By now you’ve probably heard about the mini-backlash that’s ensued over Apple’s (AAPL) botched Maps implementation on iOS 6 after it decided to ditch Google Maps earlier this year. But anyone paying attention to the Apple-Google (GOOG) rivalry shouldn’t be surprised that Apple would flop in its first attempt at creating a maps application that’s traditionally been Google’s bread and butter. After all, Apple and Google have two entirely different business models and strategies, and the two companies find themselves competing despite, not because of, those models.
Let’s start with Apple’s strategy because it’s relatively straightforward. Apple basically wants consumers to fall in love with every aspect of Apple hardware and software, and it wants people to make Apple computers, smartphones, tablets and music players central to their everyday lives. In case you haven’t noticed, the company is extremely good at this, as its hardware is consistently lighter, thinner and more attractive than its rivals and its operating systems are amazingly smooth and pain-free, especially when compared with Windows-based devices.
Google is a different animal entirely. Its goal is not to peddle hardware or to even software per se, but to instead focus relentlessly on improving the Internet, both from a performance and an access perspective. Google’s revenue model is simple: The more clicks its sites and its partner sites get, the more money it makes from advertisements. And the best way to ensure that its sites keep getting clicks is to make sure more people have access to high-speed Internet service that delivers content quickly and efficiently.
This is why Google pushed out Android as an open-source operating system: It wanted to expand access to the mobile web so consumers have more opportunities to click on Google sites, and the millions of sites that run Google’s ads, even when they weren’t sitting at their desktops. Similarly, Google decided to build out Google Fiber as a way to spur incumbent ISPs to build out faster networks that would result in more use of Google products. And yes, it’s the same story with Chrome: Google figured out that more people would use its sites if they had access to a high-performance Web browser.
We should keep all this in mind whenever we try to compare Apple and Google products, because it’s very likely that they’ll be playing catch-up with one another in various respects for the foreseeable future.
For Google’s part, Android might never be as pretty or run as smoothly as iOS and it will always have trouble putting out devices that match the beauty and elegance of Apple’s world-class hardware and software engineers. In Apple’s case, it will likely always be behind Google when it comes to Web-based applications, as Safari and Maps for iOS are well behind Chrome and Google Maps, and it’s hard to imagine Apple ever building out its own high-speed fiber network in Middle America.
So what’s the takeaway from all this? Mine is that it’s largely pointless to lament that Google should be more like Apple or vice-versa. The two companies are entirely different from one another and they both provide awesome innovations that make all our lives better. Just let them be themselves and enjoy the fruits of their labors.
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