By John Gruber
Journey across Bhutan with Gray Langur. October 16-29, limited availability.
I’m not sure what’s worse, the content of this piece by Sam Gustin for Time magazine, or the pun in the headline, “Google Hits ‘Glass’ Pedal as Apple Returns to Earth”:
In short, Apple expectations are returning to Earth. “Apple has had a tremendous run from 2001 until the end of last year,” says Kessler. “People want the company to invent a new category. In the past, they’ve done that so frequently and successfully that when they don’t seem to do it as much or as profoundly, questions arise.”
The iPod in 2001, iPhone in 2007, iPad (which many critics pooh-poohed as “just a big iPhone”) in 2010. So, so frequently — it’s a wonder how we ever kept up with Apple’s new category inventions.
Meanwhile, Google is hot. For example, Google’s new Chromebook Pixel laptop is garnering positive reviews. (“Thank you, Google. For obsoleting my MacBook,” as one CNET writer put it.)
That would be the aforelinked Brooke Crothers, a CNet opinion columnist. Here’s the official CNet hardware review of the Pixel by Seth Rosenblatt, where it garnered a meager rating of “OK” and this bottom line:
The bottom line: Despite impressive hardware specs and solid industrial design, the Chromebook Pixel’s high price and cloud OS limitations make it impossible to recommend for the vast majority of users.
In contrast, here are CNet’s ratings for all of Apple’s recent MacBooks:
Everyone should want a Chromebook Pixel — I certainly do. But almost no one should buy one.
In short, the Chromebook Pixel is interesting, but it’s not a well-regarded laptop. But it’s bad news for Apple, that’s for sure.
Back to Gustin’s piece for Time:
And the company’s Google Glass wearable computing project — high-tech Internet-connected specs — is generating the sort of buzz usually reserved for Apple products. The futuristic eyewear will be available to consumers by the end of 2013, just in time for the holiday shopping season, according to several reports.
So a product from Google that currently exists only as a pre-announced demo and somewhat-imminent $1500 developer preview — from the company that brought us the Nexus Q and Google TV — shows that Apple has lost its edge? OK, got it.
It should be clear to anyone who pays even half attention to the industry that Google and Apple are polar opposites in numerous regards. The open-vs.-closed thing is tiresome and generally misleading, but here’s an area where Google really is open (by revealing Google Glass far in advance of it being finished) and Apple really is closed (in that they never reveal anything about products until they are finished or nearly so).
Google Glass absolutely is generating buzz, but it’s not “the sort of buzz usually reserved for Apple products”. Glass has nerds excited; Apple products get the general public excited, and often annoy nerds by being iterative improvements that press the “familiar but better” button instead of the “new and different” button.
On the one hand, we have actual shipping products from Apple that are critically acclaimed and selling in record numbers (and for record profits); on the other, a $1300 laptop that only runs a web browser and a HUD headset that will supposedly ship at the end of the year from Google. And this somehow shows that Apple is slumping. What Gustin is doing is taking anything and everything — Apple’s recent stock slump; the promise of Google Glass; the mere existence of the Chromebook Pixel, regardless of its price or critical ratings; the fact that Apple has spent the last three years doing what it does best, iteratively improving and refining existing products — and has forced these facts into supporting the narrative that Apple is, as he began arguing back in August, “losing its shine” without Steve Jobs.
I sense a trend.