Google Grows Up

By , 11 July, 2009, 2 Comments

It was a big week in Google-land, what with un-beta-ing of Google Apps and the subsequent release of Chrome OS. Obviously, this was Google’s shot across the bow at Microsoft as both companies gear up for a battle to control the cloud. To be honest, I think the cloud will ultimately be controlled by some third player none of us can imagine, just as Google scooped Yahoo! and Microsoft scooped IBM. [See disruptive technology].

Still, in the short term, it’s a big play for Google. What worries me is that as larger and larger shares of our economy move online, cloud computing will allow Google or its unknown successor to dominate multiple markets and do somewhat anticompetitive things with that cross-control. I already have misgivings about its search-ad business; it’s too early to tell whether cloud apps will work the same way.

What amuses me about this whole thing is whiplash it should give to those who apologize for Google’s business practices with claims that Google is “not evil,” or not really a business at all. Firstly, this week shows that Google wants big corporate customers just as much as Microsoft. Secondly, this week shows that their success is manifestly not predicated, as some suggest, on turning big business on its head by getting people to embrace beta as a new standard. Instead, they’ve had to give up this image of being frazzled-but-well-intentioned to get the big fish.

That doesn’t really make up for my worries about their broader business, but at least we can now discuss their tactics without the cuddly rhetoric. Or is that asking too much?

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2 Responses {+}
  • Michael Morgenstern

    Dead on, Maha. The scariest thing to me about moving to web applications is the loss of control of our data. Something like Google Calendar is by nature a closed format; Google may open up access in a million open ways – XML, HTML, iCal, CalDav, and Exchange to name a few – but they can close this access as quickly as they open it. Compare this to a self-hosted iCal file, which is yours in any way you want it.

    What happens when Google Docs removes the ability to export to MS Word, or introduces bugs and flaws into the conversions? In the past, we've always been able to install earlier versions of software, and that's been the ultimate form of control…

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