Fadell was best known, before he moved into WiFi-connected appliances, for running Apple's (AAPL) iPod division. So last week's news naturally led to a conversation about Apple and Google and what -- at its core -- each company is about. (Our initial take: Why Google, not Apple, bought Nest.)
The remark that got the most play in the media was probably the least considered. Steve Jobs' biographer Walter Isaacson, pressed on CNBC Thursday morning to comment on the two big news events of the week -- the iPhone's launch on China Mobile and Google's purchase of Nest -- casually remarked that "the greatest innovation in the world today right now" is coming not from Apple but from Google. That did not sit well with Apple aficionados. Headline on MacDailyNews: "Scribe of flavorless Steve Jobs biography thinks Google is 'more innovative' than Apple because Google bought a thermostat company."
On Friday's Accidental Tech Podcast John Siracusa offered what may be the most apocalyptic view. The risk, he said, is not that Google will do something more evil with data from inside your home than it does now with all the information it's already collected from your gmail, your Android phone, your Google searches, your taste in YouTube videos etc. The real danger, he said, comes when the information about you in Google's servers eventually, inevitably, falls into the hands of actual evil doers.
But the most thoughtful commentary came, as it often does, from Asymco's Horace Dediu.
Dediu, a student of Clayton Christensen's disruption theory, is always looking for the "why" of a company -- its business model, its values, its guiding principles. Google is a tough nut to crack because its stated principle -- "don't do evil" -- is too vague to be of any use, and its business model -- selling advertising -- is largely disconnected from what it is known for: Providing valuable Internet services for free.
For a lot of people, Dediu writes, Google is the Internet.
"We don't question the survival of the Internet so we don't question the survival of Google — its backbone, its index, and its pervasive ads which, somehow, keep the lights on. We believe Google is infrastructure. We don't dwell on whether electric grids are vulnerable, or supplies of fuel, or the weather(!)"
Apple, in contrast, is always seen by Wall Street as "temporarily enjoying a stay of execution." There is no "Google death knell counter," he writes, as there is for Apple. There is no "Google is doomed" trope.
"If an executive from Google quits or is fired there is no investor panic. If a product is withdrawn there is no mourning. There are no journalists pursuing Pulitzer prizes by describing some seamy underside of Google."
Google, he writes, is viewed as a system, owned and run as a public good by a benevolent triumvirate (Larry Page, Sergei Brin, Eric Schmidt). Apple might also be viewed as a system -- as a perpetual disruption machine, perhaps -- but that's not the conventional wisdom.
"Because [Apple is] not a system," Dediu concludes, "it's fragile. It's a person, or an idea, or a product or a singular 'key' to something. It is, ultimately, mortal. The only debate is when it will die and points are earned for calling it sooner rather than later.
"But what if Apple were a system? And what if Google were a person (or three?)"
Now those aren't questions likely to get asked -- or answered -- on CNBC.
UPDATE: Dediu dives even deeper into Google's raison d'être in Wednesday's Critical Path podcast: Episode 109: Google Ventures.
At Microsoft's peak, there were 56 times more Windows PCs sold than Macs.
FORTUNE -- Oranges are being compared with Apples in the attached chart. Or rather, Microsoft (MSFT) Windows PCs with four kinds of Apple (AAPL) devices -- Macs, iPads, iPhones and iPod touches.
But Asymco's Horace Dediu, who posted it Monday, is bending the rules to make a serious point:
In the 1980s and 1990s computing platform decisions were made first by companies MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jan 13, 2014 1:49 PM ET
Music downloads are down. Apps are through the roof. Should Hollywood be worried?
FORTUNE -- Asymco's Horace Dediu, who created the attached chart from data Apple (AAPL) released Tuesday, doesn't buy the accepted wisdom about what's going on.
To state the obvious: iTunes music downloads are down while downloads of apps are up sharply: 35% year over year and 50% in December alone.
It's tempting to suggest, Dediu writes in a post called MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jan 8, 2014 7:07 AM ET
Asymco's Horace Dediu is taking his data visualization how-to series on a world tour.
FORTUNE -- To appreciate the attached chart -- displaying the rates at which various technologies, from stoves to smartphones, achieved 91% "saturation" in the U.S. -- you have to see it the way Asymco's Horace Dediu presented it at his New York Airshow last month: Unfurled on an Apple (AAPL) iPad like a scroll, one year at a MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Dec 19, 2013 3:26 PM ET
Asymco's Horace Dediu now expects U.S. smartphone penetration to hit 90% by Dec. 2016.
FORTUNE -- I don't pretend to understand -- even after reading the Wikipedia entry on logistic regression -- the statistics Asymco's Horace Dediu used to draw the chart at right.
But even I can see that the curves representing various smartphone platforms have different shapes:
Orange: Research in Motion (BBRY), headed south
Blue: Microsoft (MSFT), recovering
Yellow: Android (GOOG), leveling off
Conventional wisdom says the chances of Apple laying a sixth are zero.
FORTUNE -- In the fable, the cottagers are too impatient to wait for the goose to lay its golden eggs one at a time. So they open it up, thinking that way they'll get all the gold at once.
Apple (AAPL) is a little like that goose, says Asymco's Horace Dediu.
"Here's the problem," he wrote last summer in The Innovator's Curse. MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Nov 25, 2013 12:25 PM ET
Steve Jobs was focused on innovative products. His successor is focused on process.
FORTUNE -- At a Business Insider conference Friday, ex-iPod hardware chief Tony Fadell praised Apple (AAPL) CEO Tim Cook as an innovator.
But he wasn't talking about whizzy new products like the iPhone or iPad. Cook's expertise is in operations -- in the supply chain that produces those iPhones and iPads.
"The number of turns he did on the inventory MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Nov 14, 2013 7:22 AM ET
An active iTunes user generates $48 of revenue per year. A Twitter user, $1.36.
FORTUNE -- Now that Twitter (TWTR) has gone public, we can calculate -- as George Anders has -- that each active Twitter user is worth, by Wall Street's valuation, $110.
So how does Wall Street value Apple's (AAPL) iTunes/iCloud ecosystem? That's harder to say.
"We don't hear much about how Apple is worth so many dollars per user," writes Asymco's MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Nov 11, 2013 6:59 AM ET
At Apple and HP, ad spending is flat as a percent of sales. The others are spending more.
FORTUNE -- Asymco's Horace Dediu on Monday used last week's release of Apple's (AAPL) fiscal 2013 advertising budget to update the fever chart at left and to add a new chart on the right, one that compares advertising expenses as percent of sales. He notes that although by that measure Coca Cola (KO) outspends MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Nov 4, 2013 11:58 AM ET
As sales of smartphones and tablets grew, the PC market shrank.
FORTUNE -- The makers of Microsoft (MSFT) Windows computers can take some comfort in the fact that, as CNN Money's Adrian Covert put it Friday, Macs down, PCs up in the third quarter of 2013.
But take a slightly longer view, as the attached chart does, and things look pretty bleak for the once-mighty Wintel empire.
Windows PC growth rates have been MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Oct 11, 2013 10:17 AM ET
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