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!