Google’s Page and Brin think Apple is doing too few products

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.