Google logic: Why Google does the things it does

We have excerpted a few snippets of Michael Mace’s excellent and very highly recommended article, “Google logic: Why Google does the things it does,” below:

• In its behavior and vocabulary, Google oozes scientific method. A couple of times recently I’ve heard Google executives say in public, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” …That’s a very scientific, rational point of view, but I couldn’t help thinking that if you had said something like that to Steve Jobs, he would have taken your head off with a dull knife. The whole idea of vision at a place like Apple is that you pursue things you can’t fully quantify or measure; that great product design is an art, and the most important changes are the ones you intuit rather than prove in advance.

• Like social networking, mobile was a critical growth area for Google. The threat in mobile was Apple, which was doing a great job of integrating hardware and software to produce superior products. Many people at the time felt Google was destined to play second fiddle to Apple in mobile forever. Then the opportunity came along to buy Motorola… I think the Motorola deal wasn’t just about the patents or about making a profit in device sales. It was about buying insurance against a surprise from mobile device manufacturers, especially Apple. If you think of Google as a company that sets long-term objectives and then runs experiments in pursuit of them, the Motorola deal is just an unusually large experiment along the road to mobile.

• Google is much less effective when its original goal in a market changes. Because of its quick-reaction nature, Google frequently launches projects that seem very important at the time, but later turn out to be not so critical after all. The market evolves, priorities change, maybe a competitor becomes less prominent. When that happens, the Google projects are in danger of cancellation, and nobody likes working on a canceled project. So the teams frequently start iterating on their goals the same way they would on their features. Usually they end up chasing the latest trendy issue in search of a revenue stream and continued existence. That’s usually the road to hell.

• Google’s strength in science and quick response makes it very fast at incrementally improving the performance and reliability of its products. But that same process makes it almost impossible for Google to lead in features or product ideas that can’t be proved or verified through research. That’s why Google struggles in user experience, creating new product categories, and fitting its products to the latent needs of users… That puts Google at a disadvantage when competing with vision-led companies. The most obvious example of this is Google vs. Apple. When Apple is implementing its strategy properly, it comes up with new product categories faster than Google can co-opt them, and executes them with more taste and usability. As long as Apple can keep moving the bar, Google is forced to play catch-up to Apple’s leadership.

• The iPod wasn’t just a good idea, it was a long series of clever decisions that Apple made in the design of the device, software, store, and ecosystem. They all fit together to make a great music management system. Can Google make a similar series of great, coordinated decisions to create a compelling user need for Glass, or will its glasses just be a technophile toy? I don’t think we’ve seen the answer yet. Until we do, there’s a strong danger that Google is just doing the advanced R&D that some other company will use to make a successful wearable computing device.

Much, much more in the full article, very highly recommended, here.


  1. GOOG lacks taste, aesthetic, and genuine vision. They instead substitute trendy, media-fueled impulses that have no deep cultural roots or usability. Hence the ease with which they ashcan projects, or keep them unimproved beyond beta

    1. You can aim darts and arrows… 🙂

      It would be more accurate to say that Apple carefully aims at its targets, while Google shoots randomly on “full auto” and THEN looks to assess the damage.

  2. Wht I want to see is how Google deal with the very rel problem that such a device used any where near children in this country would likely be banned or the user in danger of being set upon by those round them. It makes it a pretty limited or dangerous device wear

    1. Google is a spy company that collects massive data sets on its ‘users’ and currently monetized that data through selling ads because that is the least odious way to publicly make a profit. There is zero reason to believe that’s all they will do with the data. There is no reason to trust Google with any personal data as they have already well established themselves to have no corporate ethics and no respect for users privacy nor safety.

      In short Google is a threat to humanity.

  3. Reactionary, “co-opting” (copying) rather than innovating, unfocused (runs “experiments”), NOT coordinated (lacking integration)…

    So, basically, Google is Microsoft with a different cash cow.

      1. Microsoft WAS very dangerous. But after over a decade of poor leadership, and Apple surviving and prospering after its own decade of poor leadership, Microsoft is mostly dangerous only to itself and its “partners.” But imagine the world of 2013, if Steve Jobs and not returned to Apple in 1997.

  4. Google is a sophisticated software worm.

    It wiggles into get all information anywhere it can find it and probably from fee for access databases. I wouldn’t be surprised they know more about you than the NSA.

  5. OT on the subject itself but as far as Google Glass goes: I can see it now Google Glasses used to video signatures, cards, pin numbers punched in . . . and personal information of the person in front of the GG wearer. It only takes a split second to video any of that. Identity theft is what Google Glass is made for!

  6. The thing is, you CAN measure much of what Apple does with design — the heft and feel of an object in your hand, the movement of a button, the shape of a phone. You can also measure how an interface simplifies or complexifies usability. Contrary to what many analysts/bloggers seem to think, usability is not how pretty an interface looks, it is whether the interface assists you in accomplishing tasks. Good looks are just one factor in that, because attractive things get used more.

    The difference between the companies’ design philosophies is that Apple understands that its customers are NOT scientists and engineers. Apple’s customers are business people, moms, teenagers, construction workers, small business owners, etc. While the scientific approach has great value to Apple, it must meld with the other consumer use aspects or it is not useful.

    Google is like a dog playing fetch with tennis balls. It LOVES ball #1, and will play fetch for hours, but as soon as ball #2 gets tossed out, ball #1 is like a cold rock and ignored. Sure, Google may go back and pick up ball #1 occasionally, but it wants and loves all #2.

    Until ball #3 or a frisbee or a squirrel comes along.

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