Beware Googzilla? . . .

Someone recently asked:

Recently I’ve read some comments . . . that google is
becoming more frightening than Microsoft in its
attempts to conquer the world with its products step
by step. First the search engine than then Gmail,
Google Maps and the rumors about Google OS and Office

I would like to ask you to write an article on this
subject to see your opinion. Thank you in advance.

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Goog?

Google is a place that operates in the space between two questions:

1) What neat technological things can we do that’s new and/or better than what’s out there?

2) How can we make money doing so without charging users for it?

For right now, the answer to that question is: Be a new kind of ad agency, one that is more concerned about the effectiveness of the environment in which ad show up rather than the ads themselves.

Google can do that one of two ways. It can use a preexisting environment (i.e. show video card rather than feminine hygeine ads at websites like this one), or it can create the environment (i.e., the various Google projects).

It’s hard to see how more effective ad placement threatens anyone other than those in that business. Of course, if you think ads are evil, you’re going to have a big problem with this company, but your problem is with ads (and maybe the capitalism that drives it), not Google.

We’ve railed against ads in the past, but not because we have a problem with the existence of ads. We do have a problem with ads that try to psychologically manipulate vulnerable people, and so does Google (though how well that holds up remains to be seen).

To use a funny example, if I’m trying to research something historical using Google Book; I’m not going to mind some sort of ad telling me about other books on the same subject. I would mind ads telling me that I can only be successful if I look/buy another book.

Yes, it’s possible that Google could become a monopoly, and start doing nasty things as a result, but the odds on monopoly seem pretty thin in this arena. Google may have an extra step or two on its competitors, but Yahoo and MSN and others aren’t going away anytime soon.

This is a crtical difference between Google and MS: the kinds of things Google does are just not natural monopolies like OSs. Up to now (OK, not for much longer), you could only run one OS at a time, and its beneficial to run what everybody else is running. That’s why MS could establish effective monopolies in Windows and Office. There’s no such inherent advantage to one place handling every ad.

I suppose Google could begin engaging in anti-competitive actions; but they don’t now; it’s not like they say “You get ads from us and only us” and it’s doubtful they’d ever be in a position to do so and make it stick.

Google will also become increasingly hobbled by its own success in that much of its revenues are made by piggybacking off the content of others, who often aren’t paid for it, and they’re starting to sue. Whether Google ends up in long legal battles, or finds itself handing over a chunk of revenue to such people, this will serve to depress profits, and fuel uncertainty about the company.

Being top dog earns you both extra scrutiny, as seen by the recent self-censoring of Google China, and extra hatred for being successful.

What About Google OS?

First, I think the current generation of rumors was simply a garbled version of some minor deals Google made with Sun to work on Open Office, perhaps garbled due to a megadose of wishful thinking.

Sorry, MS haters, Google isn’t going to fight your enemy for you.

However, down the road, maybe after a few years of working with OpenOffice, a more mature Google might start getting interested in OSs in one particular area of the world: the less developed world.

There, the cost of an OS can mean the difference between having a computer or not. Despite this, Linux has made limited headway there, generally, people would rather steal MS products than try to use Linux.

Google might well be interested in an OS if they can make one that is 1) simple, 2) easy to use, 3) interoperable enough with Windows files, 4) free to users and 5) profitable. If Google ever does an OS, that’s what it’s going to be like, something much different than either Windows or Linux, very simple and limited and easy to use.

It may be aimed initially at the less-developed world, but that’s also what most of the developed world wants, too.

If you look at many of the Google project, the theme underneath many of them is: How can we make people’s lives a lot easier doing X?

Why would it be any different for an OS?


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