Men aren't really from Mars, and women aren't really from Venus. But Apple and Google, while both made up of humans from planet Earth, seem to operate in parallel universes.
In the Google-verse, things are quirky and kind of chaotic. Friendly green robots are left laying around for anyone to do what they want with them, while unblinking multicolored eyes record what you do on the web. Meanwhile, in Apple's world everything is sleek, shiny and transparent, but the entry fee is steep and the back door is locked tight.
These are the outward differences everyone grasps, just by looking at the two companies. But they're reflections of a deeper, uncomfortable truth:
Apple sells things to people. Google sells people to things.
Where by "things" Don Norman meant "corporations," when he wrote "Google doesn't get people, it sells them." Think about it: What does Google actually make?
If you're like most people, you might reply by pointing out Android, Chrome or Google Docs. Or maybe Gmail, Google+, and the big G itself, Google.com. But think about it. Who's paying for these services, and why are they paying for them?
The answer is that advertisers are paying for them, because they want to get your money. Google's apps aren't products, they're more like fishing nets. And you're the fish.
A slightly unfair comparison
That may be an extreme metaphor to use. After all, the media has used advertising for years (and may I recommend that you click on one of our fine sponsors when you're done reading). It's worth pointing out in Google's case, though, because Google's not exactly a media company. Most people seem to just think of it as a tech company, that gives its stuff out for free.
Now, Google's not the only company that does that. Red Hat has made billions off of "open-source" software, which has the programming code available for you to download and modify. In Red Hat's case, though, it makes its money by charging large businesses for tech support. Google just lets everyone use its stuff for free, and hopes you won't get uncomfortable with the ads ... or the fact that it keeps track of everything about you, and remembers it so it can show you more ads.
So is Google a scam?
No, because Google's up-front about what it does with your data and who's going to have access to it. The problem isn't so much what Google does as how most people seem to perceive it, because its business model only became possible within the last few years and not everyone understands it yet.
On the plus side, Google's official Data Liberation Front does exist to help you get your personal data out of Google's services, should you decide to stop using them.
Jared Spurbeck is an open-source software enthusiast, who uses an Android phone and an Ubuntu laptop PC. He has been writing about technology and electronics since 2008.