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Apple versus (after John Gruber)

(Before reading this post, read John Gruber’s post here)

UPDATE: John’s written a thoughtful response to this post, which I’ve added some gravy to in a further response. Both, I think, are worth reading.)

Steve Jobs, on stage in 1997:

“We have to let go of this notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose,” Jobs said. “We have to embrace the notion that for Apple to win, Apple has to do a really good job. If others are going to help us, that’s great. Because we need all the help we can get. […] The era of setting this up as a competition between Apple and Microsoft is over.”

Apple fans seem to eat this kumbaya stuff up, to really believe it. But Apple is the company that built iPhone after Windows Mobile, iCloud after Google Docs, and soon a subscription music service after Spotify. iCloud mail? Webmail but better. Think about even iTunes: music software wasn’t something new; it was something better. Way, way, way better, but still.

Consider music sales. Apple iTunes Store entered a market where eMusic and others had been around for years. That wasn’t something great that didn’t already exist. It was a better version of something that already existed. Apple is a hyper-competitive company, and they repeatedly enter markets that already exist and crush competitors. Nothing wrong with that. That’s how capitalism is supposed to work, and Apple’s successes are admirable. But there’s nothing stupid about seeing Apple being pitted “versus” other companies. They want everything; their ambition is boundless.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Milan Mody

    Haha , nice one

  • http://twitter.com/suckeffect suckeffect

    Oh, I see. Apple in 1997 is a perfect analog to Google in 2013. Right.

    Context matters.

  • http://www.technovia.co.uk Ian Betteridge

    It does indeed. And John was citing that Jobs quote with approval as still relevant last year: http://daringfireball.net/linked/2012/07/12/apple-has-it-wrong

  • http://www.tumblr.com/blog/his-divine-shadow His Shadow


  • http://www.tumblr.com/blog/his-divine-shadow His Shadow

    …and the context of that usage doesn’t support your attempted point either, never mind the fact that Paige and Jobs quotes are at odds.

  • Shawn Willden

    So, what you’re saying is that it’s possible to focus on excellence rather than undercutting your rivals when you’re small and struggling, but not when you’re big and successful?

  • http://www.technovia.co.uk Ian Betteridge

    Nope. When Page notes that “most things are not zero sum”, he’s making exactly the same point as Jobs – that for one company to win doesn’t mean “crushing” another.

    It’s perfectly fine to say that two things are at odds. But if you can’t be bothered to say why, I’ll take your opinion with a pinch of salt.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/PACMan3000/ Paul A. Chapel

    I think this comparison stinks because at the time, Apple was actively courting Microsoft’s cooperation in order to get Office restarted on the Mac, so there was nothing false or misleading when Steve Jobs said what he said. He really believed it.

    The people at Google seem to tell people what they want to hear, while doing the exact opposite. The whole smartphones are “emasculating” crap from Sergey Brin is a good example of that. He basically said what he said, not because he really believed it, but because he needed to promote Google Glass.

    Hey, there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s marketing, but let’s not pretend that it’s anything more than that. Gruber was right.

  • http://www.technovia.co.uk Ian Betteridge

    How do you know that Page didn’t mean that? Evidence?

    I could equally say that when Jony Ive says “our goal isn’t to make money. It sounds a little flippant, but it’s the truth. Our goal and what makes us excited is to make great products” he’s lying, and that’s just marketing.

    But me saying it doesn’t make it true. Likewise, you just saying Page doesn’t mean it doesn’t make it true.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/PACMan3000/ Paul A. Chapel

    I know Page didn’t mean it because of the countless times Google has bashed Apple at Google I/O for one thing.

    Remember this from Google I/O 2010?

    “The interesting part is where he goes after Apple in a not too subtle
    way. He extols the virtues of an open platform and contrasts it with a
    “Draconian future, a future where one man, one company, one device, one carrier would be our only choice.” Then he shows a poster of 1984, with
    the title, “Not The Future We Want.” The reference is to Apple and the
    iPhone. Gundotra uses Apple’s own iconic 1984 imagery against it to
    great effect right at about 3 minutes into the video clip.”

    That sounds fairly negative to me. And then there was the huge picture of the Android mascot eating an apple at I/O 2011. Yeah, Page never said these things himself or directly participated, he just got his lieutenants to do his dirty work. The people at Google are a bunch of frauds.

  • http://www.technovia.co.uk Ian Betteridge

    That still doesn’t show Page doesn’t believe what he’s saying now. Aside from the fact that (of course) Page didn’t say that – Gundotra did – people are allowed to change their minds. Steve Jobs once say “We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.” I’m sure he changed his mind about that later.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/PACMan3000/ Paul A. Chapel

    Christ, you don’t even understand what Jobs meant when made that quote because you probably don’t even understand the original quote, which came from Picasso. Picasso was talking about inspiration, not a literal stealing of ideas. The quote is: “Good artists copy, Great artists steal.”

    A good artist will copy the picture of the Mona Lisa, and maybe even make a great reproduction, but a truly great artist will look at the Mona Lisa, be inspired by the technique and uniqueness of the painting and go away and create something completely new and better, because they were “inspired” by the Mona Lisa to do something great. That’s what the quote means and it fits perfectly with what Apple does as a company. Inspiration!

    And I was brought up to believe that a man is only as good as his actions, and Google is actively trying to kill their competition in several areas and have been for the past few years. There’s nothing that Page announced yesterday that makes me believe Google has changed.

  • http://www.technovia.co.uk Ian Betteridge

    Paul, that’s a different quote. The one I’m referring to is from the interview with Jobs in “Triumph of the Nerds”. It’s not the Picasso quote.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/PACMan3000/ Paul A. Chapel

    I’ve seen Triump of the Nerds and you conveniently mention only part of the quote from Steve Jobs. The entire quote reads:

    “Good artists copy, great artists steal. And we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.”

    He was quoting Picasso.

  • http://twitter.com/somerandomnerd Scott Thompson

    1997… that was also before the “I’m a Mac/I’m a PC” ads, right?

  • http://twitter.com/jasonbreitkopf Jason Breitkopf

    I see problems with your comparison Ian. Apple fans didn’t “eat that up”. Jobs was booed for saying that. Apple fans have never believed that Apple was not in competition with other companies. Brin, Page, & Google sell ‘open’ and ‘cooperation’ while doing the opposite. Apple sells the idea of owning the whole widget and partnering only as necessary. Further, your example of iTunes is flawed. There were no successful models for legally selling music online before iTunesMS, only illegal file sharing and subscription services. And as to your point on Ive in the comments, as a designer living in essentially a bubble for years, I believe Ive when he says that. It would have been disingenuous of Jobs, Schiller, or Cook to say something like that, but not Ive.

  • http://www.technovia.co.uk Ian Betteridge

    I can see your point, Jason, but John G has approvingly cited that Jobs quote on several occasions, which is why I chose it.

    And yes, while Tim and the other generals might not put things in the way that Ive did, statements like Ive’s really are “eaten up” by Mac users. There’s a part of all of us that wants to believe that Apple, or Google, or whoever makes the products we like just do it to create great products, rather than being ferocious competitors driven by making vast seas of money. For Apple, and for Google, I think both is true – they are smart enough to realise that you need the sea of money to make the best products, no matter what they are, because having lots of money gives you the space to fail.

  • http://www.tumblr.com/blog/his-divine-shadow His Shadow


    “Page notes that “most things are not zero sum”, he’s making exactly the same point as Jobs”

    A point. But that’s not the point of your rewrite. Don’t get me wrong, I find your word substitution article amusing, but as an attempt to call out Gruber on a perceived lack of self-awareness it’s merely an exercise in showing that when stripped of historical context anything can mean anything to anyone.

    Jobs was addressing an actual state of affairs that had allowed Apple to get off track, immediately followed by a direct address to the CEO of Microsoft and a formal burying of the hatchet and announcements of cross platform product development and support between Apple and Microsoft. Apple could have failed in it’s attempts’ at reinvention and sank without a trace, get bought and/or had it’s technology sold off. That Apple ended up in direct competition with Microsoft in new and emerging markets is a result of that success. Is there is a public voice of Apple currently insisting Apple is not in competition with Microsoft? That Jobs’ reorganisation and refocus plan for Apple succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams doesn’t make Jobs’ statements from 16 years ago equivalent to Paige’s comments a matter of days ago.

    Paige was complaining about Google being portrayed as being in direct competition with other companies when it is in fact in direct competition with other companies, and noting that Paige may recognise that “most things are not zero sum” is moot if not laughable in light of Google’s dominance of and then abandonment of RSS. Was Paige’s comment regarding zero-sum immediately followed by an apology for Google’s portrayal of Jobs and Apple as a draconian dictatorship in 2010? Because that would possibly make 2013 Paige analogous to 1997 Jobs.

  • http://www.tumblr.com/blog/his-divine-shadow His Shadow
  • http://www.tumblr.com/blog/his-divine-shadow His Shadow

    “How do you know that Page didn’t mean that?”

    Is it your contention that we must reset the clock on the expectations regarding Google’s behaviour because Paige mouthed some platitudes about cooperation? That’s a little PollyAnnish, don’t you think?

  • erickwong

    Ian, you really don’t know what you’re talking about. Jobs’s very next sentence in Triumph makes his context perfectly clear: “I think part of what made the Macintosh great was that the people working on it were musicians and poets and artists and zoologists and historians who also happened to be the best computer scientists in the world.”

    He’s very clearly talking about “stealing” as drawing new inspiration from seemingly unrelated areas (which some would call a mark of genius), rather than the classless act of copying from the top student, which upset Jobs so much.

  • godofbiscuits

    No, he’s not. Jobs was not making a general point about how the industry worked. He was making a specific point about Apple’s survival. Because that was what was at stake and Apple is what Jobs cared about.

    Jobs was calling off the score-keeping. Surrendering it, even. That’s all. He was conceding, not rallying the troops.

  • godofbiscuits

    Are you sure he changed his mind? Really? Where are you getting that from?

    Stealing a great idea isn’t the same thing as copying your neighbor’s homework.

    If you’re going to trot out that old quote ON TOP OF mind-reading the dead, at least get the point of it, will you?

  • godofbiscuits

    Jobs was paraphrasing Picasso.

  • godofbiscuits

    “approvingly cited”. So Gruber approves? In what context? that the statements were necessary? Healthy? Shrewd?

    I’m CERTAIN (without doing an exhaustive search of DF archives) that Gruber never “approvingly cited” Jobs’ words as general business theory about the tech industry not following zero-sum behaviors.

  • orthorim

    The truth is, there is a lot to that “kumbaya” stuff. A lot of it isn’t PR, it’s reality. Apple wants to make fantastic products. So does Google. Both are also very competitive but that doesn’t mean their core values are somehow a lie.

    What gets Larry Page out of bed in the morning? Being evil and crushing competitors? No. It’s making great things. It was the same for Steve Jobs. Granted, Bill Gates was perhaps the exception, perfectly happy to make utter crap as long as it sold… there’s a reason he retired from his job…

  • orthorim

    Yes but that was before Page became CEO.

    Here’s how I look at it. Schmidt is basically a huge a-hole – everyone knows that. He’s also really good at running companies.
    Page is the nicer, gentler side of Google. They’re still doing all the things they do; but the *how* is important. Huge improvement under Page IMO.

  • Nat5150

    The difference I see is that Page says Google should be building great things that *don’t exist* which, with few exceptions, is not how they operate. This quote from Steve Jobs never says Apple needs to blaze a trail, just that they need to do a good job at what they do, and get help from others.

    Your post is a clever turn of words but it’s hardly a direct comparison, even if you ignore the fact that the Jobs quote is 16 years old and was specifically about one particular “rivalry” – the one with Microsoft.

    And Gruber’s post from last year that you mentioned in another comment was again about that specific rivalry – Microsoft & Apple.

  • Satv

    What hypocrisy?

    This competition of Google with other services is a consequence of no interoperability, exactly as Larry Page stated at the keynote. Would Facebook let a Google Now query like “Ok Google. Show me photos from my Facebook” . No. Google had to have its own ‘Service’ and its own ‘Cloud’ to implement its vision of search.

    If they all agreed to provide data to Google, like Wikipedia does for Google Now, then there is no reason. But all these other services have different agenda and so Google had to create its own services.

    Apple created its own maps not because it wants to compete with and destroy Google Maps but because what they wanted something out of it that is different from what Google wants out of it. And that’s fair enough.

    Google’s/Larry’s vision is something much more than just competing with Apple, Facebook, or MS or Amazon or what ever. One has to look at a much higher level before they judge Google’s honesty or “Hypocrisy”.

    Larry is not a Hypocrite. Hypocrites are those who think Google should compromise its vision because some third party service did not want to co-operate.

  • http://twitter.com/Janne_o Janne Ojaniemi

    While Larry was touting interoperability and cooperation, they killed XMPP-support in Google Hangouts, making it entirely proprietary and non-interoperable. And few weeks earlier they forked WebKit.

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  • http://www.technovia.co.uk Ian Betteridge

    Funnily enough, I disagree: I think Larry is far more relentless, generally, than Schmidt. I don’t think that’s a bad quality, though.

  • http://www.technovia.co.uk Ian Betteridge

    Google “site:daringfireball.net for apple to win microsoft lose”

    No exhaustive search required! :)

  • http://www.technovia.co.uk Ian Betteridge

    XMPP isn’t dead in Hangouts. What they’ve done is removed server-to-server support, which is actually a good thing for customers as it was largely being used to spam GTalk. Hangouts still supports XMPP for client-to-server access, so using it with iMessage (which I do) is unaffected.

    I’m not sure what your point is about forking WebKit, given that forking projects is a pretty regular and normal part of open source development. Whatever improvements Google makes to Blink, Apple (or anyone) could take and use in WebKit, and vice versa.

  • http://twitter.com/Janne_o Janne Ojaniemi

    My point with WebKit is that Google didn’t seem to be that interested in working with others there. They wanted to do their own thing instead. Of course they have every right to do that, but it is pretty strange, considering Larrys comments about working with others.

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  • http://www.technovia.co.uk Ian Betteridge

    Well they’re continuing to work with others – Opera, for one, will be using Blink (and contributing to it). And they’ll also be working with the WebKit team to strip out the Chrome-specific code. I think it’s as simple as them wanting to take it in a different direction in some fundamental ways.

  • Space Gorilla

    Um, yes it *is* the Picasso quote.

  • http://www.bynkii.com/ John C. Welch

    ah, nothing like the sound of millions of daring fireball fans crying out…

  • http://www.noisetech-software.com/Home.html Steven Noyes

    But the simple fact that Jobs was booed when he made that statement makes this entire rebuttal very weak.

    “Apple fans seem to eat this kumbaya stuff up, to really believe it.”

    They did not eat this up. They were disappointed and felt betrayed. You have to look for another quote. Both of these companies are “for profit” companies but I have found most people that use Google’s services do not understand that and see them as an altruistic company with only their users in mind. For example, they see Google Books (the scanning project) as being “Good for the consumer” even if it is really really bad for a hundreds to thousands of quality content creators. Why? Because they get free books, Google gets more ad revenue and the content creators get nothing.

  • godofbiscuits


    Which is the key to the whole argument, and to most of the criticisms leveled against you here.

    But you’re happy with out-of-context, semantic-free google-searches.

    Ironically, making our point for us.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/johan.fb Johan Du Toit

    I really wanted to take this seriously, but then: “But Apple is the company that built iPhone after Windows Mobile” Seriously, you’re choosing to beat that drum? To compare an iPhone to a Win Mobile phone is like comparing a modern laptop to a vacuum tube computer from the previous century. Sure, they’re both computers, but they are NOT the same thing by a long shot. Hard not to dismiss you as a ranting Apple hater if you can’t give credit where credit is due.

    PS. Before everyone pulls out the “omg stupidz Apple fanboi” card, I have an Android phone, Apple iPad, and Windows laptop. Each ecosystem has pros and cons, and each fits people’s needs differently.

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  • http://josephratliff.com/ JosephRatliff

    This. ^^^

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