When Google overtook Apple as the most valuable company in the world a few days ago, there was wide media coverage—as one would expect of such epoch-making events.
Comments from the fanboys on both sides came fast and furious as to which company deserves the accolades more than the other, which one is more innovative, or which one superior in terms not just of stock market but in sheer technological or design prowess.
I cannot help but remember that about two decades back when the Cupertino computer maker (computer maker!) was struggling, many journalists would begin their articles thus: “Troubled computer maker Apple…” (It’s another matter that many of the same journos couldn’t later stop going gaga over Apple’s iPhone and iThis and iThat.)
Another point to note in case of both Google and Apple is that they represent the end consumer side of computing rather than the enterprise side—which is why as an enterprise technology writer, I have tended to ignore them. But that’s not the case anymore: with the increasing consumerization of IT having an impact on enterprises and with BYOD a frequently bandied about term in CIO circles, the inroads that these two behemoths have made in the hallowed portals of biztech are just too deep and wide to mistake them for mere bylanes.
And yet, there are, IMHO, certain existential and fundamental differences in how the two firms work, live, strive, prosper and struggle. Having said that, I believe both (or other avant-garde technology stars that show similar sparks of genius in the computing universe) are necessary as well as desirable.
If one were to distill the essence of the two giants into tiny philosophical catchphrases, one might come up with this: Google is a “Don’t be evil, do-gooder force unleashed by its founding duo” while Apple is the delicious icon borne of its late design-obsessive marketing whiz who is recognizable by his first name, last name, beard or even the turtleneck he wore. (If you Google “Steve + turtleneck,” you’ll likely come across this interesting story behind the why of the turtleneck tidbit.)
The story of Google is replete with search algorithms, PhDs, swanky culture and free-time-stealth-mode projects; while the tale of Apple is spun out of superlative design skills, maverick behavior, marketing bravado and supply chain dominance.
If Google is about software architecture and data analytics, Apple is about an iconic product at the center of its resurgence; if Google is for a long string of continuous innovations some of which become self-driving machines, Apple is about an exquisite mix of style-and-substance rolled out in tune with the moment (and the moment repeats in well-orchestrated cycles).
Google, which seems to defy the G of Gravity in its rising fortunes, is trying to subsume the Alphabet, the very first of which is A (and A is for Apple as most techno buffs learned in mobile class). But then, A is also for Android—and tell ya what, this A is getting bigger all the time!
You can find rhyme and poetry in both companies, in addition to the innovations that their engineers, architects and designers come up with every so often.
That is why both are on my list of Smart Watches and why I said that we might need both to get along in the increasingly bewildering space of technology. A realm that is now constantly defined by the quest for simplicity (hiding behind a gargantuan back-end complexity).
There are domains where the two companies’ paths cross, and there are products and services where they overlap; but it is hard to imagine a world—at least at this moment—where any one of them is A for Absent.
(Image credit: SearchEngineLand.com)