June 6, 2010


Apple Google Microsoft 150x272 Which brand resonates most with you: Apple, Google or Microsoft? Is that the brand you want to be like?

We are also brands and our own attributes vary from good to not so good. Let's look at what we can learn from these three very different companies.


Microsoft is associated with the Windows desktop computer operating system. Their focus on the Internet only started on December 7, 1995, months after the $200 million launch of Windows 95.

Microsoft has difficulty changing. New initiatives often flop. Despite massive spending, they aren't a leader in web searches or smartphones. The Internet Explorer web browser keeps losing market share to Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome.

Windows is known for crashes and viruses. In fairness, Windows has improved. Vista was more secure and pointed out design flaws in third-party applications. Windows 7 is a pleasure to use. The redesigned Office 2007 and 2010 work well but are reviled by those resistant to change.

Microsoft has great successes and huge resources but has trouble adapting to tomorrow. Take a look at this tablet with dual screens, multitouch and a pen. There's nothing like it.

Microsoft killed this amazing new product. Maybe something better is on the way? Maybe not.


Apple products work well because the company maintains so much control. Their rules limit individual freedom. Apple has been innovative with products like the iPod, iPhone and iPad. The company cares about design, not just functionality. Apple fans around the world will line up to buy products. Maybe that's why Apple's market capitalization now exceeds Microsoft's for the first time.

Apple spends $1.1 billion annually on research and development. That seems like lots, but Microsoft spends $8.6 billion, almost eight times more.

Apple has been called "capricious, heavy-handed and opaque in how it approves applications" for the iPhone. It banned Google Voice and even Pulitzer prize-winning satirist Mark Fiore. Not everyone can win battles against Apple and the arbitrary rules they set. Steve Jobs makes statements which are less than accurate. He fibbed 10+ times during one interview this week.

Apple feels like one person: Steve Jobs, who has health issues. What happens to the company without him? Maybe nothing. Maybe plenty.

Apple is like watching TV: the choices are made for you. The company has crushed competition with innovation even in established markets like music players, smart phones and tablets.


Google is quite different from Apple and Microsoft. Google shows uncommon generosity by making so much available for free. Here are some examples
  • web browser (Chrome)
  • email (Gmail)
  • GPS navigation with Street View (already used for 1 billion miles of guided navigation)
  • voice search
  • Blogger, the platform where this blog is hosted
  • Word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, online surveys
  • video (Google video, YouTube)
They don't squeeze every dollar from us but they could. They can afford this because they earn so much from ad revenue. Their approach puts pressure on competitors.

Google focuses on the online world and openness. They care about speedy, unfettered , cheap anywhere/anytime web access on any device. That's because they make more money the longer we are online.

This approach seems to work. Google Android phones now outsell the iPhone in the US and perhaps worldwide. Over 100,000 phones are getting activated daily.

Look at the open source approach to Google TV, which launches this fall. Sony is making TVs, Logitech is making peripherals and Intel is making the computer chips. Even Adobe Flash gets supported. This combination may work. In contrast, Apple TV is called the iFlop and Microsoft TV doesn't exist.

Google innovates and remains relevant. You get vast choice and freedom.

Which Will Win?

If you had to describe each brand in a word, would you agree with these?
Microsoft bureaucratic desktop mindset loves old games (especially Monopoly)
Apple autocratic one-stop shop (e.g., iTunes) makes new games and sets the rules
Google democratic your choice you design the games and you set the rules

What About You?

Your brand speaks too. The perceptions that others have may not be the one you intend.
Going forward, what perceptions do you want to create? Which of Apple, Google or Microsoft would you rather emulate?


Podcast Episode 69 (6:20)

direct download | Internet Archive page

PS If you don't like any of these brands, pick your own.

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