How To Think About Apple and Google.

In Chuck Klosterman’s IV he reprints an essay from 2004 about how to tell the difference between your nemesis and your archenemy:

You kind of like your nemesis, despite the fact that you despise him. If your nemesis invited you out for cocktails, you would accept the offer. If he died, you would attend his funeral and—privately—you might shed a tear over his passing.  But you would never have drinks with your archenemy, unless you were attempting to spike his gin with hemlock. If you were to perish, your archenemy would dance on your grave, and then he’d burn down your house and molest your children.

We measure ourselves against our nemeses, and we long to destroy our archenemies. Nemeses and archenemies are the catalysts for everything.

I actually think this is the most useful way to think about the Apple - Google rivalry that’s sprung up in the last few years.

Apple and Google are typical nemeses.  Sure, they’re competitors, and they’ve been taking a lot of little jabs at one another recently - Apple made Bing a search-engine option on the iPhone, Google devoted most of their recent I/O Conference to unveiling products that directly compete with Apple.

But deep down they maintain an affection for one another, and after every product launch, every escalation, every new gauntlet thrown down, their respective leaders shake their heads, smile, and mutter “clever bastards - I’ll show them”.  They’re like the Beatles and the Beach Boys circa 1967 - Android being the Pet Sounds to the iPhone's Rubber Soul, if you will.

Apple’s archenemy has and always will be Microsoft, which is why their passing of Microsoft in market-share was such sweet revenge.1 Steve Jobs may sit down to sip coffee and talk smack with Google CEO Eric Schmidt, but whenever Jobs sees Steve Ballmer he just wants to punch Ballmer in the throat.2

As for Adobe - well, they’re not really important enough to be Apple’s nemesis or archenemy.  Adobe is that guy that you were friends with in high school but who grew up to sell car insurance, and now he’s always calling you up and guilt-tripping you by playing on your former friendship, except his policies suck and his deductible is too high and also he has a crappy custom UI and crashes all the time.

  1. Google’s archenemy is the People’s Republic of China.

  2. To be fair, this is most people’s reaction to Steve Ballmer.