Why is it Google and Apple always seem to be vicious rivals? From the suing to the leadership name-calling, it’s gotten pretty nasty, especially over the last couple of years.
But here at CultureMass, we try to stay out of the drama while discussing the tech topics and devices themselves. However, in reviewing products and companies, comparisons are still important. Comparisons allow us to pick out the good and the bad and make logical conclusions based on the information that we have. When comparing devices, we see what’s working, what consumers are reacting positively to, and what’s made with quality. When comparing companies, we also see what’s working and what consumers like, but we also see how the companies themselves are reacting to the consumers. Devices don’t react in a relational way back to consumers – companies do. It’s an important part of the symbiotic relationship.
To that end, let’s dive in and compare the keynotes from this year’s Google I/O and Apple WWDC.
Google I/O 2013 keynote recap
First up is Google’s I/O developers conference, held on May 15, 2013. Here are the major announcements, as well as my breakdown of the feel of and the reactions to the keynote:
- Cross-Platform Sign-On: integration for Google sign-in between websites and devices.
- Google Play Game Services: Cloud Save, Achievements, Leaderboards, and Multiplayer.
- Google Play Music All Access: Google’s own music streaming service for $9.99/month (or $7.99/month if you sign up by June 30).
- Samsung Galaxy S4, Nexus-style: no TouchWiz UI, just a basic Google experience on the Samsung hardware.
- Google Play for Education: educational content suggested by teachers for classrooms and students.
- Google Plus upgrades: new Stream experience (multiple columns, related hashtags, etc.), new Hangouts messaging (conversation list, notification syncing, etc.), and a new Photos experience (upgraded storage, and added features: Highlight, Enhance, and Awesome).
- Voice Search: coming soon to Chrome on desktops and laptops, as well as enhancements to its functionality on all devices (can answer deeper questions and search more intuitively).
- Google Maps: can now see the Zagat rating for restaurants, improved incident alerts, dynamic rerouting, a new, simplified look, easier to see suggestions from friends, easier to see directions, “Street View” for inside buildings, and an improved “Google Earth experience” built in.
The feel of the conference was that of important and exciting upgrades to existing devices and services, meant to show both developers and consumers that Google is innovating, in touch with what consumers want, and in touch with the future of computing.
The reaction to the conference was very positive, but in ways I wasn’t expecting. I loved the software upgrades, as they appeared to be appropriate and decently notable. Some were downright exciting – the Maps upgrades are fantastic. But after the conference I found that most people (even developers) were talking about the hardware – specifically, the announcement of a Nexus-style Samsung Galaxy S4, followed later by a Nexus-style HTC One. Perhaps I’m not as excited about Nexus devices as I once was, but the interest there surprised me, at least in comparison.
Apple WWDC 2013 keynote recap
Next was Apple’s WWDC developers conference, held on June 10, 2013. Here are their major announcements, with my breakdown of the feel of and the reactions to the keynote:
- App Store is continuing to expand, with a strong developer and consumer base.
- Adoption rate and satisfaction with Apple hardware remains very strong.
- OS X Mavericks was unveiled, with helpful improvements like Finder Tabs, Tags, multiple displays, battery life, wake time, iCloud Keychain, notifications, app updates, Calendar, Maps, and iBooks.
- Safari had some improvements as well: bookmarks, memory and energy usage, accelerated scrolling, CPU usage, and a new homepage.
- New hardware was introduced: MacBook Air, AirPort base stations, and a new Mac Pro with a futuristic, cylindrical design.
- iWork being added to iCloud.
- iOS 7 was announced, with the following improvements: lockscreen (fullscreen image, new message), App UI (new flat design), Weather app redesign, Calendar app, Homescreen (folders have multiple pages), Messages app, Notification Center (Today, All, Missed), Control Center (swipe up, access to quick settings), multitasking (all apps), updates (automatic, prioritized), Safari (fullscreen, URL bar can search, 3D interface for open tabs), AirDrop (share pictures wirelessly), Camera (built-in filters), Photos (Moments, share photo streams), Siri (voice upgraded, features added), Car integration (push iOS 7 interface to car), and Music/iTunes Radio (listen to Featured stations, create your own).
The feel of the conference at the beginning was that of small, incremental changes – nothing too fancy (only exception would be the Mac Pro). However, the feel decidedly changed with the introduction of iOS 7 – Apple had created a whole new interface that was much more modern, and had made great strides to transition the entire OS to it (not just an app here or there).
The reaction to the conference was very mixed. Many argued that Apple borrowed/stole most of its iOS 7 ideas from Android since Android had those features first (videos ranged from the incredibly hilarious “angry Hitler” to “here are the exact features Apple copied” to “they use the same adjectives over and over”), while others (including myself) could see that Android did have many of those features, but it was nice that iOS finally had a modern look.
Is there really a winner?
So who “won” the 2013 conference keynote award? Did anyone? Should we care?
I think we should keep a few things in mind:
- Yes, I think we can nail down a winner. As I’ve mentioned, it’s okay to compare, as long as we’re not trying to bash one company or the other.
- As long as a company is providing a service to consumers that they appreciate, that’s a “thumbs up” for them.
- As long as a company is behaving appropriately and maintaining a good reputation, that’s another “thumbs up.”
Regarding the final two points, I think both companies have achieved some measure of success in customers’ appreciation and reputation. Both create products that customers enjoy (ask any iPhone or Google Maps user), and both have issues they’ve worked through (Apple’s labor practices, Google’s “accidental” data siphoning through Street View cars). But the key is they’ve tried to work through them (as best we can tell, observing from a consumer viewpoint).
Now back to the real question of this article: did one company trump the other in this year’s keynote presentations?
I’d say this time, Google won.
In at least two previous years (perhaps more) from 2007 on, I would have absolutely chosen Apple. Apple’s innovation in the smartphone and tablet categories are legendary – it’s made our mobile culture what it is today.
But this year, Google made the cake and ate it too. Not only did they make some significant improvements on existing products, they also made improvements not yet achieved by other companies, and created an entirely new segment of hardware – Nexus devices based on non-Nexus models. Apple, however, played catch-up. Were their improvements important and well-done? Sure, you can’t argue with the Mac Pro’s and iOS 7’s sleek and modern look. But in the case of iOS 7, where nearly all the excitement landed, they didn’t innovate – at least as much as Google. They implemented features that consumers wanted, but for the most part already had. They showed what their future looked like, but Android was already there.
Keep in mind, that’s just the keynote comparison. If we were to compare the companies in general, they seem to be just about neck-and-neck right now. Apple’s mobile design surged ahead to where Android’s was, but Android’s design hasn’t necessarily surged that much ahead (you could argue the developer tools have, however). Perhaps Android 5.0 (Key Lime Pie) will provide that surge, but for the moment it’s in a nice, stable state.
Google and Apple are definitely rivals, with ups and downs to their relationship and strength at any moment in time. At the time of their 2013 developers conference keynotes, Google was the winner.
But in the mobile market, who knows what the future will bring.