Thursday, August 9, 2012

Google, Not Apple, Is the True Tech Pioneer of Our Times

There is no shortage of 'analysts' on the internet which portray Apple as Father Christmas, relentlessly innovating, and supposedly delivery product after product of highest quality. The positive features of Apple products are touted as if they are the Second Coming, while the negatives or shortcomings are brushed aside as 'design quirks'.

The intention of this post is NOT to take away from the contributions Apple has made to electronics. Like Microsoft and Google, Apple has been, on numerous occasions, transforming the technological landscape. It remains a pioneer in product design and polish, and no other company can match it in terms of profitability and marketing ability.

That said, these days Apple is a greedy company which is afraid of competition and is trying to litigate its way to world dominance, relying on dubiously awarded patents for things it did not pioneer.

For average Joes like myself, who cannot afford most of the Apple products, there is another company which over a course of its existence, has completely transformed the information landscape. Its well known products like Google Search, Gmail, and Android, have delivered such towering value to common man that efforts from other companies dwarf in comparison. Here is a list of contributions that Google has made to my PERSONAL life.

1) Google Search. Never before has information been so easily available. Google Search, for me, transformed the Internet. It was not the first search engine, but it was revolutionary. Its speed and accuracy remain unparalleled. A coupe of days ago Google added 'Knowledge Graph' to search results, meaning that for most of your queries an exact answer is now available along with traditional search results. Try typing 'mass of moon in kg' or 'no. of medals won by China in Olympics' in a Google Search box right now and you will see that once again, quietly, Google has elevated the search game. It keeps giving.

Google Search has also been responsible for transforming other platforms. Remember when you had to search for a file in initial release of Windows XP? Remember that dog which wagged its tail for interminable minutes before results of your queries started appearing in spurts? It is common knowledge that Bill Gates made his team question the fact that how come Google's internet search was faster than Windows' offline search. Following that MS released Desktop Search, and subsequently baked the new super-fast search technology right into the Start Menu of Windows Vista and 7. Another several million lives transformed.

2) Gmail. Inexplicably, Gmail is STILL not the biggest web mail service. So what makes Gmail the webmail pioneer? Consider this: before Gmail, the only options with any credibility were Hotmail and Yahoo. Both had cumbersome web pages taking hours to load on the (slow) internet connections of the day. Lots of useless chrome, and the biggest crime of all: the main page of your mailbox did NOT show your mail, rather a jumble of highlights from your inbox mashed with other stuff. Also, there used to be mailbox size limits measured in MBs, not to mention attachment size limits.

Gmail changed all that. The UI was (and still is) lightweight, with unparalleled search and filtering features. It offered GBs of mailbox space, since copied by everyone else. The ads are there but they are lightweight and unobtrusive. And most importantly, it remains the ONLY web mail service that opens right on your inbox rather than useless mumbo jumbo.

Then there is Google Talk, chat client that was integrated right into the mailbox. Add to that seamless integration with Google Docs (now Google Drive) and continuous stream of new features, and it is pretty hard to beat Gmail.

3) Android. Need I say anything? Suffice it to say that Android is the name of an operating system that put desktop-like power into the hands of hundreds of millions of people worldwide, becoming their portal to the world. Android is responsible for revival of companies like Motorola and Sony in the mobile space, as well as transformation of Samsung from a humble also-ran three years ago to the biggest manufacturer of mobile phones in the world today. Not only that, countless other companies from China are manufacturing Android based phones and tablets, threatening to change the tech landscape in terms of pricing and specs. More than a million Android devices are being sold every day. It is all good for the consumer giving them choice, freedom, affordability and flexibility.

And as a bonus, it is the exact anti-thesis of everything that Apple stands for.

4) Google Translate. This is a comparatively lesser-known service that translates any web page for the user in real time. While it may not seem much, just a few years ago this would have seemed like science fiction. What's more, in typical Google way, the option just appears when you load a non-English web page; no menus to get into, no buttons to push.

5) YouTube. It is not a Google innovation, rather it was bought by Google. Since then, YouTube has become one of the premier content services on the web where you can check out missed TV shows, trailers, original material, as well as videos prepared by traditionally text based organizations like Car and Driver. Everything is free and available all the time. Again, stuff of science fiction come to life.

6) Maps/Earth. Again, the stuff of science fiction. Your city, your country, your world, mapped out and on your PC or mobile. You can locate specific addresses and routes to get there. You can check out traffic density. You can see how a place looks without moving from your desk. Yes, navigation services existed before Google Maps, but none of them were and are, as rich as Maps, not to mention completely free.

These were just SIX of the innovations that Google has made that have had a transforming effect on not only the tech landscape, but landscape, period. Take a look, consider how often you use these services and tell me your life doesn't depend on at least one.

Google, like any other company, is out to make money. It has all your personal data. The difference is that Google isn't afraid to experiment, and it mostly gives away stuff for free. Google has had a far more profound effect on the world than Apple with its fancy design can ever lay claim to. Sorry, that's the truth as I see it!


  1. Didn't Google just get slapped with the largest penalty in history (25 million) for circumventing Safari's security features intentionally? They sure did.


    "Google, like any other company, is out to make money. It has all your personal data. The difference is that Google isn't afraid to experiment, and it mostly gives away stuff for free."

    Actually, Google sells all your personal information. Say goodbye to privacy, thanks Google. Better get your facts straight Talha.

    Are you a dedicated user Talhi?

    You are dreaming if you think Google is any better than Apple. Heck, Google just fired 4,000 Motorola employees. Do you think they feel the same way about Google as you do?…. I think not. Apple is hiring by the way. :o)

    1. Thanks for your feedback. I have my facts straight, and one of them is that Google isn't alone in gathering or selling your user data. Remember that scandal about your precious iPhone collecting your location info? Every company does that. We better learn to live with it.

      As I said I don't believe Google is Father Christmas; that said, firing of employees post merger is again, not a unique event. Its not about one company being better than the other, just whose contributions are greater to life in general.

      I respect your feedback, but it does not in any way change or reduce the importance of what I wrote in my blog post. Penalties, fines and injunctions, not to mention patents, are another way to circumvent the competition and I believe a skewed justice system is going out of the way to help Apple in this regard. Just compare the results of Apple's suits in US and Europe.