Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Google's Aspirations of World Domination

It's quite amazing what Google has done to enhance our online experience on a daily basis.  Several years ago my roommate and I had a brief discussion about Google's unprecedented growth and juggernaut presence beginning to mirror the likes of Microsoft.  We discussed it half-jokingly because I didn't think much of it at the time.  It was obvious that Google revolutionized the web with its sophisticated PageRank algorithm search engine.  In no time Google effortlessly surpassed the search engine pioneers of the dot com era until they became a faded memory: MSN, AltaVista, Excite and even Yahoo! Oddly enough everything else Google followed up with seemed either mediocre or just wasn't getting as much traction...for a while at least.  

For instance, many users were still using Mapquest instead of Google Maps to look up directions, and when the social networking frenzy caught on, Google released Orkut; another "me too" social networking site against market leaders Friendster and MySpace where users could join by invitation only.  Then where was Froogle.  A nice pun on frugal, but its price comparison service was a flop never gaining momentum to go head-to-head with Priceline or EBay.  After the acquisition of YouTube however, I thought this would be the perfect complement to expand Google's ad service business but it still has yet to turn a profit.  There was one point back in 2006 where I even questioned whether the company was overvalued pushing 500 bucks per share because of its growth as a business seemed a bit stagnant.

Perhaps I was too ignorant back then to notice Google clandestinely chipping away from every corner of virtually every IT company to become the next Microsoft.  In fact, I think Google has aspirations of world domination by becoming much bigger, more powerful and even scarier Microsoft. Let's not forget either, Google is less than a decade young!  There's a only one startling contrast between the two software giants.  One makes quality software and the other one, with the exception of MS Office, does not.  

The moment it dawned on me I instantly got up and began searching for articles related to Google's threat to the information technology industry. Now Google has always been good to me by helping me find answers to most of my questions.  So I went ahead and typed in the exact phrase "Who's afraid of Google?" and it returned, "...Everyone." See what I mean???

Actually, the result was a link to an article with a title matching my query from WIRED magazine.  The article summarizes it best here:
...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...
Yelp.  That sounds about right.  It continues on giving warranted examples of the markets Google is ambitious of conquering and which companies are panicking as a result.  The list consists of everything and everyone from video, frightening cable and TV networks like Comcast, to the biggest fish in the sea of IT, like Microsoft and Apple, with the release of its new Chrome operating system.

Out of the seven markets which Google is pursuing I still think the list comes up short so I'm adding to it.
  • GPS, PND
    • Background:  Google kept improving its map user interface and functionality and is almost tied with Mapquest, but it wasn't until the release of Apple's iPhone that probably got portable navigation device manufacturers shitting in their pants.  Garmin in response released a GPS integrated smartphone while TomTom began selling a GPS application for the iPhone at the App store.
    • Google Enters:  Both Garmin and TomTom appeared as if they were gradually making a comeback after a severe beating both companies took from the economic downturn.  Then in early October Google dropped the A-Bomb (A for Android OS) with built-in turn-by-turn navigation functionality.
    • Market Impact:  I actually invested in Garmin for a while since I thought the company was undervalued given their zero-debt balance sheet and share price trading barely over 11 times earnings.  Quite low for such a solid hi-tech company.  Luckily I sold my shares roughly two weeks before to buy none other than Google.  In one day the A-Bomb announcement caused Garmin to drop by $1.5 billion in market value.  Now market and financial analysts are questioning the likelihood of their long term survival going up against the GDragon.
    • Background:  Twitter, Facebook and MySpace.  Nuff said.
    • Google Enters:  So Orkut wasn't much of a success BUT, have you seen Google Wave?  It fuckin' incredible.  Combine chatting, email and social networking to the next level above and beyond are current notion of Web 2.0.  That's Wave.  It still isn't available to the public just yet unless you're a developer or invited by another user of Wave already.  For those who are interested in the meantime, and if not this willwatch the demo of what Google's developed.  Prepare to be blown away.  Don't forget that everything being done is in a standard html web browser.
    • Market Impact:  I use Gmail as my primary email account already.  Replace that with Wave and you can kiss standard email and social networking goodbye.  It looks rudimentary in comparison.
    • Background:  Before Google even released its first version of Android the smartphone market was in its infancy.  In 2005 I was listening to an analyst's remarks about RIM's earnings outlook for the following year while touting how the Blackberry maker was "crushing the competition".  He was right but also failed to realize one simple fact.  There really was no competition.  I never saw Palm and Microsoft as formidable contenders despite what others thought.  Inevitably the landscape changed abruptly in mid 2007 when Apple entered the market.
    • Google Enters:  Google was barely dipping its toes into the water with Android 1.0.  It failed to pose as a potential threat to the iPhone, Blackberry, Pre or Windows Mobile, but the release of Android 2.0 last month turned that potential threat into a real and dangerous one.  
    • Market Impact:  Unless either Palm or Microsoft come up with something radically innovative that sticks, they might as well call it quits and sell the business while its still possible.  My prediction; Apple and Google to be the best of breed remaining in the smartphone OS market by early 2011.  As Windows left PC makers at the mercy of Microsoft, Google's Android may do the same for non-Apple smartphone makers.  Don't believe me?  Motorola, Samsung, LG and Nokia are already turning to Android in the smartphone wars.  You have to admit though, that's pretty amazing coming from a company who's core business is founded on search.
While digesting all of this information I started to wonder, "What is stopping Google from accomplishing its ultimate extravagant goal of not only organizing the world's information, but also having us completely dependent on them?"

Just last week I went to a Starbucks in Seoul and found out Google is providing free WI-FI service there.  Turns out it is offering free WI-FI service to all US airports this holiday season as well and doesn't look like its slowing down either.  Now imagine if Google were to offer free WI-FI at all airports, Starbucks, Coffee Beans and Barnes & Nobles just for starters.  Do you see where this is going?  Combine these hot spots, Android, a new Chrome OS along with an IT industry continuing to embrace cloud computing and what do you end up with?  A company who not only "organizes the world's information" but also completely controls it.

For example, I wouldn't need to install MS Office because I'd be managing all of my documents, spreadsheets and presentations via the web with no need for backups!  If I really need to I'm sure Google will create some lightweight client applications for offline editing. 

Who needs telecommunications when you have Google providing voice, email and instant messaging services for practically for free?  Google Voice does a pretty good job already. 

What about all that multimedia?  Movies, TV series, MP3s, etc.  Well who needs that when there's YouTube?  I've listened to more mixtapes, leaked albums and oldschool classics on YouTube for free.  As for video, if its a fast enough connection in HD quality, there's no reason for me to even have cable.  I hate the cable companies anyway.  They've been reluctant to introduce a la carte services for the longest time making me foot the bill for channels I never watch.  But as the cable networks like to argue, giving viewers the option to choose will leave a lot of networks such as Playboy or ESPN out of business.  Riiiiiight.

So how many Google applications do I use regularly now?  Let's see,
  1. Google Search
  2. Gmail
  3. Chrome (used to be FireFox until it started crashing on me once a day).
  4. Gtalk: Chat, voice, video
  5. YouTube: Music videos and songs, short TV programs, movies, instructional and educational videos
  6. Google Finance
  7. Picasa
  8. Blogspot
  9. Google Maps
  10. Google Reader
10 items doesn't seem like much but bare in mind that I don't have an Android smartphone and haven't used Google's Wi-Fi service either.  By adding either Android or WiFi to my list and the likelihood of having me switch over to more Google based applications goes up.  Ultimately, the release of Chrome OS due next year may increase my use of Google applications exponentially.  If Chrome OS fulfills the productivity needs of the average PC user, Google may very well accomplish its ultimate extravagant goal of not only organizing the world's information, but also having us completely dependent on them for all means of communication, productivity and information retrieval.


  1. I always though Google had waaaay too many projects floating around. Most of them never really panned out. They would release something cool, but never did anything with them. Remember Google News? But now a few are turning out to be monsters.

    My main concern is becoming heavily dependent on one company to store and maintain all of your digital data. Photos, contacts, documents, music, video, etc. That is why I think the main gripe against Google today is privacy.

  2. So do you think the government is going to let Google get as big as you say it is, or do you think eventually the government will force Google to spin off its different businesses?

  3. That's a good question. I think the government already understands the threat that Google poses to the public's privacy, but the act of mandating it to break up the enterprise probably won't occur until it starts to takeover the OS market in sweeping numbers. If Google is able to usurp Microsoft as the OS king with Chrome OS, which is quite likely the way the IT industry is headed, it would stifle competition for many companies and foolish for the government not to do anything.

    We're already starting to see the intimations of substantial competitive mitigation with Google's barrage of new services. Its hard to compete with a company that offers most of its services for free. Imagine how GPS, cable networks, telecom, and publishers must feel right now. And unlike Microsoft, Google's software only continues to get better with every new version.

    Maybe I should've renamed my blogpost to "Google: The Walmart of IT".


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