Larry Page

In an interview with the Financial Times, Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page talked about an ongoing debate that he had with Apple’s Steve Jobs: whether their companies were doing too much or too little to affect the lives of their customers.

Page, as is evident in Google’s seemingly unending push into new markets and technologies outside of search and even the web, came down on the side of doing as many things as possible to make an impact in peoples’ lives, while Jobs was insistent that a focused approach on a single set of problems was better for the company and its users.

Page even went so far as to say that “it seems like a crime” to sit on the resources of a company like Apple or Google and not “do something new.”

Another obstacle lies closer to home. In reaching for the tech industry’s ultimate prizes, Google may already be knocking up against the limits of what it is possible for one company to do. Page relates a frequent debate that he says he had with Steve Jobs, the boss of Apple, who died three years ago: “He would always tell me, You’re doing too much stuff. I’d be like, You’re not doing enough stuff.”

The argument he made to Jobs: “It’s unsatisfying to have all these people, and we have all these billions we should be investing to make people’s lives better. If we just do the same things we did before and don’t do something new, it seems like a crime to me.”

But the idealism does not blind him to the problem of his own ambition. “What Steve said is right – you, Larry, can only manage so many things.” If he – and Google – are to win, they will have to beat the odds that have held big companies back in the past, particularly in the tech industry, where few leaders from one generation of technology have made it big in the next.

It appears that Apple’s new leadership has started to take the “do more” approach in recent years, as the company prepares to branch out into the health, fitness, fashion, and wearable industries in 2015. It may not be as big a jump as, say, manufacturing robotics, but it’s clear that Page’s guidance at Google has influenced how Apple sees its role as a tech company.

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11 Responses to “Larry Page talks about his age-old fight with Steve Jobs over ‘doing too much stuff’”

  1. jrox16 says:

    Seems Google does try to do “too much” because most of their projects never make it to real consumers. They have so many balls in the air, I really wonder which will ever land in reality.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ray Wolf says:

      Thank-you for being the first to comment on the article and not the grammatical error.

      **I agree, Google has too many ducks in the pond. Apple has focus, yet, has been evolving with the fast changes in the market. As much as I love to have a lot of choice, I also like to know that more attention was put into each piece from not having too many options.


  2. Dave Huntley says:

    Page in different recent pics is either all white hair or all dark, so you know he is touching himself up, but with all that cash in the bank: FIX THOSE TEETH!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. GRAMMAR NAZI ALERT: Uh, Mike, I caught a typo you’ll want to fix in the first paragraph. You said: “…whether they’re companies were doing too much or too little…”

    “they’re” should be corrected to read, “their” (the possessive).

    Slap your editor or proofreader (if you guys use one) for missing that. I hope this helps.


  4. Different companies, different approaches. Both Apple and Google are highly successful. But as an investor in both companies, I frequently think of famed mutual fund manager Peter Lynch’s thoughts on “deworsification” when I think about the many and highly varied projects Google attempts. While it’s valiant to push the envelope, large corporations often enter new markets or make acquisitions that take them away from what they do best. In many cases, these ventures can be headline-grabbing, but are usually highly unprofitable.

    In addition, Google has launched more than a few products that are in permanent beta or are orphaned, destined to be shut down, leaving users out in the cold. Quality suffers, and with it, a company’s reputation. By all means, Google can take moonshots like self-driving cars. If these experiments work out, they could greatly benefit society. But if experimental ventures are mere play toys of a highly successful company, they can distract from a company’s focus and mission.

    That’s not to say who is right or wrong in this argument. My hunch is that Google can do this in part because its core business is so lucrative. Another company with less profits and leaner margins would never consider following in Google’s steps. In the end, as an investor, I want a company to stay in sight of its true area of competence, and not try to be all things to all people. In good times, you can get away with moon shots. But when your bottom line is threatened, it’s time to keep your feet on the ground.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. They’re both right and they’re both wrong. I’m sure that won’t make sense to some people, but for those that get it, well, they probably already knew. ;)


    • In practice however, I will say that Apple’s execution is better, for both the company and its customers. They can certainly do more for the world at large, but its customers are far better served. People who think themselves Google customers are predominantly its product, and that it where things being to fall apart with the G. They do a lot of great stuff, but the bottom line is the exploitation of the people using their services. Not cool.

      Liked by 1 person

      • “They can certainly do more for the world at large, but its customers are far better served.” I have to 100% disagree. Look at how many third world people have access to the internet because of Google’s cheap Android phones. How does having an iPhone or iPad really change my life for the better? Not at all, compared to any other smartphone. But getting “the truth” and “information” into the lands of millions of people living in squalor and oppression has world altering effects.


  6. Eric Lee says:

    Didn’t he (or the other one?) axe lot of projects when he took over??? Like hmmm I can’t even remember any….