Tony Fadell is often credited as the person that drove the creation of the iPod at Apple. The former Apple executive left to found Nest, the company famous for its thermostats and other smart home devices. In 2014 Fadell sold the company to Google before leaving the tech giant a few years later. In an interesting interview with the Verge, Fadell outlines the cultural differences between Google and Apple and the key principles that set them apart.
Apple v Google
Reflecting in a perhaps somewhat melancholy way, Fadell outlines the cultural experience at Google during and in the early stages after the acquisition of Nest.
They just saw it more as dollars, at least from the finance side. People inside the company were just like, “Oh, it’s yet another project we are trying.” At Apple, every single thing that was tried — at least under Steve — needed to ship because it was existential. You couldn’t not make the iPhone successful because you were cannibalizing the iPod business. It had to be successful, and everyone needed to be on it. If you were on something that was distracting from it, you needed to move to it and work on it.
That was not the culture at Google. Obviously they are successful, with many smart people, and that works for them. It is very different when you live and die each day by your vision, your mission, your dream. You do not want to just run to another project because it is just safe and easy; you are trying to do something hard. At that time, that was not how Google thought.Tony Fadell via the Verge
It’s an interesting take. And important to call out that the reference ‘under Steve’ was not aimed as a criticism of Tim Cook. Rather it was a reflection of the time period in which Fadell worked under Jobs. Apple was in a different place financially and under Jobs compared to Cook. Only 9 years prior to the launch of the iPhone, Apple almost became bankrupt but was saved by the iMac and iPod.
Fadell on Innovation At Apple
One of the more tired opinions cited in comment sections and tech forums is that Apple no longer innovates. Fadell rebuffed that argument staunchly, outlining that being first to market doesn’t always result in an innovative product. He gave the example of Apple Silicon and how its early innings began all the way back in 2008.
People are faulting them because they think there is not enough innovation. Well, you just said it: M1 processors. We didn’t start the M1 project, but we did start the Apple processor thing together when we bought P.A. Semi back around 2008 (post iPod). That was getting us on that path.
It takes years to be able to best the processor guys in the business, but they did it. To me, that is innovation. It is a lot of risk to make that switch over. Maybe they could have done it a little bit faster, but no one else did it. Now, everyone is trying to copy them and say, “We are going to make our own processors.”Tony Fadell
The fruits of Apple’s labour wouldn’t come to pass until several years later. Though through constant iteration of A-series chips in the iPhone and iPad, Apple built a rock-solid foundation to transition the Mac to its own chips.
iPhone 14 may be delayed
Apple’s chief point of final assembly in Zhengzhou, China, has been placed under government lockdown due to the ongoing effects of the pandemic. The country has taken a zero-tolerance approach to Covid-19 and has liberally placed different regions and provinces under lockdown.
Unfortunately for Apple, Foxconn its biggest assembly partner has announced an immediate hiring freeze. This is likely to have some impact on Apple’s channel inventory in the short term. If the lockdown lasts for a longer period, it might impact Apple’s ability to build out its production ramps in the months ahead for new devices.