Here is what I think: I am not sure if Apple was popular for products or because Steve Jobs was selling its products. Moreover, how do we know if Google is not popular.
I have an iPhone, iPad, and Macbook at home for personal use. However, most of my work happens on Google's software (Chrome, Google Search, Gmail, Drive, etc.). Google software ecosystem is phenomenal and works really well. The latest android update ‘Marshmallow’ move android phone experience at par with Apple. More devices in the world run on Android than iOS. Therefore, to deduce that autonomy decreases quality would not be fair.
Apple could work and became successful in autonomous mode because of the brilliance and thought leadership of Steve Jobs. The new product line from Apple after Steve’s death does not excite me anymore. Perhaps, in couple of years Apple will look for a new CEO. The downside with autonomous companies are their dependence on a leader to handhold the employees. Google on the other hand can work with any CEO with very limited oversight or direction and continue developing breakthrough products.
I think none of the approach is right or wrong; we will find successful companies across the spectrum - with Google on one end and Apple on another.