Technology is the application of knowledge & tools to solve a problem. Product design is the practice of understanding a problem and producing the most efficient & effective product for the problem at hand. Complex problems require relatively complex solutions. The two disciplines, technology and product design, go hand in hand. In Henry Blodget’s latest article, And Here’s The Secret Reason Apple Is Crushing Google…, Henry states:
Google has an engineering culture, in which brilliant technologists are the rock stars.
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The brilliant student.
Apple, meanwhile, has a product-design and marketing culture, in which “technology” merely serves to support a product’s function and form.
There are two things I’d like to call out here. First, engineering is the “how” in technology and product design is the what. If Henry’s point is that Google lacks the product design element, then what he is actually saying is that Google is ran by brilliant engineers, not technologists.
Second, “technology” is not used to support a product’s function and form. A product’s function and form are inherently critical to the efficacy of the technology. Despite the negative wrap that marketing gets, the effective use of marketing is about getting technology into the hands of the right people and to educate them on how the technology should be used. Apple obviously gets this as all of it’s marketing has the technology and it’s use cases front and center.
Succeeding at engineering is not succeeding at technology. Technology is a super set that includes engineering and product design. At a training I attended a few months back, Marty Cagan, author of Inspired: How to Create Products Customers Love unapologetically said that the product design element is the harder part of technology. If that is indeed true, it’s not hard to see why Apple is the most valuable technology company on earth.