Google’s not being evil

There’s been a lot of buzz around the internet following the not-yet-materialized threat by News. Corp.’s leader Rupert Murdoch to pull the listings of his companies’ publications from Google’s index – possibly with Microsoft’s (Bing’s) help/monetary support.

Since Murdoch’s publications include the Wall Street Journal, this shot across Google’s bow has launched a thousand blog entries (1,001 with this one…).

However, some of the mainstream articles take off in wild directions based upon this single shot.

Danny Lyons writes about this in the Dec. 7, 2009, print publication of Newsweek (available online Nov. 29). Lyons takes the argument (Murdoch vs. Google) to the next (demented) step: It’s really a battle between Microsoft and Google.


Basically, Lyons argues MS is willing to pay Murdoch for linking to News Corp. articles so Google can’t. I don’t buy that (sure, that’s a bonus…), but whatever.

Lyons ends his article with this observation:

The sad truth is that Google and Microsoft care less about making cool products than they do about hurting each other. Their fighting has little to do with helping customers and a lot to do with helping themselves to a bigger slice of the money we all spend to buy computers and surf the Internet. Microsoft wants to ruin Google’s search business. Google wants to ruin Microsoft’s OS business. At the end of the day, they both seem like overgrown nerdy schoolboys fighting over each other’s toys.
Google This!

Oh, there is just so much wrong with this little paragraph:

“The sad truth is that Google and Microsoft care less about making cool products than they do about hurting each other.” While there is certainly some truth to this statement, which of the two companies allows engineers 20% of their work week to work on whatever the hell they want to work on? You know, to try to create cool, sexy stuff? And while it doesn’t always work out – Google Labs is like Source Forge (but on steriods) – a lot of projects that will never get to a full release version. But Google’s had great success with this: The “20% time” projects have given birth to Gmail, Google Maps and Orkut, among others. The first two have revolutionized their respective niches (browser-based email; online maps) and the latter, while a failure in the US, is huge in South America, especially in Brazil, that continent’s most populous and fastest-growing country. Pretty “cool,” hmm?

“Their fighting has little to do with helping customers and a lot to do with helping themselves to a bigger slice of the money we all spend to buy computers and surf the Internet.” The last part of the sentence is course absolutely true. The internet’s getting more and more omnipotent and a conduit for commerce every day in so many ways. The bigger piece of the internet pie, the bigger revenues. Absolutely. And both Microsoft and Google are huge players in this pie grab, fighting for every sliver of this new marketplace. But – if you’re going to try to grab more pie – you have to help the people who are surfing the web: the customers. That’s what Microsoft is trying to do with Windows Mobile (smartphone OS) and Google’s trying to do with the various products it creates and give away: Capture customers and, in turn, capture revenue. Look at the old Napster: Yep, pirated music. People said once we had it free, we’d never go back. Steve Jobs and iTunes proved that wrong. Make it drop-dead simple, and people will use it – and you’ll profit.

“Microsoft wants to ruin Google’s search business. Google wants to ruin Microsoft’s OS business.” I think the first sentence is true: Google is (currently) primarily an advertising company, and search is the tool of choice. If Google search went dark tomorrow and stayed that way, the company would collapse. No question. Yet Google has a huge hunk of online search, and Microsoft covets it. Absolutely. But “Google want to ruin Microsoft’s OS business”? Nah. To me, Google’s not looking at Microsoft: It’s looking at the future. And the future is online, not the desktop. So Google’s doing everything it can to get – and keep – people online, and to make the customer experience online as positive as possible. Hence Google Docs, for example: Enable users to put documents in the cloud, where they can work on them everywhere – no thumb drives required; no syncing. Ditto for Gmail. Keep people online; keep them in apps that’ll serve up ads. This hurts Microsoft, to be sure – undermines the cash cows Office and Windows. But – in my mind – to me this is not Google trying to “ruin Microsoft’s OS business” as it is positioning itself for the future, which is not on the desktop. If it hurts Microsoft, that’s just gravy.

RE: The final point, I’d say that Google’s ChromeOS looks like Google taking direct aim at Microsoft – in particular, the incredibly profitable Windows franchise – but, again, I think this is just Google looking to the future. This OS will boot incredibly quickly and will only access the cloud – but it’ll be optimized to take advantage of the cloud offerings better than any browser (including Google’s confusingly named Chrome browser) on any platform.

It’s a way to let people inexpensively (it’ll just be for cheap netbooks initially) access, work in, stay in the cloud. And while they’re there – checking Gmail or Google Maps or whatever – they’ll be served up ads by Google.


Update: Scoble gets it.


CIA Factbook

There’s been a lot of talk about Afghanistan recently, mainly with President Obama trying to select the next step in our war effort(s) there.

Last week on WNPR, I heard a couple of reports about the war that made me think of the Afghan war in an entirely different way. As so-called experts talked about the challenges of the war and so on, I was struck by how similar the current engagement in South Asia is to our decades-old war on drugs (be it the drug war in Columbia, Mexico or even Afghanistan).

Bear with me:

  • In both cases, we’re not fighting a country; we’re actually working in countries with each government’s support in an attempt to crush the target. (I.e. enemies within.)
  • In both cases, we heavily support the governments in the countries we’re fighting.
  • In both cases, the governments we’re working with are suspected of internal corruption, up to and including working with those we are trying to stymie.
  • In both cases, there is not a single target we’re fighting: They are fragmented (Taliban splinter groups/Al-Qaeda; drug cartels) and these parties fight against each other as much as they engage us. And neutralizing one (whatever that mean in this scenario: capturing/killing a faction’s leader? Won’t another just step up, or the faction split into multiple factions. Think of Mickey Mouse and the brooms in Fantasia) is a just one-of-many issue. Not the end of the engagement, in any way.
  • In both cases, a predominately third-world population is powerless to combat these small but heavily armed (money/weapons/government influence) factions, so a citizen revolt is all but impossible, much less simple tips from citizens. If they give us tips, the factions may kill them. If they give the faction tips, the worst that can happen is we toss them in prison. But they live.

These are just a handful of the parallels.

And ask yourself this question: What is a victory, success in either of these conflicts?

Will illegal drug production ever stop? Of course not. What reduced level of production, violence, corruption is a victory?

Will religious fundamentalists ever completely stop? Of course not. What reduced level of virulent anti-West ideology/violent fundamentalism is considered a victory?

Given all that he has on his plate – including the morass that is Afghanistan – I’m sure there are nights when President Obama wonders if it’s too late to ask for an electoral recount…

Update about an hour later: Reading this over, it sounds like I’m somehow blaming someone for either the Afghan or drug war. Not the case. I’m just pointing out what are – to me – some chilling parallels. No finger pointing.

Update Tues. 12/1: President Obama officially announced that he’ll be sending roughly 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, for up to two years (2011), depending on conditions. I wish him luck; some of my reading shows this to be the only viable option (with numerous caveats). I remain skeptical, but hope I’m terribly wrong.

Dork Alert!

Bottle Shock
Randall Miller, Director

A movie in the vein of “Sideways” – about wine, about Napa Valley.

Based on a true story, basically outlining (in a wildly strange way) how Napa accidentally got on the map for good wine (competing with the French) and setting the stage for non-French wineries everywhere to operate on a somewhat even ground.

I.e. Quality is the differentiation, not location (i.e. France).

Not a great movie, but fun. Quirky.

It’s “Sideways” meets “The Dish.”

Worth a watch – and I don’t say that a lot.

It helps to be into wine – in the very slightest way – to enjoy same. Helps. Not necessary.

All movies

I just spent about three hours trying to fix my home network.

Turned out to be a bad port on my router (second time this has happened).

Put the Ethernet cord to another port on my switch.


Ah, must back in my “backup” router and make it primary. Yeah, lot’s of time to do so…but may have to shortly.

Wow, how boring am I?!?