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Marissa Mayer on Apple vs. Google Product Development

In this session from Techonomy 2011 in Tuscon, Ariz., Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo! and former Vice President of Consumer Products at Google, compares the Apple and Google methods of product development. Whereas Apple launches frequently and always hits its mark, she says, Google is more tentative in its product releases, getting feedback from consumers before finalizing its products. Also appearing in this video: Dan Hesse, CEO of Sprint Nextel; Kevin Johnson, CEO of Juniper Networks; and Techonomy’s David Kirkpatrick.

Mayer: I think that on the Apple/Google different types of innovation, we’ve covered it pretty well already. There are two different types. One is very iterative, where you actually involve your end users and you launch early and often and constantly improve.  If you think about product development as a vector space where what drives you is time, the perfect product is here and there are a couple of ways to get there. You can vault your way there, which is what Apple likes to do, but the problem is if you’re Apple you land on the mark and if you’re someone else you could land over there. I think that at Google we’re just a little bit less self-assured and we like to launch early and often and get user feedback and kind of walk our way there and say, “Okay, we launched.  What do you like?” Oh, okay. We see you’re only a little bit off,”  pull that back and launch again and sort of bird walk our way there. And I think both work.

Kirkpatrick: Which is like, almost every company is like that. If they’re good they’re like that.

Mayer: Right. I do think that that notion of ‘pull the curtain shut, invest five years, try to vault your way there,’ the downside is just too big if you miss the mark.

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