Walter Isaacson tempers those Google innovation claims

Madeleine Swain
3 February, 2014
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After being leapt on by the cybersphere earlier in the month, Steve Jobs’ biographer Walter Isaacson has decided it might be prudent to take back his comments regarding innovation and Apple. Or, if not take back, at least clarify a little.

If you didn’t see the earlier reports, Isaacson was interviewed by US cable business news channel CNBC, and claimed that while Apple getting into China was a good move, Google buying Nest “was a bigger deal”.

Speaking on the channel’s Squawk Box program, he claimed, “[There's] an amazingly strong integrated strategy that Google has to connect all of our devices, all of our lives, from our car to our navigation system, to how our garage doors are going to open.” Then he landed the knockout punch, “The greatest innovation in the world right now is coming from Google.”

And it’s all to do with connectivity, he explained, saying, “The internet of things has already got so big that we’re about to hear the backlash, but it’s actually real.”

But his comments did not endear him to many Apple watchers and even the CNBC website itself had plenty of negative feedback, mostly from posters arguing that being a biographer didn’t qualify someone to be a tech expert. A comment from ‘Greentrade’ sums up the general reaction fairly well (and non-abusively).

“I have a lot of respect for the guy for writing such a great biography about Jobs. However, I feel he stepped out of his circle of competency since Jobs’ passing and started giving media interviews about running Apple in the post Jobs era in a pretty negative way. He used the privileges granted to him by Jobs to his advantage and posed as someone has authority over how Apple should be run now. It’s pretty disgusting to be honest. He’s seen Apple up close and personal, and turns around telling people that he knows it all.

“To Walter Isaacson: Steve Jobs commissioned you to write his biography, not to be Tim Cook’s boss. While we are all entitled our opinions, abusing the privileges entrust upon us is not cool.”

Maybe Isaacson has been feeling a little singed from the brickbats because yesterday he was on the box again, this time talking to Bloomberg TV.

And his words sound mighty like back pedalling.

“I will say one thing about the comment I made about Google being the most innovative. Innovation is great, but it ain’t everything. It’s not the whole equation. Execution is what really matters. Apple is the best at execution,” he said.

When challenged about ‘Apple struggling to make low end products’ by Bloomberg’s Cory Johnson, his rejoinder was: ”I don’t think Apple will ever be great at doing low end,” before resorting to Steve Jobs. “It really makes insanely great products.”

You can see the whole interview here.


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