Google and Apple are proof that money can’t solve everything

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Google and Apple are proof that money can’t solve everything
Money rules the world, the saying goes, and today that seems truer than ever. Right now we’re seeing a concentration of financial resources like never before. Oil companies pale in comparison to tech giants as data became more valued than gold, black or not.

Nowhere is the hegemony more obvious than it is on the smartphone market. Two companies, Google and Apple, have a tight grip on the software that’s controlling the devices that are always by our side. It’s no wonder then, that those are the most valuable companies from the Big 5 (Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook).
 

This is why people tend to have the highest expectations from them, after all, with pockets as deep as theirs, how can anything be less than perfect. Yet, things don’t always go the best way possible neither for Google nor for Apple. But why is that?

The limitation of human resources


The term “human resources” sounds a bit sterile, as if humans are just another ingredient to put into the machine that’s making your product. And for some companies, that’s not far from the truth. If the work doesn’t require high-skilled workers, companies keep wages low and the high turnover rate doesn’t concern them, because they can replace each worker at a moment’s notice.

In the world of Silicon Valley, the reality is very different. The distribution of software is cheap and relatively effortless, no grunt work needed, so all the weight falls down on those that are creating it. And, well, that’s not exactly an easy task when the experience of billions of users is at stake.

The likes of Apple and Google need only the best of the best in every department, from coding to marketing to management. And as any bell curve will tell you, there is only a small amount of people at the top end of any field. This severely limits the pool of suitable candidates.

Of course, this is where money comes handy! However, no matter how high the salaries you offer are, you can’t just conjure the specialists you need out of thin air. In games, if you have the cheat code for infinite money, you can do anything, but in real life, money itself doesn’t do anything. It all boils down to the people and their ability to convert cold hard cash into something that will ultimately bring even more of it.

Which is why companies often “steal” each other’s employees by offering them not only higher salaries but better benefits or higher positions.

This has a double effect, the “poacher” not only boosts his own production, but its competitor takes a hit as well. It’s not uncommon for valuable employees to be “protected” by a non-compete agreement, which usually comes with a hefty compensation if broken. That compensation can, of course, be paid by the other company, if it deems the “catch” valuable enough.

To counter the talent problem, companies often create their own academies to train people for the positions they need. Obviously, this takes a lot more time than hiring someone who’s ready for the job and putting him/her immediately to work. This is why human resources are often the bottleneck for software product development.
 
Furthermore, developing a software product is like raising a child. If you’ve been with it since the beginning, you know all its quirks, strengths and weaknesses and what it means when something goes wrong. In some extreme cases, the code can be so deeply tied to a specific person that losing them can render it unusable. You can’t afford to juggle developers unless you want the end result to be a hot mess, which is something we’ve seen plenty of times.

Even if you have all the people you need, however, that doesn’t mean you’re set for success.

The curse of having too much choice


Having a lot of money can be a blessing and a curse, and we don’t refer to the increased death rate of lottery winners. In the world of IT too much disposable income can also lead to bad decisions.

Google’s vast financial resources, for example, are a double-edged sword. The company can afford to pour money and dedicate developers into pretty much any idea that seems good, even if it's aware that not all of them will become actual products. Google is often throwing ideas in the wild to see which will catch on. The company is notorious for releasing half-baked products, then barely supporting them and eventually dumping them onto the ever-increasing pile of abandoned projects. This is true not only for software products but hardware ones as well. There’s so many of them that there’s a website dedicated to keeping track of them: KilledByGoogle

To be fair, projects are often merged, renamed or broken down into pieces that become parts of other products (which might get the same treatment later), so it’s not like Google is just throwing people’s hard work away.

The temptation to give everything a try seems to be irresistible for Google’s executives. This practice has shaken confidence in Google’s releases to a point that even very serious endeavors like the game-streaming platform Stadia are seen by people as the next potential entree to Google’s graveyard.

Despite having even more cash laying around, Apple appears to have a much narrower focus on what it wants to make and has mostly been able to avoid product cancellations. The infamous AirPower wireless charging mat that was axed recently was one of the few cancellations we’ve seen from Apple. And when it comes to failed products, we should give a shout-out to the Pippin gaming console of the olden days when Apple was far from being the corporation it is today.  
However, there’s a big difference between canceling a product during development and doing it after people have gotten accustomed to it and have been using it for a while (I’m looking at you, Google Inbox). Apple hasn’t been free from criticism, though, users and reviewers alike have been vocal about some of its nonsensical money-saving practices like putting slow chargers in the boxes of its iPhones. And while that’s a conscious decision that can easily be changed, there’s another aspect that we must consider…

Having money doesn’t mean you can spend it however you want


While tech giants seem almighty to us, they too have someone they fear and bow to: shareholders. The billions and trillions we mention when talking about how much a company is worth are often just stock market evaluations. And one of the biggest factors on the market is how profitable a company is.

So while Apple can absolutely afford not only to put fast chargers in iPhone boxes but wireless chargers as well, at the end of the quarter/year it will have to explain to its investors why they made less money. And that’s a conversation no CEO wants to have, as Tim Cook can probably confirm after having to justify Apple's unexpected results a few months ago. This constant oversight often prevents companies from investing in unproven product concepts or take on some “wild” new endeavor.

Of course, companies still need to innovate if they want to keep an edge over the competition. This is where they sometimes face another obstacle that can’t be overcome by throwing money at it.

Sometimes the technology just isn’t there yet


In nature, everything follows a predetermined progression, plants grow from seeds, birds are hatched from eggs and so on. The same goes for technology. You can’t have a wireless phone before a wired one, or a quad-core processor before a dual-core one. There’s no skipping steps.

If Apple goes to its chip manufacturer with a 100 billion dollars in cash and demands a 3nm CPU for its next iPhone, it will be sent back to California with a reminder to come back in a few years. Sure, the amount of money invested in certain technology does influence how fast it will develop, but as the saying goes, one person can dig a well in a 100 days, but a 100 people can’t dig a well in a day. You can give a plant soil with more nutrients and the best conditions, but you can’t force it to grow faster. Similarly, in tech, there’s only so much you can do to expedite things and we’re pretty much at the limit already. 

And while for us as consumers it might be frustrating that technology isn’t moving faster, it’s the hard work that’s left behind the scenes that has made us so used to the amazing advancements we saw in a relatively short span of time. It’s easy to forget how far we’ve come in the last couple of decades and start getting technology for granted.

These are just a few of the reasons why big tech companies can’t just churn out one awesome product after another despite having billions in the bank. There’s always room for improvement, of course, but we should remember that while the scale is different, companies like Google and Apple also face limitations that are beyond their control. Having a little more patience and understanding is something we all can benefit from.

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39 Comments

1. notfair

Posts: 719; Member since: Jan 30, 2017

One thing it surely solves, making more money for the already rich investors and pay s**t the employees while everything around us is getting expensive (rent, food and tech we all have seen it first hand) and suddenly they don't know why the sales are plummeting, oh gosh, the phone is only 999$, it's affordable, why nobody is buying it? (apple, sammy and huawei execs wondering.) The fact to the matter is that we live in a dystopian society where human lives and privacy means only $$$ while the rich are getting richer and have more benefits while the poorer class is exploited merciless, kinda funny, it sure resembles to how we farm animals.

3. LawnBoy

Posts: 173; Member since: Feb 23, 2019

Nobody is forcing people to buy over priced iPhones or play on Facebook all day. I never received a job from a poor person so I welcome people getting rich off their ideas and products. What I don't like are whiney losers that talk about this person or that person, this jndustry or that industry makes too much money yet willing buys those products or services.

8. midan

Posts: 2708; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

IPhone isn’t overpriced, if you think it is it just says you don’t value things what it offers. People are willing to pay high price for iPhone because they know it’s worth of the price.

11. sgodsell

Posts: 7207; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

If you put a survey up and asked the general population. Then I would bet a ton of money that the vast majority of the world would say that Apple and their products are overpriced. Especially if you compare them to the competition. Putting that aside. Talking about money can’t solve everything. Apples Siri is exactly that. Apple can throw all the money they want at Siri, but unless Apple opens up the backend or server side for Siri. Then Siri will never compete with Alexa or Google Assistant. For crying out loud developers still to this day cannot make any Siri apps for Apples one and only HomePod, or smart speaker (if you can call it that).

15. midan

Posts: 2708; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

”if you put a survey up and asked the general population. Then I would bet a ton of money that the vast majority of the world would say that Apple and their products are overpriced. Especially if you compare them to the competition.” sales show opposite. When people want great phone and are willing to pay it most buy iPhone. So i don’t know where you get that idea, it’s proven fact.

18. sgodsell

Posts: 7207; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

Sales prove only what I have said. Apples average sales price kept on going up every year. It's only the last two years that Apples average selling price soared even higher. Look midan I know you are closed minded, and blind to anything that doesn't have an Apple logo on it, but it is easily proven that Apples iPhones are overpriced. Take the iPhone XR is truly overpriced. That POS only has a low resolution HD+ display, that doesn't have HDR, and it costs $1030 CAD, or $750 USD, and its higher in most other countries. The iPhone XR hardware is crap. If that was running Android, then the XR hardware wouldn't even get $500 CAD, or $350 USD. Because there is a lot of high end, including mid range devices that are less money, and offer more than Apples XR.

21. midan

Posts: 2708; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

Again you are wrong, device which is overpriced wouldn’t sell 200 millions every year. People clearly think it’s worth of the asking price and they want to pay it. Do you see what is wrong with your comment? You are talking about hardware and leave everything else out. Most people pay for overall experience, not for paper specs which clearly you do ;)

22. mrochester

Posts: 978; Member since: Aug 17, 2014

You’ve explained the price difference yourself. If the XR was an android phone, it would be worth less. But because it’s an iOS phone, it’s worth more. iOS is just valued more highly than android is.

28. sgodsell

Posts: 7207; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

If you want an iPhone, then 1) Your choice is very limited 2) you have to the price that Apple lists the device at. 3) the vast majority of iPhones are purchased on contracts, and are subsidized by carriers. 4) the new iPhones are not selling well in comparison to lots of other articles, including ones from PhoneArena. Just in case you forgot, the companies in China have cut their production for the new IPhones, which includes the iPhone XR. Apple then increased production on their older iPhone models. Stick your head in the sand mrochester, and ignore the truth.

29. mrochester

Posts: 978; Member since: Aug 17, 2014

Your post is still saying the same thing, that iOS is worth more than android.

30. mootu

Posts: 1500; Member since: Mar 16, 2017

"Your post is still saying the same thing, that iOS is worth more than android." Thats odd because Android outsells IOS by 6 to 1.

38. mrochester

Posts: 978; Member since: Aug 17, 2014

McDonald's burgers outsell the finest steaks too. As I said, iOS is worth more than Android hence iOS based phones cost more than the Android equivalent.

23. Vancetastic

Posts: 1103; Member since: May 17, 2017

They are overpriced. You are incorrect. It doesn’t matter if people are willing to pay for them. People are basically stupid, and these companies are well aware of that fact.

5. Whitedot

Posts: 771; Member since: Sep 26, 2017

Spot on. They don't realise that payrise in most cases never catch up with inflation.

13. Leo_MC

Posts: 7203; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

The cheapest new iPhone in 2007 was $650; the cheapest iPhone today is less than $300. I think it's better to be an iPhone buyer today than it was in 2007.

16. sgodsell

Posts: 7207; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

Don't be stupid Leo_MC, you can say that every year with Apple. That is with carriers being involved, and subsidizing Apples iPhones. However the same is true for all smartphones with carriers that subsidize them. Most Androids are zero dollars these days. But without subsidized smartphones, then you have to pay the full price. Which all iPhones are most definitely overpriced. The other thing is you are locked into a contract for a couple of years to that carrier. So to say they are cheaper, is truely stupid on your part.

19. Leo_MC

Posts: 7203; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

Every day I try not to be stupid, that's why I ignore most of the time the stupid things you are saying; like now, for instance: $650 was the retail (full) price of the first iPhone while the iPhone SE has been sold - brand new from Apple - with under $300 a few months ago.

24. Vancetastic

Posts: 1103; Member since: May 17, 2017

The first iPhone was the “flagship”. The SE is an ancient design, with a fairly old chip now. I’d say “nice try”, but it really wasn’t.

25. Leo_MC

Posts: 7203; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

Apple manufactures nothing but flagships (it was once the 5c, but not anymore). One could walk into a Apple Store today and get a brand new iPhone 7/7+ (those are flagships for sure) for $450/550 - which is also cheaper than $650.

27. Vancetastic

Posts: 1103; Member since: May 17, 2017

It was once the 5s. Do you like being wrong? 7 series WAS a flagship, two years ago. It’s not any longer. Wrong again, little Leo. Are you sure you don’t have masochistic tendencies?

34. Leo_MC

Posts: 7203; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

The only differences between 7+ and XS are true tone (and some display features like tap to rise), 4k@60 (which even today hardly any Android flagship can do), wireless charging (which again is not present in all the phones you call flagship) and a different chip. That's about it.

31. mootu

Posts: 1500; Member since: Mar 16, 2017

"Every day I try not to be stupid" And fail miserably.

35. Leo_MC

Posts: 7203; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

Coming from a dumb ass, that's a compliment.

12. Leo_MC

Posts: 7203; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

iPhone sales have been just as good as ever, if we take China - with its communist economy - out of the equation.

17. sgodsell

Posts: 7207; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

Take India out as well, not to mention a lot of other countries that don't subsidize their smartphones. Which is the vast majority of the world. Then Apple is not doing that good. I guess that is why Apple has less than 15% of thevworlds smartphones.

20. Leo_MC

Posts: 7203; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

India is - and has been for a few years - a country with 0.something% market share for Apple so it doesn't matter (for Apple). We will probably see some estimations, but so far in US iPhone sales are better than they were last year, the same goes for a lot of EU countries; in Japan they grew by at least 5% (if not 10); in Korea they are ok (I think they broke some records this year). I think Apple is doing fine, overall.

37. CQuine unregistered

So in actual fact you have no factual evidence to prove any of these claims...

2. LawnBoy

Posts: 173; Member since: Feb 23, 2019

Well if Apple put out innovation instead of Catch-Up....

6. iloveapps

Posts: 855; Member since: Mar 21, 2019

Maybe its the other way around: android putting more gimmicks and new features so that they can be called innovative but purely half baked. Android has been catching long life iphones.

9. midan

Posts: 2708; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

Look face ID vs other same features in the market, or Apple Pay vs others. No-one cares who is first, only thing people care is who did the best Job.

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