Khosla Ventures Google interview (image 002)

Apple’s late co-founder Steve Jobs used to offer a nice word of advice to Google co-founder and boss Larry Page. “You guys are doing too much stuff,” he’d tell Page.

Today, Page thinks Google’s multi-pronged approach to product development is paying off big time as the search monster now has its tentacles in a number of lucrative businesses. Contrast Google’s approach to Apple, which only does a few things at the time.

This is part of Apple’s DNA, but Page is unimpressed.

He didn’t heed his mentor’s advice and think Apple’s laser-sharp focus on things that matter the most is limiting its ability to compete. “It sounds stupid if you have this big company and you can only do, like, five things,” Page said during a fireside chat with venture capitalist Vinod Khosla…

Hat tip to Fortune author Philip Elmer-DeWitt who first noticed that Khosla Ventures released the video just before the Fourth of July weekend.

Here’s the full quote:

My thinking about this has changed quite a bit over the years.

I always thought it was kind of stupid if you have this big company, and you can only do, like, five things.

I think it’s also not very good for the employees. Because then you have, like, 30,000 employees and they’re all doing the same thing, which isn’t very exciting. For them.

So I think, ideally, the company would scale the number of things it does with the number of people kind of in a linear fashion. As far as I can tell, that never happens. It’s, like, logarithmic with the number of people, if that.

I would always have this debate, actually, with Steve Jobs. He’d be like, ‘You guys are doing too much stuff.’ And I’d be like, ‘Yeah that’s true.’ And he was right, in some sense.

The full video with Google co-founders is right below.

Sergey Brin, who runs Google X, the company’s skunkworks lab dedicated to so-called moonshot projects like self-driving cars and industrial robots, says self-driving cars will transform transportation but cautioned other projects may not necessarily succeed in the marketplace.

The point is in trying, he said, adding that “if you are willing to make a number of bets like that, you’ve got to hope that some of them will pay off.

“For Google X,” Brin says, “I created a set of rules for our projects that, by design, keep us farther away from Google. For example, we focus on atoms not bits.”

Google Smart Contact Lens (closeup 001)

As for reinventing healthcare with projects like Smart Contact Lenses (pictured above) that measure glucose levels in tears, and given recent advances like the Google Fit platform, healthcare actually is not an area of intense focus for Google, in part due to heavy regulation of the healthcare industry.

“It’s just a painful business to be in,” he said. Pointing out that “we do have some health projects,” Brin opined that the regulatory burden in the United States “is so high that I think it would dissuade a lot of entrepreneurs.”

Apple, as you know, is rumored to be working on a wearable health/fitness band or a smartwatch, depending on who you ask.

The company’ made a number of high-profile hires in the medical field and its upcoming iOS 8 brings a brand new Health app that collates related data in one place, now siloed inside the many health and fitness apps on the App Store.

  • Kyle

    Always the same .

    • DevXav

      Exactly, no more to say, you just said it all.

    • Maxim∑

      Google thinks Apples focus is stupid?-

      Project Glass- FAILED not even mentioned at I/O
      Project Ara – DOA, announcment delayed
      Google fiber- barely expanding
      Android wear- rushed
      Nexus- barely a known brand
      Nexus Q- FAILED
      Google voice- pretty much abandonded
      Google hangouts- filled with bugs
      Google Reader- shutdown
      Google Orkut- shutdown
      Google+- lol…
      Google Currents- scaled back removed from Android

      and countless more purchased companies ended up being trashed

      • Kyle

        Didn’t they also shut down the Hangouts or something? Or was it that service where you can find people’s locations?

      • Maxim∑

        Yeah they just shutdown SMS on hangouts, I forgot the location things name but I think they did lol. It was for enterprise stuff

  • Wassim Omais

    Gems aren’t weighed on a grocery scale.

  • moofer

    Translation: we feel Apple isn’t coming out with enough ideas to steal.

    • Maxim∑

      yeah Samsung is going crazy

    • Elvin Topalov

      ‘good artists copy; great artists steal’
      ~Steve Jobs

      Since Steve said it, Google must be a great ‘artist’, huh?

      • Maxim∑

        Samsung is the best artist on earth
        Google made fun of Apple for introuducing 3rd party keboards and widgets.

        Yet it took Google 7 years to make a standard design language which they claim is innovative. But Apple/Devs have done everything they announced in “Material design” since iOS 3

      • Elvin Topalov

        Samsung is an artist that paints stuff that no one likes, but its ‘works of art’ are publicized a lot in order to be bought.

        And I have to disagree. Apple’s design language is nothing like Material design. In a sense both use a flat interface but Material design uses whites to accent the colors used in it. Apple’s design language uses colors to accent the white seen throughout the interface. That’s how I see it. I like both of them. Skeumorphism was a pain in iOS (even OS X), and the old Android designs were a pain, too. Holo Light used in KitKat was alright, but Material Design is definitely a step up.

      • N&LH

        ” Material design”..Is almost copy paste of IOS

      • Elvin Topalov

        They are both flat. That is the only similarity. I have an iPad, iPhone 5, and a Nexus 5 running Android L. I use all of those devices daily and iOS 7/8 is nothing like Android L in terms of design.

      • N&LH

        Are you serious? Android L is almost copy paste of IOS. What is special in Android L in terms of design ?

      • bonze

        Actually, Picasso said it and Jobs quoted him. Just saying…

      • ✪ aidan harris ✪

        So the op is not wrong saying Steve said it then. He just didn’t say it first…

      • bonze

        True. I guess the real question is did he steal it or copy it?

    • BozzyB

      “…and the rest is already copied from us”

  • diggitydang

    At the risk of sounding TOO fanboy-ish, I don’t doubt that Apple actually works on products all the time… I just don’t think they put out half finished ones, like Google does. I’m not saying Google’s approach is bad, it’s just a different approach… Apple is known for simplicity and reliability. Why would they go against that which they built their entire reputation on? Google has a different approach which has served them well, but for me, I don’t immerse myself in those half finished products because I hate when it doesn’t work correctly and I have to chalk it up to “Oh, it’s just Google Labs, so I can’t expect it to work correctly”. I don’t know how far along Google Glass is, and I’ve never tried it, but to be honest, I’m not very excited about it… it seems like when we first heard about it and how it wasn’t finished yet, but it’s out there, and it sorta works, to NOW, it’s lost a lot of it’s gusto (in my eyes).

    Same with the Galaxy Gear watch… first one fizzled, and there’s not much momentum for the second one… Sammy was in such a rush to get it out (and beat Apple) that people didn’t seem to really like it.

    Apple waited and is (in their opinion) trying to perfect the iWatch before releasing it… I hate waiting, but I give them kudos for not letting other people tell them how to run their company.

    BTW, I don’t hate Google or Android… I can appreciate what people see in it… I’m not a hater… let’s just get that outta the way… hahahaha…

    • Rowan09

      Google tells about all their prototypes and projects. All companies have prototypes but they keep some a secret. Google only cares about 1 thing and that’s Ads, no matter what they do it all leads right back to ads. I like some of the things they do but they follow a different model when compared to Apple.

      • Jamessmooth

        Totally agree. Different business models between the companies.

  • Chindavon

    Spray and Pray 2.0

  • Jurassic

    Brin and Page sound insecure defending the too many things they have tried (with a high failure rate), and putting down Apple for being more focused in its product development.

    In contrast, we don’t hear Tim Cook wasting his time giving product development advice to Google. He is too busy running a very successful company with consistently increasing sales and profits. ;-))

  • sosarozay300

    apple keeps their products a secret so SAMESUNG doesnt copy them

  • Technocrz!

    They both belong to two different school of thought

    • Christian Mejía

      I wouldn’t say blow our minds but they do surprise us.

  • godofbiscuits

    “Regulatory burden” on medical devices. Poor Google.

  • TechLove

    It’s funny how a CEO of a company admits that his company is not focused and represents it as a positive thing. Google’s approach is similar to Samsung’s. They both throw their things at the wall and see what sticks.
    What’s Google investing on?
    Glass (failed)
    Human killing robots? (Gonna fail if done in the google way)
    Project loon? (Lol)
    What google copied and is copying (read, taking inspiration)?
    iOS ripoff? ( huge success)
    Carplay ripoff? ( looks good till now)
    Apple TV ripoff? (Looks good tool now)
    Android wear? Lol, they invested on eye wear as the future of wearables and now they have to follow others and do the wristwatch business.
    It’s clear that google is just a great follower but not an innovator.
    What’s even sad that Google is now paying college students and bloggers to bash apple just like Microsoft and Samsung do.

  • prl99

    When Steve Jobs returned to Apple, the first thing he did was to get rid of most of the current products and focus on what he thought Apple could do the best. This has worked better than any analyst or competitor ever thought it would. Google is doing exactly how the New Oxford American Dictionary defines google: “[no obj.]: she spent the afternoon googling aimlessly.” Apple has focus, Google doesn’t. Google just throws some “idea” on the wall and see if it sticks.

  • jzack

    in my opinion, that’s why apple is different than others. this actually makes the company to be able to push the product to its maximum potential limit.. lets just see in terms of the company’s worth, even though apple had this ‘low number of product introduced’ issue, but yet google are unable to get to achieve like the apple did.

    Apple’s action is the main key that makes their devices to be perfect and completely practical, even though a new technology are being implemented on the new devices..

  • Below$100AShareIsPathetic!}:-(

    Google investors are pretty stoked on how many projects Google gets into. A P/E of 32 is nearly twice that of Apple’s so maybe if Apple had more products they’d get a little more leeway from Wall Street like Google does. Apple’s iPhone is carrying a full load and maybe the load could be distributed with a couple of new products. That’s not my assessment. That’s what I constantly hear Wall Street saying. Wall Street believes that all of Google’s projects will soon come together and make a bundle of revenue for the company.

    • It’s generally better to do the opposite of what Wall Street recommends.

      Where would Apple be now if they had heeded their advice 20 years ago?

      • rattyuk

        We’d have had an Apple netbook, and free iPhones that would be crap.

  • iPodDroid

    Few things that need to be said: 1) In this world, there will always be someone copying someone else, pointing fingers at Google and Samsung just shows the amount of Bias and Fanboyism there is. If cooporations see something from other companys that can help improve their own products, they will take it and modify it to the way they see it. This is how the world works. 2) Pretending the Apple hasn’t tried multiple projects that haven’t failed is just a sign of ignorance.
    (Ping, Apple Maps) and if you look back at Apple’s early days, they weren’t doing so good either. Yes, you are entitled to each of your own opinions, but sometimes they make you come off as ignorant. Google, Samsung, Nokia, etc, all these companies have all made great products not just apple, but it seems people seem to like this company’s products mostly because of the icon that’s on the back of the device. Sorry for the rant, but I need people to know that Apple isn’t the only company that has made great products. Samsung(Yes Samsung): Galaxy Note Series Google: Search Engine, Android Nokia: Nokia Windows Smartphones, Microsoft: Xbox Platform, Windows OS.