Rafe asks which of Apple and Google have changed the world the most in the last 10 years. He holds up Apple’s iPhone and Google’s PageRank-spawned search ecosystems as their respective most world-changing contributions. I don’t really find the question of which of them has made ‘more’ of a contribution all that interesting (and their successes are quite symbiotic, besides). But I think a key factor in the success of both is the extent to which they each have made ease of use paramount.
In Google’s case, their main search page is still about as simple as it could possibly be, making searching for information across the web as simple, and, not to be overlooked, as fast, as typing a few words or a phrase. Apple’s iPhone is so damn intuitive that my kid was using it at 15 months old. Each company’s relationship to its developer base is infused with an emphasis on ease of use, as well. Google’s amazing scaling infrastructure for its in-house developers is legendary. And while there are plenty of things to quibble about regarding developing apps for iOS, the app store model that Apple has promulgated makes it incredibly straightforward to develop and sell software on a platform with an immediate potential user base in the tens of millions.
Now, these superb and user-centered approaches to design and development are not entirely representative of each company’s approach to users. Google’s ongoing “real name” fiasco is precisely the opposite of a user-centered, value-sensitive approach to design. Enragingly so, in fact, but that’s another post. And Apple has had a long tradition of stepping out ahead of where its users were (a trivial example: removing floppy drives)–sometimes a mark of visionary leadership and other times just pushy and irritating. And there are plenty of other things that are disappointing and at times infuriating about each company. But for sheer ease of use–by ordinary, non-tech-savvy humans–at scale on core products/functionalities, there’s almost no competition. And that has had a huge part to play in how they’ve each been able to be world-changing.
[I am trying to heed Lyke's and Macleod's suggestions and get back to posting stuff on my own space. The G+ mess has also been a huge motivator. Let's see how long this lasts!]