Is Google Apple…or Microsoft? Neither, I Hope!

By  |  Saturday, July 11, 2009 at 6:53 pm

Your Potential. Our Passion.Google’s announcement of Chrome OS is causing observers to try and figure out which other gigantic tech company it most closely resemble. Brian Caufield of Forbes thinks that Google is “stealing” ideas from Apple, pointing out that both companies now make operating systems for PCs and phones, browsers, productivity suites, and e-mail, and bringing up the fact that Google CEO Eric Schmidt serves on Apple’s board.

I’m not convinced that Google is intentionally or unconsciously cribbing anything from Apple. In every case Caufield cites except browsers, Google’s products and Apple’s are wildly different. The two companies’ approaches to operating systems couldn’t be less similar: Apple’s OS is a rich, proprietary, decidedly traditional piece of software that’s available only on its own, premium-priced computers. Google’s Chrome OS is going to be a simple, open-source, Web-centric product that will show up on cheap netbooks from other companies, and Google plans to give it away. Remind me again exactly what part of this constitutes intellectual theft?

Beyond the fundamentally different personalities of the two companies–which Caufield does acknowledge–it’s also worth nothing that they seem to be steering clear of each other’s core businesses. Apple doesn’t do search; Google doesn’t sell music or video.

Then there’s Anil Dash’s comparison of Google to Microsoft. I can quibble with some of the examples he gives–he says that Google is focusing on Android at the expense of the iPhone, when in fact Google continues to produce some of the best iPhone apps and services of anybody. But the basic metaphor is apt, and worrisome–between Android and Chrome OS Chrome-the-browser and Google Apps and Knol and Wave and 11,342 other projects, Google is entering almost every market you can imagine it entering. So far, the results are more often good-to-excellent than disappointing. But there’s no way that Google can successfully be all things to all people indefinitely. (Lots of folks are excited about Wave, but it felt disturbingly Microsoftian to me.)

Of course, Google’s at its best when it’s reminiscent of neither Apple nor Microsoft, but is its own admirable self. May it continue to be really good at being Google for a long time to come…


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8 Comments For This Post

  1. Simon Says:

    Caulfield’s article was inept – Google have no ideas of their own? Select a few of their products, make out like they’re all Google have ever done and use that as a basis for accusing them of copying Apple?

    OK, perhaps the number of truly great products they’ve developed (not counting acquisitions) can be counted on one hand- search, mail, maps, calendar- but that’s good going, even for a company of Google’s size.

  2. T Says:

    This ism’t about products this is abiut business udeas. 98 percent of Google’s revenues come from one business: search advertising.It’s a he’ll of a first act, but they have yet to find a second.

  3. James Says:

    All in all hopefully they put out a good product. we will see though

  4. AJ Says:

    @Simon, maps is through an acquisition as well. Google did not develop it on their own (

  5. coldbrew Says:

    McCracken: I’m curious about how a new protocol based on HTTP and XMPP, designed specifically with federation as a core principle (minimizes potential for lock-in), and where an open-source implementation will be released at, or near, launch sounds “Microsoftian” in any way. Is there a specific MS project to which you are referring? Azure? Silverlight? ODF standards? HTML5? CSS?

  6. Marc Says:

    Google seem to copy Apple and Microsoft all over the place. They just make their versions web based, and in some cases such as GMail, they make a better product, other such as Google Docs are inferior. Others such as Google Maps, take off because they are free. I remember using mapping software for Windows 3.1, hardly a new idea there! It’s just the implementation that is new.
    I would rather Google concentrated on making it’s existing products better, rather than trying to dominate the world !

  7. william Says:

    Google is now a huge public company. It would be very surprising to find that they do not start to suffer from some of the same problems that have plagued every other huge public company.

  8. tom b Says:

    “Google seem to copy Apple and Microsoft all over the place. They just make their versions web based”

    True, which COULD be “innovative enough”. Time will tell

    Google will have a hard time beating the ease-of-use; dev tools; and HW integration you see from Apple..

    They’ll have no trouble at all beating MSFT is every category. People don’t use MSFT for the sake of quality; they use MSFT products out of false economy, or because the IT drone MAKES them. But, since the MSFT ecosphere is largely coercive, moving people into the 21st century will be slow for Google. Apple’s been working on that task for about 25 years and they still are below 10% worldwide market share.

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