Meanwhile, Google’s stock has climbed beyond the $1,000 level, and even Steve Jobs’ biographer thinks the search engine giant is more innovative these days than Apple. When it comes to innovations in the tech marketplace, who is the king? Apple? Or, Google?
Therein lies the number one problem in this whole ‘innovation’ debate. What do we mean by ‘innovation?’ How do we define innovation in technology?
First, we have to admit that innovation can be nothing more than improvements to a product, or simply improvements to a feature in a product.
Second, there are many kinds of innovation, including the above, but regarding Apple, there’s another version.
That kind of disruption occurs when a company’s new product changes the industry landscape, either through sales, profit, or marketshare dominance. Or, an innovative product which sends the product segment in a new direction.
Let’s look at some of Google’s more high profile innovations. There’s Google Street View for Maps. There’s the Google Self-Driving Car. And, among others, there’s Google’s Glass computing eyewear. Google’s wealth was made possible by combining search engine results with relevant advertising.
Only the latter has disrupted an industry. The others while innovative, interesting and perhaps useful technology, bring little to customers or the marketplace.
Past As Prologue
Now, let me take a look at Apple over the past 30 years.
The Mac was a disruptive device which changed the course of personal computing from command line to graphical user interface. The same disruption could be applied to the iPod’s influence in 2001, the iTunes Store for songs and movies in 2003, the iPhone and its impact on smartphones starting in 2007, and, of course, the iPad’s influence on the tablet market starting in 2010. Along the way, Apple innovation disrupted how computer users bought and installed software.
In terms of market disrupting innovations, Google has a few, too. The search engine with accompanying advertising. And… wait for it… Android. If giving away Android OS for free is disruptive to an industry, then yes. On the other hand, Google hasn’t had the same success with hardware products, preferring and indirect route to revenue and profits.
That might explain why Google bought, then sold, Motorola, and why it bought Next Labs (run and staffed by ex-Apple engineers).
Google, Samsung, Microsoft, and other tech giants all lay claim to product innovations, but few companies actually disrupt entire markets with new products. That’s Apple’s claim to fame. Google has a long way to go to achieve similar success.