Jean-Louis Gassée wrote a thought provoking piece called 'Puzzling Over Google's Nest Acquisition.' In it, he wondered why Google opted to make Nest its second biggest acquisition at $3.2B. Gassée couldn't connect the dots.
I'd argue that the Nest story is indicative of the difference between Google and Apple.
It’s dots vs. lines. The Google approach is to keep putting dots on the board on the premise that sooner or later, enough of a pattern will emerge to connect those dots.
By contrast, everything that Apple does is about drawing well formed lines.
Both have their virtues, but they are fundamentally different approaches to looking at markets, platforms and the types of solutions that are worth their investment.
Dots centricity means Google is simultaneously willing to pursue strategies that are: A) Big, wild ass bets that have low probability of success; B) Sustaining investments that protect and extend their core business; and C) Get in the game investments that extend the “field of play” that they have a relevance for.
In this regard, they don’t always even distinguish between concept products, prototypes and real shipping products that contribute material revenues and profits.
Apple, on the other hand, is only willing to make investments in strategies for which they can become the standard bearer within; that have high consumer engagement to the point of love by the consumer; and for which there is a product (refresh) lifecycle that can be predictability modeled AND a hardware-software-service-tools-media platform that underlies it, thereby anchoring their differentiation.
In the case of Google, it's an approach that has yielded: YouTube, Google Maps, Android, Gmail, Chrome, AdWords/AdSense and Analytics.
The Apple approach has yielded a unity of iOS devices, Macs, iTunes and the App Store.
Again, a lot of this comes down to how one defines success and what are the metrics that underlie that success.
The Apple way is clearly not the Google way -- any more than the Amazon way isn’t reflective of either Apple or Google.
Apple founder Steve Jobs had a very zen-like take on dot-connecting:
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
Amen to that.