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.
A year ago, John Siracusa gave Tim Cook a To-Do list. Here's Apple's 2013 report card.
FORTUNE -- What I liked most about the unsolicited 2013 To-Do List that John Siracusa gave Tim Cook at the beginning of last year was how down-to-earth and user-oriented it seemed. No talk of gross margins. No mention of China Mobile. Hardly any unannounced products (no iWatch and only a glancing reference to iTV).
Siracusa -- best MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jan 5, 2014 9:21 AM ET
Don't buy Apple's new operating system until you find a new home for your financial data
Apple doesn't tell you this, so we will.
With OS X Lion, the new operating system for Macs released Wednesday, Apple (AAPL) has just cut a significant tie to its past -- namely legacy programs like Intuit's (INTU) Quicken that were written for the old PowerPC.
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Having let the Mac version languish, Intuit prepares for the death of its flagship product
My first three entries in Quicken, dated Sept. 8, 1997, were a $17.31 payment to Bell Atlantic (remember them?) marked "Philip's modem" (remember those?) and $15 for my annual subscription to the Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link in Sausalito, Calif., which for many years was my only conduit onto the Internet.
I've been a loyal user of Intuit's MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jul 8, 2011 12:25 PM ET
An analyst imagines everything it might be when -- and if -- it opens this spring
Among the people who follow Apple (AAPL) closely, the massive server farm the company is constructing in Maiden, N.C., has achieved near mythic status. It has become the answer to every unanswered question about Apple's troubled online strategy, from what Steve Jobs was thinking when he green-lighted Ping to how MacBook Air users are supposed MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Mar 23, 2011 6:13 AM ET
Another look at the company's in-app subscription rules, this time from 5,000 feet
One of the things that made John Siracusa's analysis this week of Apple's (AAPL) App Store subscription policy so interesting is what he chose not to write about.
His essay, "The Apple Strategy Tax," which he posted Wednesday on Ars Technica, neatly sidesteps the emotionally charged tar pits in which so many commentators get mired. As he explained Friday MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Mar 6, 2011 3:57 PM ET
Dan Benjamin's 5by5 podcasts are the place to go to hear Mac gurus free associate
In the middle of a live broadcast discussing Twitter's new president, Google's (GOOG) Android market share and why Microsoft's (MSFT) Windows Phone 7 is a terrible name for an operating system, the guest pauses to ask his co-host: "Speaking of well-hung Wookies, does this show have a sponsor?"
The guest is Daring Fireball's John Gruber, dean of MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Feb 15, 2011 6:16 AM ET
Speculation about Apple's next big thing heats up as the rumored Jan. 26 unveiling nears
Two lines of thought dominated the ongoing debate this week about what Apple's (AAPL) tablet computer is and what it might be good for.
[UPDATE: Make that three lines of thought. See Antacid Tablet, below.]
The first -- the tablet as an oversized iPhone -- flows from a brief post in a Chinese-language microblog that gained currency primarily MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jan 1, 2010 11:29 AM ET
Most consumers thinking about buying Apple's (AAPL) new Leopard operating system will learn what they need to know from the first wave of reviews -- the ones written by journalists who were given pre-loaded, pre-release copies of OS X 10.5 and had a week to play with it.
But the review that programmers were waiting for was the one by fellow developer John Siracusa, the Ars Technica columnist who wrote the MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Oct 29, 2007 8:27 AM ET
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