How Apple and Google Lost Their Way

The brouhaha over Apple’s Maps isn’t the first time the company’s been slammed over a first-generation product. At launch the iPhone 4 included a quirky antenna that resulted in a class action suit and an ultimate deal to provide purchasers with a $15 credit or free bumper case. Google was flummoxed by the very notion of customer service when it released the Nexus One, and ended direct sales after a scant five months. Apple also had MobileMe, Google had Google Buzz, etc., etc.

Of course, such things happen. There’s a feeling in tech that it’s often OK to launch an imperfect product and fix it later. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

It seems like Apple and Google are going through this particular swamp more often than they have to. Ironically, it’s about feeling more pressure for speed than direction. They’re launching products before they’re ready to show off that they’re on the cutting edge before they actually ARE on the cutting edge. There’s nothing that terrible about giving folks an imperfect but usable product when it can drive sales, fits with your mission and, most important, keeps customers happy. I suspect Apple kicked off Maps well before it was ready for no reason besides flipping the bird at its increasingly apparent foe, Google. That hasn’t worked out so well, especially when Cupertino could have avoided the whole thing by just suffering through the year it had left in its licensing agreement with Google.

Given the initial thrill of Siri versus the tepid reaction to early Google Voice, you can’t blame Apple. More often than not, it gets things right enough to keep itself center stage as the most game-changing of companies. But both companies are skirting dangerously close to the quicksand of letting their internal emotions get the better of their logical actions. If you spend too much money creating products that don’t work and piss off your customers, you’ll find yourself so deep in the woods you won’t be able to get out.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Comments

  1. BY joeBoo says:

    author speaks as if he knows how they feel.

    “But both companies are skirting dangerously close to the quicksand of letting their internal emotions get the better of their logical actions”

    this article sucks, filled with nothing but speculation on why these companies are making decisions they are. I think Apple and Google will be alright without your rudimentary analysis.

  2. BY Bokononisms says:

    Your observations are sad, but ultimately true of the two companies.

    BTW, you made a homophony error in the second sentence of the last paragraph. “More often than not, [apple] gets things write enough…” should be ‘right’ instead of ‘write’.

  3. BY Dan Stormont says:

    Mark,

    I know that it’s popular to publish Apple vs Google articles these days, but it really makes no sense. Like their realtionship with Yahoo! Google is much better off with a symbiotic relationship with Apple than an antagonistic one. Hopefully, both companies will remember that.

    It’s also a bit ridiculous to compare a hardware glitch in a very overpriced device with a free web service that was not conceptualized well. I’d like to think both Apple and Google learn from their mistakes. If you really want to give advice to someone, talk to Microsoft, who continually show they just don’t get computing in this century.

    Finally, you lose any tech cred you’re trying to muster when you compare Google Voice – an Internet telephony and voicemail service – with the “personal assistant” Siri. I realize you probably meant voice search, which was a feature on Android long before Siri came along, but you need to be accurate about these things if you’re going to be giving sage advice to two of the titans of the tech world.

    • BY Mark Feffer says:

      Dan, thanks for your comment. I wrote this because the topic struck me as I saw all of the Apple Maps coverage and thought about Google, in general. I agree that Apple and Google learn from their mistakes; They’re both great companies. And, yes, I think Microsoft’s fallen behind. But my question here is whether Apple and Google can continue with the momentum they’ve got. Personally, I think Google’s beginning to go down Microsoft’s path, but that’s another blog post.

      As for Siri and Google voice, what you say may be true from a technical standpoint, but it’s certainly not true to many consumers. Since Siri came out, a number of folks have compared it (her?) with Google Voice and, rightly or wrongly, came to the conclusion it was the weaker product, went to the Apple Store, and bought an iPhone. We can argue about what Siri and Google Voice really are but when it comes down to it, I think what counts is how the market perceives them.

      Thanks,

      Mark

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