Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Who;s Afraid of Google

Who is Afraid of Google? Everyone?
Wired: December 2005
Of course, Google has always wanted to be more than a search engine. Even in the early days, its ultimate goal was extravagant: to organize the world's information. High-minded as that sounds, Google's ever-expanding agenda has put it on a collision course with nearly every company in the information technology industry: Amazon.com, Comcast, eBay, Yahoo!, even Microsoft.

In less than a decade, Google has gone from guerrilla startup to 800-pound gorilla. In some ways, the company is a gentle giant. Whereas Microsoft infamously smothered new and open standards, Google is famous for supporting them. And the firm is softening its image, launching a philanthropic arm, Google.org, with nearly $1 billion earmarked for social causes. But that doesn't reduce the fear factor, and Google knows it. Omid Kordestani, the company's global sales guru, said at a recent conference, "We're trying to find ways so we are not viewed as a gorilla." Given its outsize ambitions, that's one search Google might not be able to handle.

Is the sky falling?
That's how it looks to panicked tech companies across the Valley as they contend with Google's ever-expanding power and ambition.

VIDEO
Today, Google Video is a motley mix: clips of monkeys performing karate and robot dogs attacking iguanas. Tomorrow? No one knows, but everyone is worried.

Who's threatened:
Comcast and other cable providers, Yahoo!, TV networks that still shun the Net

Signs of panic: Comcast wants to be the Google of television. Yahoo! bristles at any mention of Google Video. Networks were stunned to find Google compiling a database of their programs.

Reality check: Google Video is up and running. The question is, How much content can it attract - or pay for - to fill the database. Watch for a strategic acquisition, even something big. TiVo?


CLASSIFIEDS

When secrecy-obsessed Google let news of "Google Base" slip, it looked like an aggressive entrée into online classifieds. The test service can search ads like used-car and personals listings, which would mesh with Google Local and might even kick-start Orkut, Google's social network.

Who's threatened: Craigslist, eBay, Monster, Tribe.net

Signs of panic:
Within hours of the Base bombshell, eBay's market value dropped by almost $2 billion. And even before that, the classified sites were nervous. CareerBuilder and others fretted about letting Google host their feeds.

Reality check:
This may be an extension of Froogle rather than a stand-alone product. But it could expand to everything from travel to eBay-like offerings.

TELECOM

Free Wi-Fi in San Francisco, instant-messaging software, a widely anticipated VoIP foray - Google's telecom initiatives seem designed to make life radically easier for users.

Who's threatened: Comcast, SBC, Verizon, Vonage, what's left of AOL

Signs of panic:
Surprisingly few so far, partially because Google says it has no plans to offer Wi-Fi beyond San Francisco. Still, Comcast coined the word Comcastic - is that its answer to Googlicious?

Reality check: Something's clearly afoot, and it could be big. With great power comes great regulation - so Google recently opened a DC lobbying shop to combat "centralized control by network operators."


OPERATING SYSTEMS
If anyone can fulfill the dream of turning the Internet into the operating system, it's Google. If the company chooses to develop an OS, the move will cement Google's other initiatives into a powerful whole.

Who's threatened: Apple, Microsoft

Signs of panic:
When one of Microsoft's key operating system engineers defected to Google last year, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer threw a chair across an office and vowed to kill Google.

Reality check: The migration of applications from PCs to the Net is already happening - and it's key to Google's future. But the likelihood of a Google OS depends on what Microsoft accomplishes with its new OS, Vista.


PRINT
What if a search engine trolled not just every page on the Web, but every page in every book? Amazon.com tried it first, then Google said it would "make the full text of all the world's books searchable by anyone.

"Who's threatened: Amazon, Microsoft, book publishers

Signs of panic:
Against the interests of a legion of obscure writers, the Authors Guild sued Google. The Association of American Publishers, with more to fear, did the same. Microsoft and Yahoo! have joined a group that's creating its own book search service.

Reality check: Making every book searchable sends a clear signal that Google has the brawn to organize the world's information. But a vicious backlash could drown out that message.

PRODUCTIVITY PROGRAMS

Google joined with Sun Microsystems in October to jointly promote and distribute apps like the Google Toolbar and Sun's free OpenOffice software. Wider distribution of the toolbar, Google's most potent Trojan horse, gives the search engine access to a world of desktops.

Who's threatened: Apple, Corel, Microsoft

Signs of panic: Microsoft launched its own toolbar and protested the decision of the Massachusetts Information Technology Department to dump Office for open source alternatives.

Reality check: It may be a fiendishly clever way to attack one of Microsoft's highest-margin products, but this tactic can't be a top priority. Google Toolbar will thrive without Sun.


ECOMMERCE

Froogle threatens no one yet. But what if, as the development of Google Wallet suggests, Google handled your every online transaction? The potential revenue from Google's cut of each purchase would make AdSense look like AdCents.

Who's threatened:
Amazon, Buy.com, eBay

Signs of panic: After reports speculated that Google might take on PayPal, eBay said it would pay up to $4.1 billion for VoIP rebel Skype. Wall Street's read: With PayPal under fire, eBay needed a new growth area.

Reality check: Rather than take on PayPal directly, the company may start with something less ambitious, like handling payments for premium video content. But after that? Watch out.

google googlestrategy

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Brad, I agree that any company in the information technology space should be wary of Google. With their mission to organize the world's information they definitely introduce a unique dynamic to the competitive landscape both on the web and desktop.

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