This week Google has been trotting out a series of new products, which seems to me, to simply be a checklist of Apple competitors. First the phone OS, now a tablet device, then TV streaming hardware. Somewhere buried in Google's founding principles is the idea that "It’s best to do one thing really, really well". Looking at their recent product announcements I struggle to see how they've held to this principle. From my perspective Google's real benefit is data. They have more of it than anyone else (scary) and they've got it ordered and cleaned better than anyone else. So surely using that data and creating ways in which peoples can access that data is where they can really compete.
Google Now is an example of Google using data in a way that is of use to people's lives. Simple, beautiful, useful and dare I say it, not a copy of something Apple or Facebook have done.
If it's not bad enough for poor old Blackberry, having to compete against Apple's iconic iPhone, now they are trying compete with Apple's iconic Think Different campaign.
It's hard to ignore the irony of Blackberry, who have clearly lost ground by simply following competitors, running a campaign inferring that Apple are conformists.
Shockingly poor creative strategy Blackberry. Must try harder.
Within Apple's recent Dev Conference it announced a number of updates, including a soon-to-be-released iOS6. One of the updates to the operating system is a redesigned maps application. It is described (by Apple) as "Designed by Apple from the ground up". Scott Forstall casually announced that it was built by "our cartography team".
Hang on. Let's go back and consider that again. Apple have binned off Google Maps (no surprise) but they've also built their own cartography team - not a simple matter i would imagine. Then then created a graphics engine that has redrawn the entire worlds maps, all the way down to street level. Bloody hell. That's huge!
For a minute consider the scale of that project. I can't find any details of how long Apple has been laboring away on this feature (I doubt I ever will), but I'm guessing it's been years. Before we even consider the scale of the logistics, operations, technical and data management work involved in this, let's look at what it would take to design a UI that works across every map on the planet.
Earlier this year Google shared some of the design process behind Google Maps in this article.You can see how the visual language has developed over an 8 year period. Icon designs have been adapted, colours have been tweaked, labels have a specific hierarchy, text is optimised for different zoom levels, gradients are displayed differently and so on and so forth. In other words; it's shit loads of work.
The designers in Apple's Maps team have set about creating a UI that works with almost any level of detail, in every language, at varying scales, that meets accessibility standards and can be used on small screens. Probably one of the most challenging design briefs imaginable. I'm gagging to get my hands on the update and see how successful the design is.
Since it's launch in 2006 Twitter has built the fastest information channels on the web. At this point in time it's significance can't be ignored. Although it's logo update might seem like a major change it boldly sets out to achieve what Nike took 20 years to do. It has removed it's name from the logo and site.
Initially it seems stark. Like something is missing. Time will tell if Twitter can do enough to make their new bird synonymous with their brand, which will undoubtedly be linked to their ability to turn a VC funded startup in to a profitable business.
I suspect they can do both.