Google > Apple > Facebook?

Two articles I read recently, here at MicroPersuastion blog and here at BusinessWeek, led me to conclude as much.  In the first case, though I have hardly used their products, I think of Apple as a company with good customer service, so it was somewhat surprising to read that they might have a few things to learn from Google on the subject – particularly that Google can teach Apple about how to be transparent.  But the author, Steve, is right – his comparisons show Google believes in the marketplace of information and feedback, by which I mean they are upfront in explaining all the bugs they fix (Apple, no) and customers are able to vote for the best software technicians that helped them with their problems (Apple, no).

Likewise, the BusinessWeek article talks about the ‘marketplace’ – this time it is Facebook that has to learn from Apple.  Facebook (apparently) believes that owning (or being) a platform is the way to make money; Apple believes in the market – its App Store, while a platform of sorts, allows consumers to vote with their dollars for the best apps, meanwhile monetarily incentivizing producers of software to produce the best products by giving them a percentage of every sale (and rankings make their popularity transparent).  Is it any wonder that most Facebook apps are complete garbage?

If you can’t read the article in its entirety, at least check out the following excerpt from “What Apple knows that Facebook Doesn’t”, BusinessWeek, written by Umair Haque on 8/20/2008:

Ultimately, Apple is playing a textbook game of next-gen strategy: using markets to alter the basis of competition, topple incumbents with domino effects, and atomize the value chain. Incumbents playing by yesterday’s rules are trying to fight a limit break with a spoon.

Facebook is doing largely the opposite: clinging to yesterday’s basis of competition, signing deals with incumbents instead of toppling them, largely failing to atomize media—unless it’s for zombies, vampires, and werewolves. Too often, that’s where platform—instead of market—thinking leads.

What would it take for Facebook to stop thinking platforms, and start thinking markets? Well, simply start charging people for apps, for a start: that would amplify incentives for crappy apps to go the way of the dinosaur. If advertisers are subsidizing apps for people, Facebook’s market will always be distorted—because advertisers need consumers more than consumers need advertisers today. [emphasis added]

To finish on a tangent – is that true?  Do advertisers need consumers more than consumers need advertisers?  I guess I mean, has that actually changed – or rather, hasn’t that always been the case?  If you’re talking about 50 years ago, sure, consumers might have needed advertisers more than they do today, but that’s seems fairly obvious.  Anyway, if that is true (and I’m not completely satisfied that it is), if we need advertisers even less today than we did previously, what are advertisers (especially online advertisers) to do?  Are they, to borrow Umair’s hilarious phrasing, ‘trying to fight a limit break with a spoon?’