Why Steve Jobs told Google’s Larry Page he was doing too much

Photo: Niall Kennedy/Flickr CC

Photo: Niall Kennedy/Flickr CC

Google’s co-founder Larry Page partook in a wide-ranging interview with the Financial Times, published Friday. Among other topics, he talks about Google’s oppository approach to business compared to Apple — epitomized by a story about Steve Jobs.

“He would always tell me, You’re doing too much stuff,” Page says. “I’d be like, You’re not doing enough stuff.”

In Walter Isaacson’s 2011 biography of Jobs told this same story, noting that, “The main thing I stressed [to Page] was focus. Figure out what Google wants to be when it grows up. It’s now all over the map. What are the five products you want to focus on? Get rid of the rest, because they’re dragging you down … They’re causing you to turn out products that are adequate but not great.”

While Page agrees with Jobs’ sentiment in the FT article he also says that, “It’s unsatisfying to have all these people, and we have all these billions we should be investing to make people’s lives better. If we just do the same things we did before and don’t do something new, it seems like a crime to me.”

Ultimately it’s an interesting, but revealing, observation about the difference between Apple and Google culture. Apple puts out relatively few products, and often won’t make the first move. Google, on the other hand, has its finger in many pies, even though this could lead to accusations of a lack of focus.

As tech consumers we’re lucky that we can reap the benefit of both philosophies.

Interestingly, Jony Ive recently commented on Steve Jobs’ ideas around focus, during an interview with Vanity Fair.

The full interview with Page is well worth checking out for his comments on the future, innovation, and the Google X projects.