John Gapper in the Financial Times reviewed What Would Google Do? today and argued against my core concept of following Google’s lead. I’d link to the review, but it’s behind the pay wall. Irony #1. Gapper complains about my suggestion that free is a business model (note to Chris Anderson: Hope that Gapper doesn’t review your next book, Free!), saying that advertising won’t replace subscription revenue. That’s a classic view of those who think that old models can be replicated in the new world. The point of the book is that the world has changed fundamentally and old models won’t work anymore. It’s ironic — that’s Irony #2 — that the review came out today, when I attended a panel run by Gapper’s boss, the editor of the FT, here in Davos about peril to the Fourth Estate. The discussion was filled with efforts to replicate old models. I debated the point there and I’d be eager to debate Gapper.
Gapper says that Apple is the company to follow, instead of Google. I don’t argue that quality is always a way to win and Apple wins on quality. Indeed, I make the point in the book. So here’s today’s snippet from my chapter about Apple:
* * *
Is there any entity that is untouched? Is there an anti-Google, one institution that has become successful by violating the rules in this book? I could think of one: Apple.
Consider: Apple flouts Jarvis’ First Law. Hand over control to the customer? You must be joking. Steve Jobs controls all—and we want him to. It is thanks to his brilliant and single-minded vision and grumpy passion for perfection that his products work so well. Microsoft’s products, by contrast, operate as if they were designed by warring committees. Google’s products, though far more functional than Microsoft’s and built with considerable input from users, appear to have been designed by a computer (I await the aesthetic algorithm).
Apple is the opposite of collaborative….
Apple is a cult company and its customers are its best marketers—that much is Googley….
Apple is the farthest thing from transparent. It has sued bloggers for ferreting out and revealing its secrets. Attacking its own fans was unbloggy and uncool, but Apple didn’t care about the bad publicity. It’s Apple.
Apple abhors openness. That’s another reason its products work so well, because it controls what can run on them, how it runs, and how it makes money….
Apple does not think distributed. It makes us come to worship at its altar….
Apple does not manage abundance. It creates scarcity. Witness the fanatics who camped out overnight to get each version of the iPhone….
Free as a business model? The gift economy? Apple is not generous. It charges a premium for its quality….
Apple follows just a few Google rules. Lord knows, it innovates. And nobody’s better at simplifying tasks and design.
How does Apple do it? How does it get away with operating this way even as every other company and industry is forced to redefine itself? It’s just that good. Its vision is that strong and its products even better. I left Apple once, in the 1990s, before Steve Jobs returned to the company, when I suffered through a string of bad laptops. But when I’d had it with Dell, I returned to Apple and now everyone in my family has a Mac (plus one new Dell); we have three iPhones; we have lots of iPods; I lobbied successfully to make Macs the standard in the journalism school where I teach. I’m a believer, a glassy-eyed cultist. But I didn’t write this book about Apple because I believe it is the grand exception. Frank Sinatra was allowed to violate every rule about phrasing because he was Sinatra. Apple can violate the rules of business in the next millennium because it is Apple (and more important, because Jobs is Jobs).
So then Apple is the ultimate unGoogle. Right?
Not so fast…..