The Apple VS Google and Microsoft

Market rivalry between the three most prominent technology companies Apple, Google and Microsoft (listed here in an alphabetic order, without any bias) has been well documented in the media. Each organisation has its loyal group of followers but also equally large group of critics. The reality for most of us is that we have to use bits and pieces of technologies, tools and services from all three suppliers. Comparing financial metrics gives an interesting perspective on each competitor but between the figures, my very biased and stereotypical view of those three companies…

Rank Company Market capitalization($ B)
2 Apple 319
5 Microsoft 233
16 Google 195

My impression of Microsoft is that it is ubiquitous in the personal computer world since overwhelming majority of desktop computers and laptops run on Microsoft software. You may not like Microsoft, or even totally hate it when their software crashes on you, yet you have no other choice but to use it. Microsoft software is a memory hungry beast and impossible to tinker with (forget trying to separate the pieces!) but that integrated “package” is so loved by “project manager” type of developers – just click on a few tick-boxes to configure individual pieces and “it all should work” (never mind how efficient it is and what it does under the hood).

Rank Company Total enterprise value ($B)
4 Apple 289
18 Microsoft 202
30 Google 164

Apple, on the other hand, is “cute and flashy” (pun intended), and practical to the point of pain (you can’t do things any other way but the Apple way, but they put a lot of effort into interface design and user interaction functionality so it kinda grows on you over time). The development environment is limited to a “toy world” of smart apps and is not a domain where any “serious stuff” can happen. For now, but who knows how far Apple will be able to push the boundaries with their “cloud initiatives”.

Rank Company Total physical assets ($M)
748 Microsoft 7,800
750 Google 7,760
931 Apple 5,870

Then there is Google, very plain (in comparison to Apple) and messy (in contrast to Microsoft) but still mostly free and “unbounded” (although sadly, things are starting to change on that front). You can totally get lost in the maze of Google products and services. The downside is that you may never own the “fruit of your hard work” if the company drops support for a specific product (due to “cloudy” and proprietary nature of many of Google products, unfortunately you cannot get the source code and continue on your own). But oh my, when it works, it works. If “it” doesn’t do something now, there is a good chance that this extra functionality will be added sooner or later (pity you never know when…).

Rank Company Revenue ($B)
78 Apple 76
100 Microsoft 67
365 Google 30

All in all, each company has its strengths and limitations, and their respective successes can be measured in different ways, as those financial metrics demonstrate…

Rank Company Total employees (thousands)
40 Microsoft 27.6
51 Apple 25.4
102 Google 15.1

Google Places: Tips on Avoiding Bad Reviews


There are three simple elements to a review management plan:

  • Great customer service
  • Ask for reviews
  • Avoid Negative reviews

It used to be said that an unhappy customer would tell 10 people. Today an unhappy customer can influence hundreds if not thousands of people by leaving a bad review. It is common wisdom that, in the age of the internet, providing excellent customer service is the secret to review success.

While that is certainly true it is also a bit of cliche. What business doesn’t strive to provide excellent customer service? Sooner or later something will happen, despite your every intention. Things will go wrong and you will have an unhappy customer. As Matt McGee says, we don’t live in a five star world. Your client’s business is no exception.

There are two kinds of businesses in todays world. Those that have received a negative review and those that will. Bad reviews sting. Much has been written about ways to garner reviews from your clients. Less has been written about dodging the stinkers. It is equally important in generating a review profile that reflects the mostly positive range of your customer’s experiences to AVOID BAD REVIEWS.

Sooner or later you will have an unhappy customer and you want plans in place to deal with that eventuality. If you assume that your systems will fail, you can be ready to deal with the customer all too ready to trash you in a way that doesn’t drive them to the desperate act of expressing their frustration in the public commons.

Here are some tips on how to avoid bad reviews:

1- Follow up with customers immediately after the sale with a call and/or an email to be sure that all went as planned. Identify problems early on in the cycle so that you can correct them before they become complaints.

2- Make complaining easy. Build a culture that is truly ready to receive the complaint at every level of your business from the cashier to the president. Train your staff and train them well to not be defensive and to solve most problems immediately.

3- Make a complaint form very obvious on your site, perhaps on every page. This not only allows unhappy customers to complain, it makes it clear to potential customers that you are ready to listen. If you title the page “Your company name |Complaints” it will have the added benefit of appearing high on the main search results. This not only telegraphs to your customer your willingness to deal with complaints, it pushes other perhaps less flattering chatter down the page.

4- When you do receive a complaint, follow up quickly and try to resolve it. Nothing rankles like a customer stewing about your bad service and waiting for a return phone call.

5-Respond to negative reviews online. Once the issue is resolved circle back with the customer about the review. A recent survey has shown that an appropriate response to a negative review can get the negative review removed in a third of the cases. A roughly an equal number of consumers posted a positive review after receiving a response to their bad review. Having a plan and responding appropriately to a negative review is critical to this process.

6-Never fake reviews or enter them on behalf of your clients. It is imperative that you not provide reviewers with any trace that you are abusing your review corpus. Getting slammed by a customer review that questions your ethics calls into question your trustworthiness and integrity. It is the most difficult type of negative review to deal with even if it is not true. Responding online to the question do you beat your wife with a stick or a club creates a no-win situation.

7- Communicate with your local competitors. Competitor spam reviews are becoming more common than ever. If you are on speaking terms with them you are much less likely to fall victim to a puerile spam review attack.The reality is that other similar local businesses are not the long term determinant of your success nor really your major competition. In Barbara Oliver’s recent case, she immediately contacted the two other jewelers affected by competitor spam and established communication and rapport to make it less likely in the future.

Google Boost Bid Pricing


Google’s Boost advertising product was meant to be a dead simple way for a small business that had claimed their Places listing, to place a locally highlighted ad onto the front page of Google. It is simple to get started and in some situations, where the targeting is accurate and the price per click is reasonable, it can be a very effective advertising product. In a  very limited sample size it has worked to the clear benefit of the business about 50% of the times that I have tried it.

But the simplicity of the system hides a deeper complexity in pricing that is sure to confuse and anger most SMBs sooner or later: the bid pricing. These two screen shots tell the tale.

Up until June 15th, this campaign was generating click throughs at a reasonable cost. However somewhere along the line (neither the charts, nor the product interface make this explicit nor discoverable), the cost per click jumped from $4.68 a click to over $20, rapidly running through the budget and it resulted in the ad stop being displayed.

A call to a Boost support person (a 1+ to Google on providing phone support to all SMBs) indicated that “there was probably some external event had caused the bid for the ad to go up rapidly”. A review of the Boost help files made no mention of  the fact that the pricing was bid dependent. In fact there no explanation AT ALL of pricing and how it is determined. Simple all right, too simple by half.

This lack of transparency on pricing will be a death knell of the product in the SMB market. What small business person would be happy with 4x price hike that occurs unannounced? What small business person understands the possibility of a bidding war taking the ad offline? What small business person wouldn’t be surprised that an ad that had been working well for the previous 3 months suddenly went in the toilet? And what small business person, when he called Google was told ”there was probably some external event had caused the bid for the ad to go up rapidly”, would be a happy, educated camper?

Here is the screen shot of the preceding month for comparison. It is very similar to what the client saw in the account for the previous 3 months:

If Boost is to be successful long haul Google needs to be both more transparent and more reliable in their pricing. Otherwise, sooner or later, every SMB that uses the product will shrug in disgust.