Google vs. Apple: "Lifehacker" founder Gina Trapani weighs in

While blogger, author, and programmer Gina Trapani loves Apple products, she finds the company's corporate culture objectionable. That's why she's focused her career recently on Google.

"I like Apple products, but Apple is really rubbing me the wrong way nowadays," said Gina, who's best-known as founding editor of the blog Lifehacker, and who recently published The Complete Guide to Google Wave..

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I interviewed my friend Gina on my Copper Robot podcast. We also talked about her work at Expert Labs, where she's developing an open source crowdsourcing application, ThinkTank, which will be used by the White House. You can read more about what she said here: "Gina Trapani crowdsources for the White House". Or listen to the entire interview on that page, just scroll down a bit.

Gina said, "I feel like Google and Apple have two very different business models. They're both incredibly successful. I just feel more comfortable with Google's business model. I feel like Google's business model is openness and transparency, getting out there in open formats and open source. And Apple's is like a cone of silence," Gina said.

She cited examples of Apple objectionable corporate culture: Its style of big product releases, the suicide last year of a Chinese factory worker accused of stealing an Apple prototype, and applications rejected from the App Store because they might confuse the user.

But Gina doesn't boycott Apple. She uses both a MacBook Pro and a desktop Windows PC. She stores all her files on the MacBook because she loves Time Machine for backups. She used to have an iPhone.

How about an iPad? I talked to Gina a few weeks ago, at that point she said she was still on the fence. She said she wants one. "I want to see what they do. They create such incredible user interfaces. Apple has Google beat there. Apple's user interfaces are almost always flawless, beautifully executed and flawless," she said. "But at the same time, I don't really see myself using an iPad day to day. I have a netbook, I have an Android phone, I just don't see where it would fit into my usage pattern," she said.

After that interview, on the Friday before the iPad launch, she published an essay at Fast Company: "Why You Shouldn't Buy an iPad (Yet)." There, she said the iPad needs time to mature: "In one year the iPad will be a much better device, and an entire ecosystem of competitors will offer you more choice and features for your money. When the heat of the iPad launchlust cools, and you've still got your 500 bucks in the bank, you'll be glad you stayed out of the Apple store this weekend."

Gina told me, "I feel like Apple shoots for the mainstream user, and they're doing really well, because they're selling a ton of stuff. Google has more of a nerd sensibility, more of a geek sensibility, which hurts them in a couple of ways," she said. For example, Google Wave has failed to become hugely popular. But Google is also more open than Apple.

Gina uses Gmail, Google Search, an Android phone, Google Checkout to sell her book, and Google Wave, along with Google Docs a little bit. She says she uses Picasa to store photos on her desktop, but prefers Flickr for Web sharing.

Does she worry about privacy? She said privacy is a balance between risk and reward. "You get an EZPass so you don't have to stop and pay a toll on the highway, but the risk is that the Highway Commission knows wen you pass through tolls. You get the convenience of great services but they require your information to get value out of them. Same thing with credit cards -- you swipe your credit card and they have your name and address whenever you buy something," Gina said.

She is concerned, however, that Google is so large. "They're just so good at processing large amounts of information very quickly, and deriving meaning from it."

Gina added, "I think it's just a matter of trust. Whenever you give your information to anyone, do you trust them? you have to make that decision. So far, I've made the decision that I do trust Google."

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