There’s a lot to learn from the iPad and Google+.
Google built and released Google+ because they felt that Facebook, and the social-ification of the web it represents, is a mortal threat to the company’s future. Google+ is a defensive move to try to re-adjust the company to new realities, realities that exist now. They did not decide to make Google a “social” company to strategically position Google and provide it a competitive advantage its competitors cannot match. They built it so they can survive.
Apple built the iPad because they believe we are at a junction between PCs and “post-PCs,” and that they can make their vision for post-PCs reality. The iPad gives Apple a huge strategic advantage over their competitors, because not only is the hardware and software still much better than competing devices, but it means that Apple is defining the new post-PC market. This is offensive; Apple is defining the new market and setting the rules in its favor.
Releasing Google+ is inherently a defensive move. Whereas Apple has completely changed the nature of their business in just five years1—they re-positioned themselves for the next decade—Google is re-thinking their entire business just to survive.
That doesn’t mean it was the wrong decision for Google; it was the right move. But it is instructive for us because it’s precisely the kind of decision you never want to make if you’re running a business. If you need to completely re-think your business just to survive, it means you missed a major shift in the market. It means your perception of your business and its realities are wrong, and you need to fix that as soon as possible.
You should recognize these trends and shifts in the market before they happen, because if you do, you can shift your business to take advantage of them.
You can release an iPad.
And if you can do that, you’re positioning yourself for the future, rather than the past.