Personally, I don't see THAT much of a difference between Google, Microsoft, and Apple.
"WHAT!!?!?!?11", you say?
Asthetic pleasantries aside, they are all fundamentally the same. Like any business, they seek to convert, cultivate, and retain customers. One of the primary distinctions between the three is based on HOW they accomplish this.I'm reminded of a story (which I read but cannot attribute) stating that Google does rather well in the talent wars due to the infantilization of their work force. Sure the providing of 20% for personal projects is nice, but some of the more outrageous perks include catered meals and on-site dry cleaning. When the thought occurs to an employee to leave, they have to factor in the loss of that non-monetary compensation.
In many ways, Google does the same thing with us, the consumer. How many of Google's products do you use, and how many do you pay for? For me, this includes Adsense, Search, Earth, Maps, Documents, Reader, Sketchup, and I'm certain several others that I don't remember. Now, consider the following quote from the Wall Street Journal regarding the gPhone:
The Google phone project goes far beyond Google's existing deals to include its search engine or applications such as Maps on select handsets, say the people familiar with the matter. [...]
In recent months Google has rolled out mobile versions of products such as the YouTube video-sharing site. It has made deals to include its search engine or applications such as Google Maps and Gmail on select handsets. But the company has sometimes been frustrated at the limited distribution it has achieved. In some cases, Google has managed to get around operators.
Its 411 location search service can be accessed by dialing an 800 number from any handset. Now it is drafting specifications for phones that can display all of Google's mobile applications at their best, and it is developing new software to run on them. The company is conducting much of the development work at a facility in Boston, and is working on a sophisticated new Web browser for cellphones, people familiar with the plans say.
Microsoft locks you in with software. You have to buy Windows and Office, because, well, everyone else uses Windows and Office. This is what their business model is built on.
Apple locks you in with hardware, such as iTunes and the iPhone or iPod (plus manufactured 24-month lifecycles). This is what their culture is built on.
Google wants to and is doing the same thing, but they lock us in with free services. They are increasingly become a media, advertising, and attention company.