I woke up this morning and realized nearly all my core web services are Google products. Email, calendar, web sites hosting, chat, blog, portal, and yes, even search, are all Google. What astounds me is that almost none of them are best of breed. WordPress is a better blog tool, Outlook has more email and calendar features, and there are many more sophisticated web site hosting environments. Almost all of these non-Google tools have better individual features. But Google wins every time because of integration. Their tools work well together. I login once and have access to everything.
They succeed because they have created an architecture of simplicity. Google has managed to make my online life simple. I reward them for that act of clarity through loyalty. Almost by default I will choose a Google web service over a competing product because they make my life easier. I don't have to do any of the integration work. They do it all for me. I can focus on getting the things done that I want to do. I don't have to fuss with the disparate technologies and jump through hoops to make them work together.
Same goes for Apple. Entertainment in my life could have become incredibly complex. But iTunes on all our family computing devices works seamlessly. We can share our library, add to it, back it up, and so on without thinking about it. Apple seems to know what we want before we want it. No complexity on my part. My Mac is the computer equivalent of a finely tuned Porsche. It works perfectly. Any Apple hardware works with it in perfect harmony. Simple, easy to use integration allows me the luxury of not having to worry about hardware problems.
The difference between Apple and Google: Apple products are best of breed. But you pay a substantial premium for them. Integration comes at a price with Apple. Their hardware may be the best, and you need to be willing to make the investment. I'm willing to spend more on Apple to mitigate the risk of hardware failure. I'm willing to accept weaknesses in Google products because the cost of learning and integrating multiple web services is too steep for me.
I even love Microsoft for much the same reason. Microsoft Office is beautifully integrated. Elegantly consistent across the core Office product lines, the folks from Redmond make my life easy. Without giving a thought to the underlying complexity of the task I can write a detailed Word document with integrated Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint diagrams. The end result looks perfect. Not a single flaw indicating the contents were built using three very specialized and unique software tools. Microsoft is the original master of embedded integration.
The consistent secret to success for Google, Apple, and Microsoft is integrated architecture. Individual features are easily copied and transcended by competitors. Well-designed, principle-based architectures are unbeatable because they are seamlessly integrated. Now if could just get Gmail to embed my iTunes podcast with a PowerPoint slide show ...