Thursday, 16 April 2009

Google vs Apple: is history repeating itself

I just found out that the mac came before windows. I've heard it before but I got confused and couldn't remember which came first. Any way this related article implies that history is repeating itself. Apple was a closed system, microsoft copied many of its ideas and made it open. Google could be said to be doing the same with its gphone and android.
So will we have the same problems? Possibly. right now the future's positive because there are many tools available today that weren't available 30 years ago in software development. I'm talking particularly in the area of testing. Also much experience is in place and I feel much of it is being headed. Mainly because the concept of software and hardware is now relatively old and there are many examples of good and bad practice to learn from that weren't in place years ago. 
So I feel that while Google is like microsoft in its openness it's not like them in its approach to quality.  Sure their apps don't look as swanky as apples but their ability to identify, respond and fix flaws in their software appears good. Whether they can maintain this as they are their product base grow is yet to be seen. It's generally when companies grow that quality becomes diminished.  But so far I feel they've succeeded. 
Also since for most of their apps there's no cost of use, for example android is free, it implies that it is not to be compared with those you pay for. i.e. it could still be in beta. for some that's a terrible idea, for me it's fine. I'd rather be consistently told, or have it implied, that they application or operating system still has a few bugs, then I can take precautions, than be told everything is perfect and discover them myself. 
I'm a developer myself. I provide solutions to others. Anyone who does that learns that perfection is a dream. So most things have bugs. The trick is fixing the critical first leaving the trivial to when you have time. Getting good at this is key. 
Aple like to have everything close so there's less to manage. I don't blame them but I also get frustrated because that is a slow way of doing things. it implies you're not great at fixing things. You're only good at dealing with one thing at a time. So Apple do well but only within the limits they set themselves. They don't really strive to push those limits much wider than they're used to dealing with. 
That probably sounds harsh because their innovations, particularly the iPhone, have set the bar for others to follow. What I'm saying is that's why I could never see myself owning an iphone for very long. Mainly because their approach is about restriction. about controlling every part of it. I'm not comfortable with that because if I know a better way of doing things or trust someone elses application to do a better job then I want to use it. I don't want some one else telling me what I can and can't use. Sure there are security and virus risks but many people run windows very securely and it never fails. That's because they bother to learn how it works. The same goes for android, I hope. 
So I like what Google do because they're like a rebellious teenager that's breaking free from parental control. They're saying sure there's a reason for being conservative and cautious but if you go about things in a balanced way then you can do things quickly and do things well. You can have your cake and eat it. 
We'll just see in time whether they can pull it off. 
20090417 08:29
Just felt like adding a couple of things. 
Looking further into Android at thier product ideas site has reminded me of the fresh approach Google take to working with customers. They invite them in. If they had a store it feels like they have lots of well trained people all over the store ready to help that actually want to help you when you approach them. Yet they don't force themselves on you. They just where t shirts that say something like 'need help, just ask'.
Already I can see regularly updated content from google that's created directly from real user feedback. I get to experience the amazon and ebay approach of being able to see what other people think and get the wisdom of crowds. More than that though I can even suggest new ideas and other people can rate them.
I like this because it feels like an approach where I have more say. It's more like I'm considered right throughout the process of delivery. Google aren't the first company to do this but they're one of the largest and there aren't many, if any, that can do it at this scale. 
I also like googles approach to standards. I feel they embrace standards and are good at working to establish standards across markets. This helps the whole of the market. We all remember the browser wars. Well when I looked into searching engine marketing and since when I looked into google chrome I found that standards were at the heart. 
Again when I look at Android I find that they've picked, arguably, the best components from each area
  • Operating System: Linux
  • Programming language: Java
and thus built on standards. To be fair they've also adjusted them so they are no longer linux or java but then that matches how I work. Pick good free, open tools and make them better. When I listened to the google talks on android

and

I left with the impression that they've taken the best free and open components they could find and improved them. Listening to the improvements they've made they seem to be things that have been needed for a long time. Aggressive memory and power management. For example why can't you leave your laptop on all day? With their aggressive approach to preserving battery life you will be able to and it will come back to life in an instant.
yep I know android starts off on phones but there will be a version that works on laptops. I feel this means android will be the first truly device independent operating system. The advantage being that you won't have to care what device you use any more. You can just choose what fits your needs to get the job done. Your devices will fit round you, not the other way around. 
That's what I feel Google and others like them, not sure it's the web 2.0 movement cos it's been around before that, they fit their solutions to me not the other way around. Sure they can only adjust so far. That's life but they're actively trying to work with me. They don't expect me to bend over backwards to work with them. I'm sorry buit that's how I feel about both Microsoft and Apple. There's much less choice in both and they've never asked me my opinion, let alone used it to improve their products. Now there's an idea.
Edit 25 th August 2010
So I find I'm not the only person with this view. In the article Apple: Short Term Winner, Long Term Loser Fabrice Grinda goes into a lot more detail. At then end he makes the same basic point. Apple have a similar strategy now to that which they had back in the 80's. He predicts it's likely to see them get the same results too. 
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