How Apple is to the GOP as Google is to the Dems
Steve Jobs' widely reported scripted statements yesterday during Apple's quarterly earnings conference call have been gleefully discussed in the techie blogs; verbs like "trashes", "rips", "shreds" are commonly deployed.
Google's Andy Rubin, who heads up the Android division, recipient of much of Jobs' commentary, then in a classic geeky way, via Twitter, with a Unix command line used to explain what being "open" means. "Oh, snap!" you can just hear Jon Stewart squeal.
All this silliness got me thinking about Apple and Google as corporations. It occurred to me last night that Apple reminds me of the Republican party. And Google reminds me of the Democratic Party.
Think about it: the Republican party is a top-down "integrated" organization. Astute observers note this every day. A new talking points memo emerges from the central GOP office. It gets propagated at light-speed to every GOP political operative and candidate, as well as to the media. Within minutes, they are prattling off those talking points into the waiting microphones of a media who then pass it on to a waiting audience. Candidates attempt to control the message with such ferocity that arresting reporters or kicking them out of press conferences, or if need be, walking out of a press conference, are standard operating procedures. Control the message, control the perception. it's all about control. If the best way to manipulate the media is to leak information, then so be it.
This describes Apple pretty well. Ideas may generate from the bottom up, but the decisions and directives are pure top-down. The message, the perception, the design, everything about Apple and its products is very carefully controlled. Leaks are apparently justified to help control the public perception of things. Nothing can disturb the momentum and the growth. Participants and constituents in the Apple ecosystem are carefully vetted in the name of quality control, but perhaps mainly in the name of control, period. (Ask any IOS app developer.)
Then we come to the Democratic Party, where it often seems that chaos reigns: the right pinkie doesn't seem to know what the right ring finger is doing, let alone the right hand knowing what the left hand is up to. Everything is fragmented. Everything seems grass-roots / bottoms up; top-down messaging and control simply doesn't work; there is seemingly no control of the message, the perception, the media, or, and especially, the voters. Certainly no centralized, vertical control. All sorts of things (policies) are tried; some stick, some don't. Most don't. The legislation of FDR and LBJ is what keeps the lights on and what pays the bills.
Which brings me to Google, home of the relatively flat organization, twenty-percent side projects, bean bags and free lunch entitlements. Where all kinds of projects are attempted, open-source is embraced, trying out different stuff is rewarded, failures are okay, but in the end, it's search and ads that pays the bills. Where the products are kinda goofy, geeky, wonky sometimes, and take time for people to embrace them.
I'm the first to state that this is not a perfect comparison. I'm not implying that Apple is politically conservative and Google politically liberal. If anything both companies are probably pretty liberal/progressive/libertarian as are most techie organizations. And in many ways Apple and Google co-exist in a larger ecosystem where millions depend on both, and both depend on each other. But it strikes me that sometimes they do have tangible differences in how they approach the marketplace and the media.
Apple's method seems far more Republican, and Google's seems far more Democratic. Apple fans are completely utterly bought into the Apple Way, perhaps just as conservatives embrace whatever is the latest Republican talking point. Google seems far less focused, more vulnerable, far more proud of technical prowess. The Andy Rubin geek tweet is pure Google. The Valley chuckled, perhaps, but did The Rest of Us? Google's Nexus One which I've written about in the past is another classic example. It satisfied Google itself, but the marketplace was "huh?" and the product was abandoned. Same with Google Waves.
Who wins in the end, Google or Apple? Whose approach is better? Maybe it doesn't matter. I'm glad both companies are out there duking it out. I just find it interesting to see how differently they duke it out, they can't help it, it's who they are, and they are different.
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