A blog post I read earlier by Jesse Brown that’s sophomoric in both premise and conclusion has stuck in my brain, so I may as well write something about it, if for no other reason than so that I can move on to other things. His colleague makes the following assertion:
No company—probably not even Google—and certainly no individual has made as much of a difference or changed the way things work over the past 10 years as Apple has under Jobs.
First, he denies credit to Apple:
Add it all up, and Apple’s biggest impact has been aesthetic. Their products look great and have changed the way lots of other things look. But that’s just it—Apple is all about things. It’s essentially a hardware company, and it’s ill-prepared for a world where objects mean less and information means more. There’s no new God-gadget coming from Cupertino—all Apple can do once it’s done sticking cameras on things and offering them in different colors is to release cheaper iPhones and cheaper iPads, devaluing their gear until the gee-whiz factor is totally gone. This has already happened to the iPod. You probably have a three-old version in a drawer somewhere.
Then, he gives credit to Google:
More than anything, Google has been an accelerator of the greater ambitions of the Internet. Ten years ago, techno-utopians spoke of a future where anyone could be a publisher. Google made random blogs findable and made reader visits bankable. Ten years ago, we heard starry-eyed predictions that any kid could soon have the tools to become a pop star or a filmmaker from their own basement. Now, thanks to Google’s acquisition of YouTube, we take it for granted that this is so. Google preaches “openness,” not because it sounds good, but because the more open and accessible the Internet is to us all, the more money Google makes.
First of all, in his argument against Apple he changes the debate. The question at hand isn’t which company is most likely to change the world over the next ten years, it’s which company changed the world the most over the past ten years. Secondly, he gives credit to Google for acquiring YouTube. Did that really change the world? YouTube was already well on its way when Google bought them out. Anyway, I don’t want to nitpick.
I’ll boil it down to the most world-changing contribution by each company over the past ten years.
Google is the company that improved search engine results enough to really open the Web to the masses. They didn’t invent the search engine, but they did invent PageRank, making search significantly more useful, especially for those who were not search engine experts. Awhile back, I saw a service truck with the terms to use to find them with a Google search painted on the side as part of their contact information. That pretty much says it all.
Apple is the company that brought a real Web browser to the pockets of millions of people. There were other phones that provided “Web browsers,” but before the iPhone the mobile browsing experience did not in any way resemble the experience of using a real Web browser. Once the iPhone was available, it was clear that if you wanted to be a player in smart phones, you needed a device with a screen that was as large as physically possible and that supported a browser that provided a high quality browsing experience. The arrival of the iPhone was the most significant event in telephony since cellular phones were liberated from cars.
Of course both companies have done many other things, but I don’t think any are as significant as those two. Which one made a greater impact? You tell me.