Steve Jobs was livid when he learned about Google plans to use the Android operating system which Google acquired to compete with the iPhone. He felt betrayed by Eric Schmidt, the then CEO of Google who also happened to be a member of the Apple Board. Schmidt joined the board of Apple in 2005 and left (or, was asked to leave) in 2009. Jobs began to realize that Google could become the next Microsoft which would have the same effect that the old Microsoft had on the pre-iPhone Apple, it would cut the company off at the knees. Jobs realized that the only way to prevent that, was to put a dagger into the very heart of Google – Search. So he started up the most secret project ever undertaken at Apple. The name of the project was “Found.” Less than four people knew about Found and not one of them was a board member. Jobs understood that Search was a very vulnerable area that had no stickiness other than possibly the brand behind it. That when users did a search, they just wanted the best results.
Yes, Google built up an amazing advertising business around Search. But advertisers would always go where the “audience” went. It was not important to Apple to monitize Search, what was important was for Apple to disable the Google money machine to defend its franchise.
It was fortunate that Jobs had heard of an amazing Israeli scientist who developed an algorithm for search that would have the same effect on Google as Google had on Alta Vista using Page Ranking. The key thing was to keep the project hidden. This way if it failed, it would not make Apple look bad but if it succeeded, it would smash Google.
On his death bed, or close to it, he made Tim Cook, the current CEO, promise to keep project Found going. By the summer of 2014, it was clear that the new search capability developed by Apple would revolutionize search. Apple began to get ready for the launch. They wanted a way to make sure that millions of people could use the new search capability on the day of the launch. This required that a few more people be brought into the fold so that Found could be rolled out in releases IOS, OSX and iTunes. Of course, it was hard to keep such a project secret up to the announcement but Apple did it’s best. It provided a lot of cover. Many false stories were leaked with most focused on the use of Artificial Intelligence within Siri. While these stories were not far from the truth, they lacked a few key elements – all of which were finally revealed publicly by Steve Jobs at a major event in Sept. 2015. Yes, I said Steve Jobs. This effort was so important to him that he pre-recorded the announcement before his death and instructed Tim Cook to use it.
Google was stunned as were its share holders. Google stock dropped by 30% the day of the announcement. The next morning many Apple users found that they had a new search capability and one that was far superior to Google. The word spread. Apple had even hired a company to release an Android version of it. The rest, as they say, is history.
Ok, this was all made up or was it? You will have to wait for about 1 1/2 years to find out. In the mean time, one thing is now abundantly clear. Google failed at doing to Facebook what Apple did to Google in my story above. Google+ is a major failure as are many, if not most, of Google’s efforts to break out of their dependency on Search. They needed to stop Facebook. Facebook knows much more about their users than Google knows about those that use its search capability. Eventually, Facebook will introduce search and perhaps in collaboration with Apple. To stop Facebook, Google attacked them front on by launching their own social network, Google Plus. While Google Plus was superior in many ways, Google was not able to bust the Facebook franchise. Jobs may be dead, but Zuckerberg is not, and he definitely understands how vulnerable Google really is. He is using FB currency (the inflated value of the companies stock) to make some very smart acquisitions while most of the acquisitions that Google has made make little sense in my opinion. And these acquisitions are paid for mostly in cash which is real money. As I am writing this, Google is basically abandoning Google Plus. The next interesting battle between Google and Facebook will be in the area of voice and messaging. Facebook has Whats App. Google has Hangouts and Google Voice. My bet is on Facebook. Apple also has a problem in this area because their voice and message capability, FaceTime, is a closed Apple only system.
So there you have it. Google is caught between Steve Jobs (deceased but not dead) and Mark Zuckerberg.
Now back to the future.