How Apple & Google Are Like Sparta & Athens

How Apple & Google Are Like Sparta & Athens

Jun 13


By Mike Elgan
June 13, 2012

Original Link

Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference keynote Monday made it clear to the world that Apple is escalating its conflict with former ally Google.

Pundits are speculating about how this separation, conflict and polarization of the tech world can be avoided.

It can’t be.

Conflict and enmity between Google and Apple is inevitable.

The reason is that Google and Apple are the Athens and Sparta of the tech industry. It’s in the DNA of both companies to rule the tech world. They will battle each other for supremacy and, in the process, greatly diminish each other’s power and reach. United, they could accomplish anything. But they will not be united. They will become increasingly divided.

It’s a Greek tragedy unfolding before our very eyes.

Athens and Sparta

Broadly speaking, classical Athens and Sparta represented very different cultural extremes. Athens was a hotbed of political, artistic and intellectual experimentation and change. It was an “open” city, and foreign visitors were welcome to come and go, and participate in the cultural life of the city. The Athenians made up the rules as they went along and changed them frequently.

Sparta was the most stable society of the ancient world, an oligarchy with a constitution that remained in place for centuries. Sparta was “closed” to outside ideas, outside people and outside influences. The Spartans believe they had perfected the city state, producing citizens of superior virtue through a rigorous state-sponsored educational system. To live in Sparta was to do things the Spartan way. And that way was probably the vision of a single man.

Does all this sound familiar? When Greece was confronted with a massive invasion by the Persian Empire, Athens and Sparta united to defeat the invaders.

After the war, the two city states (especially Athens) continued to expand their spheres of influence in Greece and much of the Mediterranean, leading to conflict between the two powers and ultimately the disastrous Peloponnesian War.

The war destroyed Athens, weakened Sparta and left Greece in ruins. It ended the “Golden Age” of both Athens and Sparta.

Google and Apple

Like Athens and Sparta, Google and Apple represent totally different cultures — Google is radically open and experimental. Apple is closed and controlling, but disciplined, focused and obsessed by its own sense of superiority.

Like Athens, Google is the everything company. They started with Search engines, but now are in the businesses of email, office suites, social networking, operating systems, blogging platforms, advertising, mapping, downloadable content, mobile phone handsets and tablets and more. They’re working on a self-driving car and cyborg glasses.

Like Sparta, Apple focuses on just a few key objectives. While Google’s Androidplatform runs on hundreds of devices, Apple’s runs on one, for example.

Ultimately, Apple wants to dominate just one thing: The premium, high-quality “sweet spot” experience for content creation and content consumption.

And like Sparta, Apple expects to control what it controls totally, and for others to stay out of Apple’s business. Rivals who challenge Apple for dominance on its own territory are to be crushed.

Like Athens, Google can’t help constantly expanding its scope until it inevitably overlaps into Apple’s spheres of influence.

Conflict is inevitable.

How Did It Come to This?

Google and Apple used to be allies. When Google went looking for a CEO three years before their IPO, they decided that only Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs was good enough to lead the company. Google’s founders believed Jobs to be the best CEO in the world. Turns out he was happy staying at Apple, so Google hired Eric Schmidt instead.

At the time (2001), Google’s search engine business and Apple’s computers and iPod businesses seemed complimentary. The companies admired and supported each other and were natural allies. In 2006, Apple invited Schmidt to join their board of directors and he accepted.

When Apple announced its entry into the mobile handset market in January of 2007, Google was not considered a rival, but a partner. The first iPhone came with Google’s Maps app and YouTube.

Sure, Google had purchased Android in 2005. But even as late as December of 2007, after the iPhone had been shipping for months, Android phones looked more like BlackBerrysthan iPhones, with physical keyboards and navigation via buttons rather than multi-touch screens. Android was aimed at mobile phone markets that Apple wasn’t targeting.

Apple wanted to reinvent how phones looked, felt and functioned, and expected its partners to stay out of the way.

But Google eventually transformed Android to look and feel a lot more like the iPhone operating system. It was all screen and no keypad, with swiping and pinching gestures and an app store model for apps.

Jobs was furious about Google’s decision to make Android look and feel more like iPhone. He later told biographer Walter Isaacson that he was “willing to go thermonuclear war” on Google for making an iPhone-like Android.

Google has also entered other traditional Apple businesses, including every imaginable form of downloadable content.

In the Fall of 2009, it was “mutually decided” that Schmidt should leave the Apple board due to “potential conflicts of interest.” (Translation: Apple kicked him off the board because Google is now the enemy.)

Rather than suing Google, which Google could afford financially and which would have enabled a relatively quick settlement or resolution of some kind, Apple instead has been waging a series of endless proxy wars — suing Google’s OEM partners for patent infringements in multiple countries.

Even more damaging to Google is that Apple has apparently decided to start phasing out Google’s apps and services from the iOSplatform.

Apple replaced Google Latitude with Find My Friends; Google Places with Yelp; Google Maps with Apple Maps; Gmail and Google Talk with iMessage; and ultimately I believe they’ll replace even Google Search with Siri, plus other search engines (for now Siri uses Google Search and other services).

All this replacement of Google apps and services involve a dramatic reduction in Google revenue. One analyst said that iOS apps account for about 40 percent of Google’s mobile revenue (which is about 2% of its overall revenue). However, since the future of advertising will become increasingly mobile, the lost revenue from iOS in the future is probably massive.

Apple’s “scorched earth” policy on Google apps is similar to a tactic used by the Spartans during the Peloponnesian War: Year after year, the Spartan army advanced on Athens. When citizens took cover inside the city walls, the Spartans’ burned down surrounding farms and olive trees, depriving Athens of some of its income.

Apple is also resorting to another Spartan tactic: alliance with the “barbarians.” (The Greeks called any non-Greek speaking people “barbaros,” which is the origin of the English word “barbarian.”)

The Peloponnesian War dragged on for 27 years in part because while Sparta was superior on land, Athens was superior on sea (Sparta had no real navy of its own). Sparta was finally able to defeat Athens through an alliance with an enemy of both Athens and Sparta: The Persians.

Likewise, Apple has no social network of its own, and so has made a pact with a rival of both Google and Apple: Facebook.

This is a shocking alliance, because Facebook has encroached on Apple’s businesses just like Google did, but less aggressively and less successfully.

In September, Facebook entered into a bundle of partnerships that made it the Internet’s “primary entertainment hub,” according to The New York Times. Facebook is rumored to be launching a phone next year using executives poached from Apple, again according to the Times.

Facebook has also launched a series of apps that replace Apple’s own apps, including a Messenger app that competes with iMessage; and a Camera app that competes with Apple’s Camera app.

Despite all this encroachment into Apple’s business, Apple still announced Monday major integration of Facebook into both iOS and OS X.

And Apple used precious time during the keynote to take conspicuous jabs at Google and Android.

It looks to me like Apple has become obsessed with Google to the point where they are making irrational decisions. The Wall Street Journal has even called it Apple’s “crusade against Google.”

And, of course, Google will fight back by continuing to grab global market share with Android, additional encroachments on Apple’s core businesses, and who knows how else.

Open warfare between Google and Apple is inevitable, just as it was for Athens and Sparta. And it will probably end the same way: with both parties diminished.

Competition is good. But this isn’t healthy competition. When companies start making decisions that are irrational, or that don’t benefit them from a strategic business perspective, it’s something more than business.

Like Athens and Sparta, Google and Apple could have ruled the world together. Together, they are unstoppable.

Instead, it appears, they will try to destroy each other — and they will partly succeed.


By Jay Yarow
Business Insider
June 11, 2012

Original Link

Before Steve Jobs died he told biographer Walter Isaacson he was, “willing to go to thermonuclear war” with Google over Android, “because it’s a stolen product.”

After the book came out, we asked Isaacson how Apple was waging a “thermonuclear war” with Google. The best Isaacson could tell us was that Apple was filing patent lawsuits. Damaging? Maybe. But, hardly “thermonuclear.”

Today, we’re getting a much better answer to the question. Apple is at the start of a truly “thermonuclear war” on Google. It’s clearer than ever that Apple really is going to attempt to kill Google.

And we’re not just talking about Android. Apple is going to try to blow up all of Google.

Google, for all of its ancillary businesses, lives and dies with search. Apple is doing everything it can with iOS to de-emphasize the importance of search, and the web, in its mobile devices.

Here’s how:

Apple is getting into the business of local search with its new maps application. Apple teamed up with Yelp, a big rival of Google, to make local listings better in Apple’s new maps application. With Apple’s maps, users will get great search results for local businesses right in the application from Yelp.

This sort of local searching is very important for Google. If Apple is nuking those searches from Safari on the iPhone, it’s one less place for Google to build out its mobile advertising business. It also makes Google search less important.

Apple’s search engine is called “Siri.” Apple added new tricks to Siri like finding out sports scores and stats. Cute, but not that bad for Google. What is bad is that you can now find a restaurant and make a reservation through Siri. This is a commercial activity that used to flow through Google and the mobile web.

And, if you think Apple is done with Siri, you’re nuts. This is how Apple will build its own search engine. Siri might be wonky now, but in the long run it’s a threat.

Apple’s “passbook” has the potential to be a better version of Google Wallet. Apple and Google are in a battle to own the next generation of payments through mobile. Apple has 400 million iTunes accounts with credit cards. So, it has a good starting point to build something with payments. “Passbook” is a template for companies to build applications for users.

The “passbook” applications are like “loyalty card” programs. It sounds silly, but Starbucks is already doing it. We can load up our Starbucks app with money to spend at Starbucks. Then when we buy a coffee, we just wave our phone at a Starbucks scanner. Now, imagine if we didn’t have to load up money. Imagine when the money just pulls from our iTunes account straight to Starbucks.

Also, Apple showed that a Starbucks app could send us notifications about when we’re near a Starbucks. Yes, that stupid mobile ad idea could finally be a reality! Starbucks could be pushing us lots of new deals, too. This has the potential to be a big, disruptive opportunity. Google will get nothing from it.

Apple is trying to make the web irrelevant. No company really owns the internet, but if you had to pick one company that comes close, it’s Google. Search is the starting point to most usage of the web. Apple is trying to change this with “app banners” for mobile websites.

If you visit on mobile Safari, you’ll see a banner ad that says, “We have an iPhone app!” The idea is to get you to use the app, not the mobile web. The more you use the app, the less you use the mobile web. The less you use the mobile web, the less you use Google.

Finally, Apple is teaming up with Google’s biggest enemy, Facebook. This doesn’t hurt Google quite like the other moves, but it still stings Google. It always sucks when your enemies team up to beat up on you.
Step back and look at everything Apple is doing.

Apple is doing what it can to change the future and cut Google out of our lives. Every big move it makes is to chip away at how we use the internet to find information. Its secondary moves are to open new mobile commerce opportunities for big companies.
If ever there was a company that could really kill Google, it would be Apple.


By J.C. Kendall
Business 2 Community
June 13, 2012

Original Link

I had to chuckle reading an article from Business Insider the other day about “Apple Really Is Going To Try To Kill Google.” It suggests to me that the very hard lessons learned by Steve Jobs over the years have been tossed aside, and Apple has fallen back into the trap of what I call “Me-Too’ism”.

“Me-Too’ism” is a disease that strikes successful organizations, usually at a time when they are at their strongest, and almost always brings them to their knees. It is what occurs when a business known for a certain core strength, attempts to attack a strong market leader’s core strength, usually with disastrous results.

Bodies of once strong market leaders lie by the side of the road either damaged beyond repair, or literally wiped from the map, over desires to own markets already dominated by other organizations. There is nothing innovative about simply trying to out-do another corporation with a me-too offering. It is a process fraught with danger, and it saddens me to see that Apple is about to head down that path, when it doesn’t have to.

Do you remember Nortel Networks?

Nortel Networks, once traded at $900.00 per share. Today, after straining to show success in a battle with Cisco and Lucent for dominance in Optical Networking Equipment, resorted to making false profit statements to the tune of 3.2 Billion Dollars. After filing for Bankruptcy protection in 2009, Nortel Networks no longer exists.

I had up-close and personal experience as an employee at Microsoft, as once strong brands Novell Corp, Lotus Development and the Word Perfect Corporation decided to compete head-to-head with our company against our core offerings. I do not have to tell you what happened to those organizations.

In 1988, Apple sued Microsoft over copyright infringement over the “Graphical User Interface”. Apple lost the case after 4 years of expensive litigation. Apple appealed all the way to the United States Supreme Court, losing again after being reminded that they did not invent the GUI either ( as per Zerox) and had no grounds to claim ownership.

By 1997, Steve Jobs at the MacWorld Expo, with Bill Gates of Microsoft looming above him, accepted a loan of 150 Million Dollars, to keep Apple in business. Steve Jobs learned his lesson, went away and forced Apple to INNOVATE to a degree hardly seen before. The stream of new and unique products from Apple since then, have made them the most valuable company in the world.

With a terminally ill Steve Jobs spending little time at Apple in the recent past, Apple has once again gone sue-happy, this time against Google and its Android software and devices. I will not comment on the strengths or weaknesses in Apple taking this path, for in addition to this, Apple is working to ultimately replace Google Search on its devices through its “Siri” engine. There is also speculation that Apple is going to build an entire search engine of its own. I believe this plan, if true, is a foolhardy exercise.

At the moment, Apple is rolling in dough, and the prospect of a series of massive data centers around the world, connected over a fiber-optic backbone, might look like an inexpensive undertaking. It ain’t. Google realized a decade ago, that the Internet itself, connected through hundreds of thousands of routers (thanks Nortel) is not fast enough to support the kind of data-transfer required for your search results to appear in a second or two.

The Googleverse advantage is almost impossible to overcome in this regard. Google’s Data-centers (Googleverse) connect through a maze of optical-fiber laid around the world purchased when dark (unused) by various entities. Not only does Google have a massive advantage in both expertise and computing infrastructure, it also owns most of the world’s dark fiber, and guess what? They aint sellin’ baby…

To compete with Google on this scale, Apple would be forced to build their own optical backbone between yet unbuilt data-centers around the world. We are talking about multiple billions of dollars that Apple might put to better use elsewhere.

If Apple believes that they can create a multi-country, multi-language, responsive search engine on the cheap, not to mention the barrage of lawsuits that will come at them just to slow their tracks if they can somehow manage to NOT infringe on Google’s patents, Then I would suggest a couple of aspirin and a nap for Apple management.

Steve Jobs said that the framing of the image of a giant Bill Gates looking down on puny little Jobs as Gates recued Apple from oblivion was one of the worst mistakes of his life. If Apple proceeds to attack Google in “their house” so to speak, Larry Page may one day be looming over Tim Cook on stage at an apple event, but with Cook holding not an iPhone, but an Android.

Apple, spend your current largesse on new innovation to compete along new frontiers — continue to dazzle with what you’re good at! We are not talking about a bloated vector-graphics tool with a long list of problems, we are talking about Search, and sorry, Google owns search, no matter how good the competition. Just ask Microsoft. Bing is good, very good. However, Google is now a verb. Think Different!


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