When it came time for Sergey Brin and Larry Page to consider a CEO to run Google, the duo initially wanted to offer Steve Jobs the position. That's according to the Bloomberg video profile "Bloomberg Game Changers: Sergey Brin & Larry Page."
If Jobs had become Google's first CEO, what would Google look like today? Of course there's no right or wrong answer to this question, merely conjecture and speculation, creating a "what if" scenario similar to a line of code in a search algorithm or Android app.
Indeed, that's a difficult question to answer, admits Rob Griffin, senior vice president/U.S. director of search & analytics at Media Contacts, but you have to assume things would be different. Look at what Jobs did with Apple, he notes: "No other company has created new industries so successfully."
Griffin says Google sort of stumbled into its enormous success, compared with Jobs, who is more calculated and has shown he can do it, whatever "it" becomes, repeatedly. "The Google founders created a search product, but never foresaw what it would become, whereas Jobs set out to revolutionize the music industry with iTunes," he says.
Frank Lee, senior vice president of agency strategy at The Search Agency, thinks Google has lost a bit of innovative spirit and wonders if that would have happened with Jobs pushing beyond conventional limits. He says the iPad and iPhone are two devices that clearly push the boundaries in their respective device category.
Imagine if the iPad was powered by Google with Google apps, Lee suggests. It would run on an open platform that could really threaten the laptop. At a minimum, he says, Google would have become more than a search engine.
"On the other hand, Google is a company of engineers, while Apple is a company of designers," Lee points out. "Given Google's need for engineering prowess, Eric Schmidt's background seems fitting to become CEO of the company."
Perhaps mobile search might have converged faster, Google's logo would have read iGoogle, and we would hear less about lawsuits and privacy payouts. Interesting, too, that some believe the Apple culture became very "cliqueish," and very few who enter the cult leave.
Aaron Goldman, CMO at Kenshoo and the author of "Everything I know About Marketing I Learned from Google," believes Google would be a lot different with Jobs at the helm. Although some might think Google provides an "uncluttered" search engine, Goldman believes the search results could have been even "cleaner" and "less cluttered."
Google also would have focused more on products, rather than software, and on brand advertising, Goldman says. Remember the Apple vs. Microsoft ads. Google would have become much less "open and transparent."
Google isn't known for being a hardware company. Hardware requires raw materials, finished inventory and a supply chain to transfer goods and services from manufacturing to consumers. Software or applications are less costly to produce, and as we all know, downloadable from the Internet. Sure you need the brilliant minds to create the apps, but it doesn't require the company to tie up a boatload of cash in finished goods. So the money gets made in the apps and the hardware facilities the addiction.
Piper Jaffray Analyst Gene Munster pegs the smartphone market by 2015 at 39%, controlled by Android and 26% controlled by Apple. Collectively, the two will own 65% of the market. Still, Munster believes Apple is best positioned today to deliver the best integrated experience as long as it continues to open its platform.
Munster explains at first Apple limited the iPhone to its own pre-installed apps, but in July 2008 the company opened the door to third-party developers, increasing the "openness" of the platform, yet maintaining a closed operating system. Since then, Apple has added features to the developer SDK, giving app developers access to more of the iPhone's features.
Would all that have been different if Jobs had become Google's first CEO, and what would Apple look like today? We can only imagine.
Join us to ponder these types of questions with friends and colleagues at the Search Insider Summit from Dec. 8-11 in Park City, Utah.