Internet has a deflationary effect on every industry it touches, whether it be financial services, travel, printing & publishing, media & entertainment, or telephony. Google’s strategic plan it seems is to obviously leverage deflation to its own advantage. Free, is the only model that works against a well oiled business machine like Microsoft. Google’s recent moves show that they are using “free” to gradually devalue of Microsoft’s assets, and thus its market cap. This is part of a mutation of the OS into a whole new animal. Jason Kottke had a nice post about the evolution of operating system, and Google’s role in that evolution. My dear friend, and occasional guest poster, Robert Young, who recently theorized on Rupert Murdoch’s intentions for MySpace, in an email suggested that it is not as much an evolution, as a mutation of the OS into a whole new species. Here are his thoughts.
Guest post by Robert Young
Google’s mission statement is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. At this stage, I think it should be more along the lines of Honda’s original mission statement, which was, “five Honda’s in every garage” (e.g. car, motorcycle, lawnmower, etc.). I say that because it certainly seems, with every new Google service that comes to market, my garage… er, desktop, is filling up with their stuff! So, what is Google’s master plan? These days, that’s the *big* question everyone seems to be asking (it used to be: “What’s the next killer app?”). Just to add more fuel to the fire, I’ll speculate alongside the rest of you. But before I provide my answer to the big question, allow me to digress a little to provide some background and perspective.
Over the years, I’ve noticed that Google’s success has largely been based on their ability to be highly counterintuitive. For instance, they started a search engine when everyone thought that game was over. They started to place ads in search results when everyone thought it was highly controversial. They introduced simple text ads when everyone was developing rich media ads. They designed an ad engine to rank the placement of ads by their effectiveness (click-through-rate) when everyone else was placing ads based on the CPM rates they were able to sell. Their performance-based ad model enabled them to initially build their business on “mom-n-pop” small business advertisers (generating billions of dollars in revenues from the long tail) when everyone else was chasing after Fortune 1000 brand advertisers.
More recently, Google has introduced services that clearly indicate their desire to build a comprehensive “platform,” one that challenges Microsoft’s dominance in this area head on (Gmail, Desktop Search, now GD2, and Google Talk). So what is Google’s master plan? I believe they are once again going counterintuitive, but in a manner that hits Microsoft where it hurts most. Google will make Microsoft’s entire strategic plan and mission, which revolves around the continued proliferation and dominance of the desktop PC operating system, obsolete by making Google itself the operating system. The model they are pursuing is very similar to Sun Microsystems’ (Jonathan Schwartz’s) vision of turning computing into a utility, like electricity. The only difference is that Google is already almost there.
To some extent, Google is bringing back the architecture of the mainframe to render Microsoft obsolete. In the future, all computing devices, whether it be the PC, mobile phone, TV, etc., will simply be terminals that “plug-in” to Google’s massive server grid and application services. With the increasing price/performance of CPUs, memory, bandwidth, and storage, Google’s strategic edge will be based on their advantageous cost of processing bits. And as long as users are comfortable sharing their private data and behavior with Google, all services will remain free (and supported by advertising).
It’s not too difficult for me to imagine a day, very soon, when I rely on Google for almost all my computing needs and I buy hardware devices based on such criteria. That’s the day Google will have become my operating system. We all know that the internet has a deflationary effect on the assets of every industry it touches, whether it be printing & publishing, media & entertainment, telephony, etc. If what I pose above is indeed true, Google is using the internet to systematically devalue Microsoft’s assets. Perhaps there will be a day on Wall Street sometime in the future that’ll be known as “Microsoft’s Black Monday.”
39 thoughts on “Google, the ultimate deflator”
I’ve been thinking about this, too. Google is clearly trying to become a portal – but not in the conventional sense. They want to be a portal for all information management: search on-and-offline, blogging, mail, news, driving directions, IM, and so on. If their wager works, the OS (ie, Windows), will be reduced to a mere layer to manage the PC hardware; Office, Enterprise Software, and other content creation tools will still exist, but once you want to organise the content you’ve created, you’re going to be using Google.
MSFT, on the other hand, is trying to integrate information management tools in their OS, so that it’s still a valuable asset. I suspect Vista will contain many information management tools, similar to Google’s current offerings, making them redundant.
Who will win? I don’t know. If Google can persuade a lot of people to migrate entirely to Google products before the release of Vista, they will not need to upgrade. If Google hasn’t captured the market when Vista is released, I guess they will be crushed – like netscape, OS/2, and many others.
I think Google is great – but you’re giving them way too much credit for ideas that were already out there.
“They started to place ads in search results when everyone thought it was highly controversial. They introduced simple text ads when everyone was developing rich media ads.”
Uh, Overture was doing this for years before Google was on the scene. And they were doing it when everyone was saying that ranking search results based on who paid the most was offensive to the average web user.
Google had a wonderful asset – their search engine. But they had no real way to monetize this until they decided to borrow Overture’s model (actually, they’ve paid Yahoo quite a bit for it).
In terms of a “master plan” – I think Google is throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks. I think people are reading way too much “master plan” into a company that seems to just release whatever they think of – regardless of commerical implication.
If what I pose above is indeed true, Google is using the internet to systematically devalue Microsoft’s assets.
This post presents brilliant perspective and insight into precisely how Google has evolved and positioned itself into the role as ultimate Microsoft slayer.
As presciently laid out in this post, I believe there has got to be genuine anxiety if not outright fear within Microsoft as to the very nature of an imminent paradigm shift you’ve divined, this time the scenario hhas Microsoft with absolutely no defense.
It’s like hearing the warning of an oncoming tornado. You know its approaching, the only option you have is to steel yourself and hope for the best.
The last time Microsoft faced a similar threat was with
the introduction of Netscape. Only at the very last moment, almost too late in fact, did it dawn on Bill Gates how Netscape had the potential to undermine everything Microsoft had nutured up until then.
Like everything else Microsoft did to vanquish all and every one of its its competitors, it was only a matter of throwing enough money in conquering whatever
market Microsoft wanted all to itself.
But now, the incredibly delicious irony is that whatever
real or imagined threat Google may pose for Microsoft
the huge repositories of cash Microsoft has socked away will soon become as worthless as the hyper- inflated billions of Weimar Republic Reichmarks of late 1920’s Germany in saving their precious Windows- based empire from ruin.
the possible impact here goes deeper than the OS. imagine a world where intel machines (and maybe even AMD driven ones) can offer you a power-up choice of booting in to Windows OR in to a browser only or “net-only” mode where EVERY app can be run and your data can be local or in the ‘cloud’. technically, it is possible today — even Phoenix ships a pre-boot browser today and with companies like XENSOURCE (once they get rid of their oh-so-oxford pedigree) and VMWare (once it is free of EMC in a spin-out IPO), i look forward to the day when i have an instant-ON machine which only boots in to Windows when I really need to manipulate a “legacy” document locally (powerpoint, excel, word) – all other times i can just launch Firefox or Google widgets (sidebar is plain ugly – something better will come along) and browse, edit, post, see, read, watch tv — all WITHOUT Mr. Gates’ invention impeding me. now Intel and Microsoft may team up not to allow this at all (what with the EULAs and all) but will Intel risk this “legacy” OS path vs. a much broader play in the general consumer market (pentium X shipments = TV shipments worldwide!)? Perhaps not. And goofy names like “ViiV” notwithstanding, I dont think Intel gives up the broader play. I believe they already have $-driven relationships with both VMware and Xensource (their Vanderpool spec has learnt from both) and Google just makes the eventual “virtual machine” more real than just running XP in a linux kernel…
How bout something really counterintuitive, like not buying into the Google paradigm.
The Benedictine Order has a book on contemplation and meditation, the Cloud of Unknowing, written in the 14th Century. The ultimate success of meditation is to detach from all worldy concerns, and to achieve oneness with the god spirit.
We have now the Cloud of Knowing, the Internet, and we are taking great comfort in the belief that we can “Google” it all, with computational power, algorithms, bots and the like. To what purpose?
The demise of the MS OS is foreseen. Instead, the OS is in, or on, the Internet, and perhaps AI is also. The Internet is co-extensive with the Internet. Fine.
The reality of our lives, however, is limited. What we do with our time, vastly circumscribed. And so, I would not be surprised if, once we have collectively satisfied – or unsatisfied – ourselves with the immensities of the Cloud of Knowing by following Google into the abyss, we will return to technologies which enable us to enjoy the relative smallness of our lives.
The wave following the Google wave, is one that will be deeply personal, where we use our technology to give individual users – on a mass scale, the ability to take control of our experiences on the Net – and in particular, control over the flow of the incredible number of commercial messages they are subjected to.
So when we all have terabyte hard drives and use a webos what will we do with all the local storage? I think a new standard needs to replace HTML that will define a set of rich native objects stored locally on a desktop. HTML will be replaced completely by an XML stream that invokes these objects. The result is a very fluid interface with lots of richness versus the predominantly text based current web. The system is also extensible since if you don’t have on object, it could be downloaded on the fly.
Forgot one thing, pre-caching…the browser of the future will pre-cache all links perhaps providing you a preview of the destination on a hover, if you desire. The browser will start dumb perhaps, just pre-caching all links arbitrarily, but the browser should develop a model of your browsing behavoir so it can make better guesses about what to pre-cache first. Also the caching could have meta characteristics that could potentially include DRM (so a movie site could allow for pre-caching of an encrypted movie that would only play after a fee was paid).
There is *no* Google Master Plan .As Damian posted they are just throwing a hundred things and see which one sticks.
But it seems now everyone want to fantasize about Google’s secret master plan and how its going to beat microsoft 🙂
As a business, Google develops software, gives it away for free, and then collects revenue for advertising. To me, this doesn’t seem like a viable long term business plan. It is true, they are a threat to MSFT, but why would MSFT not pick the best of what GOOG develops and incorporate into their new OS. Then tweak the new OS so that the performance of the old GOOG software is inferior. Its a ruthless tactic, but I think that MSFT has proven capable of it in the past.
If on the other hand, GOOG can actually start to sell their applications, then they (in my opinion) have a much more viable long term plan. GOOG is in a cut throat environment and the publicity of their success makes them a model to be copied.
GOOG has been very sucessful at improving what exists, but to survive long term they will need to innovate.
I agree with the counter-intuitive nature of the Google Master Plan. If there is to be a “true” Google OS, I believe its going to come out of an assemblage of their services for mobile devices. The end is in sight for the wintel platform, why waste huge resources struggling for market share with windows?
I think Google is soon going to deflate itself:
I just posted a couple of thoughts on all this GoogleOS stuff:
I’m starting to find it all the more fascinating every day.
What a great article, it comes natural to ask whether this was the plan all along (Google projecting itself as the world’s benefactor) or whether this strategy – if indeed true – grew out of necessity.
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Fantastic article Google’s mission statement is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. At this stage