuasive…”

How true, John. Apple probably never will have such a spokesperson again. Tim Cook may be a good CEO and Supply Chain expert but he’s no showman.

On the other hand I can’t imagine a Google man (or woman) standing at the crossroads of liberal arts and technology and proclaiming that “technology alone is not enough”.

ctopher

The problem with an Ad that states Apple won’t “sell” it’s customers is that most of the apps in the app store are ad supported.

Also, I would argue that the Chevy Truck commercial is NOT a waste of time when shown to the Subaru owner. Chevy does not waste anything because it continues to put its product before the customer and the customer is reminded of its attributes. When it comes time to replace the Subaru, the customer can consider the Chevy Truck. Of course some people will say, *I* don’t want to know anything about Chevy until I’m in the market for a new vehicle, but Chevy wants to make sure they will be considered.

hoangvantu

toi khong mo duoc email cua toi

Bazz

John Martellaro can’t you follow the dots or are you brain dead.  (Do you know Google can override you dot maze security code to get into you files? WHY??) Google make Microsoft look like an innocent angel!

Its only income is ads see DEDilger.  People complain that they pay for hover not clicks!
It got street data across the world (Your Wi-Fi codes if not secure and where you live and it has access to you through every repeat EVERY OS that Google has apps on at its leisure. Google said it was a coding fault that Google bypassed iPhone privacy code to see where people were or on what site. Sure and I believe I’ll get 70 virgins in paradise – now that’s a great advertising gimmick.)

“Google is working with systems that are open to all” so that they can tell where you are what you do what you read.
John Martellaro is a moron (A person with low IQ) if he can’t see that Google’s corrupt power is useful to the Feds.

Just last week the USA courts (twice) said to concerned citizens that citizens could get fuked – Google can sleep with the NSA FBI CIA and no one needs to know. How different we are with people!

Its not “we the people”* its “Might is Right”

If Google is an arm of the state – security wise – don’t you think Feds will turn a blind eye on Google’s law breaking to protect its spying on citizens. (I may add that the Fed record is poor except for sting operations. Citizens gave more leads than the Feds learned spying on everyone. And J Edgar never believed in the Mafia or corrupt unions.  But he spied on the sex life of everyone, what a pervert protecting citizens morality.)

That’s an unfair advantage in the land of capitalism making the referee one eyed!

And eventually the end of an evil empire to the joy of Usama and his mates.

* Its “We the People” not We the delegates or We the bureaucracies or We the corporations!  Nobody can speak on my behalf except with my approval!

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