While Apple has been silent, Google introduced its own laptop, the Pixel, and re-hyped Google Glass, its vision for the future of computing. Its self-driving cars are no longer the butt of jokes, but a serious technology people believe in.
Where Google was once seen as a bumbling, but well-intentioned tech giant, it now looks like a lean, focused company ready to capture the future of technology.
Apple, which was once seen as an innovation machine that only cranked out hit products is now seen as stale, boring, and adrift by many people.
It's reflected in the companies' stock prices. Apple is down 15 percent year to date, while Google is up 13 percent year to date.
Google's become a better investment because its search business has withstood a number of critical attacks.
- Facebook turned out to be less of a threat than people thought.
- Mobile isn't as bad as people feared, plus it owns Android and 90% of the mobile search market.
- Larry Page hasn't been a wild man. And when he has — see: Motorola — it's a controllable risk.
- The U.S. government pretty much gave Google a pass.
- Bing hasn't done a thing to stop Google's search business.
On a more macro-level, Google has successfully positioned itself as the one company poised to take advantage of the next wave of technological progress. From Android to self-driving cars to Google Glass, Google has the world believing it is in a good position to dominate.
A big part of the reason Google has been able to steal Apple's thunder is the difference in approach by each company.
Apple is very secretive. It doesn't introduce products that aren't available to the public.
Google, on the other hand, isn't afraid to let the world know what it's working on. That's why we've seen so much press for self-driving cars and Google Glass.
Neither product is all that close to being a reality for most consumers, but that's okay by Google. It wants people to see what it's working on, and get excited.
Apple, for all we know, has its own self driving cars. It has probably tested Apple Glass. And either it thinks it's a flawed product, or Apple is preparing to announce Apple Glass when it's a product it can sell to the consumer.
Apple just doesn't talk about what it's developing in public.
Which makes us think that Apple is a little bit peeved right now.
After all, much of what Google is talking about is still largely theoretical. And if it's not theoretical, it's a copy of what Apple already does.
The Pixel, for instance, is just a MacBook with a nicer screen, and significantly worse operating system. Even the video promoting the Pixel looks like a direct copy of Apple's promotional videos for its gadgets.
Self-driving cars have their merits, but it's unclear if the world is really ready for it. People in America like driving their cars. It could be years before it's a reality.
Google has had tight wraps on Google Glass. Sure, some people have been able to play with them. But, it's mostly Google employees, or hand selected developers who aren't gabbing about the real experience with Glass.
Google says its going to release Glass this year, but the current retail price is $1,500. And you still need a smartphone for them to really work. So, it's a pretty expensive proposition for a gadget with marginal use cases.
And then, from Apple's perspective, there's the simple fact that none of these inventions from Google appear to be all that profitable. Apple, meanwhile, has seen its stock slammed because investors believe its profit margins have peaked and are headed for a decline. However, it's still making almost as much in net income on a quarterly basis as Google is generating in revenue.
But that's the rub for Apple. It will never have a product as wonderfully profitable as the iPhone. The iPad, which is a great number two, doesn't have the same kind of profitability. And whatever comes next, be it a TV or a smart watch, will not sell in the same volume with the same profits.
For Google, it's wide open territory. It's only ever really made money on search. It has the potential to make a lot more money from all these new experiments. It doesn't feel like its earnings potential has peaked.
And really, that's why Google has stolen Apple's thunder. Google is selling a dream to people right now. It's selling the dream of a technological world where messages are seamlessly delivered through magical glasses while a robot drives you to the grocery store.
Apple isn't selling you anything right now, other than a three year old iPad and a six year old iPhone. As great as those products are, they're boring to people right now.
It's not in Apple's DNA to just innovate in public and sell a dream. It sells reality.
And the guy who used to run Apple had a reality distortion field that helped make reality seem so much cooler. The guy running Apple now doesn't have that power.
So, for now, Google has out-cooled Apple. It doesn't mean it's going to last forever — Apple might have some tricks up its sleeve this year — but that's how it is today.
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