While Apple and Google may appear at first to work in very different ways -- Apple as a consumer products and software manufacturer, Google as a suite of free online services -- they share one pioneering interest: you.
Apple, in practice, is more like three different kinds of companies working in concert: software engineering, hardware manufacturing and retail. Each of these gets to consumers in a different way, but they all work around the same core concepts of suiting the consumer's needs before he or she can even anticipate them: products for the home, business and entertainment, in-home and portable, for young and old, at price points high enough to make their products aspirational, but just low enough they're still attainable.
Apple brands itself, software and hardware alike, as the standard for quality, innovation, design aesthetic and usability. Each Apple product is created, in part, to sell the Apple brand and create Apple loyalty throughout the home. And if a household isn't fully Apple-supplied, chances are it still contains at least one or two iPhones, iPods or iPads.
And what Apple accomplishes in the world of retail, Google has created online. By offering the majority of its products and partnerships -- search, Gmail, Google Docs, blogging software, online photo collections, etc. -- for free, Google creates a similar 360-degree feeling of comfort and familiarity that engenders consumer relationships across its divisions.
In fact, the only real difference between the companies' approach is in terms of revenue. While we're giving our money to Apple, Google's getting money from other companies for its rich stores of data about us. Either way, they're making money off us, but Google does this indirectly, by putting advertisers in front of us, in more and more intelligent ways. Privacy concerns aside, Google's consumer data creates connections between individuals and companies that was previously unimaginable. And Google, like Apple, does this by knowing us better than we know ourselves.