Who'd have thought that in a span of fewer than 10 years, the world would become enamoured with smartphones and tablets? Fred Vogelstein examines the genesis of these two devices as a product of a bitter but fruitful war; the battle of Apple and Google.
Vogelstein, a contributing editor of Wired among other projects, spent two years delving into the deeply-intertwined history of Apple and Google, arguably the two most influential companies in the world for his book Dogfight: How Apple and Google went to war and started a revolution.
The book will be available Nov. 12, 2013.
He makes it clear in the book's introduction that he does think one company is doing a better job than the other, but that ultimately the goal of his book isn't to declare a "winner" of the now-year-long feud between the two companies. What he sets out to prove is what a profound effect the battle has had on today's technology.
The book's beginning splits evenly between the two companies, starting with what Vogelstein calls one of the biggest moments in Apple history — the unveiling of the first iPhone. The first chapter might be quite the eye-opener to those unfamiliar with the events that led up to that first press conference, in that the demo Jobs showed off was highly flawed and had to be supported by numerous unseen tweaks.
The genesis of Android comes next, and Vogelstein points out that whether or not the platform is "stolen technology," as Jobs called it, Google's co-founders were heavily involved with Apple. In fact, their initial goal wasn't to make its own operating system — it was to make sure its applications made it into the Apple store.
Eventually, the book becomes less divided as the relationship between Apple and Google deteriorates. It will become clear to readers that Vogelstein thinks Apple is doing a better job than its rival, though he is fair in his assessment of both companies. He has no problem attacking Jobs and Apple's culture of secrecy, but he also doesn't call Google a bunch of saints by default.
The reporting in this book is solid, despite Vogelstein's lack of access to some degree. He says in the book's end notes that no Apple representatives spoke to him, and Google did grant him some interviews, though not with its co-founder or CEO. He did, however, conduct over 100 interviews, mostly with engineers who worked with Apple or Google and went on to produce other things. Their insight adds a very human element to a technology-focused story — anyone can enjoy their beautiful new smartphone, but do you ever think about the many frustrating hours an engineer spent making sure it works just right?
Vogelstein's lack of exclusivity is a tad frustrating, though, granted, it isn't his fault. As he mentions during his reporting notes, technology companies are mostly focused on getting people excited about their products, not exposing past or present weaknesses or failures. Whenever he does manage to find someone who is willing to speak out against either company's corporate culture, he must often resort to the journalistic trope of the unnamed witness. Fear of reprisal is natural, but the many "employees of Apple/Google" take a bit of the storytelling power away.
Still, this is a solid, unbiased account of a once-strong, now crumbled, relationship. And more importantly, this clash of the titans has changed technology beyond what anyone could have imagined. Before the iPad, no manufacturer would have thought tablets could catch on—they're now, in combination with smartphones, outselling laptops.
There's still no clear winner in this ongoing fight, but Vogelstein is happy to note that the war has had some positive side effects.