A Google corre o risco de ser a próxima Microsoft?
Um post com 3 considerações sobre a supremacia da Google Inc. e o que ela é capaz de fazer com tanto poder.
Direto de Techcrunch Editor’s note: The following guest post is by Peter Sims , co-author of True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership with Bill George. His next book, Little Bets, debuts with Simon & Schuster next spring, with previews on www.petersims.com and Twitter @petersims. In late April, JP Morgan invited me to a “thought leaders dinner” to discuss the latest goings on in Silicon Valley and digital media. In a private room at the swanky San Francisco restaurant Kokkari, there were about 20 of us seated around a long rectangular table, including venture capitalists from prominent firms, highly successful entrepreneurs, and a handful of people from J.P. Morgan, including Jimmy Lee, the firm’s well-known Vice Chairman, who sat at the head of the table. (I was, like Kevin Costner’s character in Bull Durham Crash Davis, “the player to be named later.”) Anyhow, after about an hour and a few glasses wine, Jimmy raised the main question he was curious about: “I want to know from each of you: which company would you go long on and which would you short?” We could pick any timeframe. And, as it turned out, while the long picks varied widely from Amazon to Yahoo!, 12 of the 15 ‘thought leaders’ shorted Google. Jimmy was surprised, virtually astounded: “Wow!” he exclaimed, “You guys are really negative on Google, huh?” I, too, was surprised. Google has been, after all, the most successful company in recent history (in terms of churning out growth and profits), led by Eric Schmidt, a well-respected CEO. And, we’ve seen book after book about why everyone should be more like Google. I admire Google, its people, and what they have been able to accomplish enormously. It’s astonishing. But the opinions in that room were not based on the company’s past performance. They were based on insights about Google’s future. Below are the reasons people cited for shorting the company (which, interestingly, were fairly diverse):
- Google has experienced a severe talent drain over the past several years, losing some of its most entrepreneurial and innovative people. Although Google’s has high retention rates, Google’s talent challenge is not in terms of numbers, it’s the type of people who are leaving and why they are leaving. The talent drain from Google has been well documented . Venture capitalists in the room (without a vested interest in the companies) argued that Facebook and Zynga are currently considered hot places to work in Silicon Valley. Google has, for example, seen a stream of people leave for Facebook including, more recently, the likes of Erick Tseng, the senior product manager of Android, Google’s critically important mobile initiative.
People close go Google say upward management is slowly replacing the company’s early culture of innovation. Entrepreneurial types and thought leaders who feel confined or unmotivated are moving. People will even say that it reminds them of Yahoo back in 2004-2005, not the meritocracy they once joined.
- The company has run out of easy growth opportunities and must now find big chunks of new revenue. With the core search business maturing, Google increasingly seems to increasingly feel the need to make some “big bets.” That is a problem that maturing companies face that CEOs call “the tyranny of large numbers.” Even mobile search, which is seeing impressive growth numbers of a small base, is still too small to make a material difference for the company. The company is obviously trying like crazy to find growth pockets, knowing that mobile is a ways off. The recent $700 million ITA acquisition is a great case in point of how it is going to spread out some medium-sized to big-bets to see what sticks. That is, companies must find bigger and bigger chunks of revenue to maintain growth rates. This problem is documented well by innovation researchers Professor Clayton Christensen in The Innovators Solution , and Jim Collins in How the Mighty Fall .
- The company lacks a coherent strategy, especially in mobile. As Schmidt and other Google execs have stated, mobile is core to future growth. A number of people around the table that night had unique insight into Google’s mobile efforts. They argued that growing nascent mobile revenues will take significant time, especially since there aren’t many sizable acquisition targets available in mobile after Google’s purchase of AdMob. Instead, the recent purchase of ITA Software was an indicator of how the company might make some medium to big bets to see what sticks.
- It’s about people, people, people. Google’s engineering-dominated culture isn’t news to anyone. But As Peter Drucker opined in his landmark book Innovation and Entrepreneurship , “Successful innovators…look at figures, and they look at people.” The company has long recruited people who fit a very specific profile.
Product manager candidates, for example, are told they must have computer science degrees from top universities. But while Google’s core algorithm was a brilliant feat of engineering innovation, a growing chorus of voices question whether it can be sustained. That cookie-cutter approach to people misses important opportunities for diversity and creates glass ceilings for non-engineers, both of which stifle innovation. Cultural hubris, another pattern Jim Collins in particular raises, is of foremost concern. It is often said that at Google the engineers lead engineering, product, and even marketing decisions. But when the company has failed, such as with Google Wave or Google Radio , critics have questioned whether the company really understands people. For these reasons and more, perhaps the question that “in the know” Silicon Valley observers are now increasingly asking is: Could Google be the next Microsoft? That is, much like Google revolutionized search, Microsoft was a pioneer with its market-dominating operating systems and Microsoft Office. But outside the Xbox, Microsoft has struggled severely to produce new innovations. Deeper cultural problems were hidden by amazing performance and success. One thing is for certain: it’s a pivotal time in Google’s history. If the company does not put these types of issues on the table, the chorus of short sellers will increase. But with mountains of cash, access to great people and big problems, I see the moment as an opportunity. It’s a chance to reflect, ask some tough questions, openly discuss the challenges, and incorporate some fresh thinking and people, so that this great symbol of global innovation can evolve and grow.What do you think—are you long or short? Is Google at risk of becoming the next Microsoft or on the verge of a creative explosion?
I heard on the news this morning something about Google’s founders getting close to being richer than Bill Gates. Is money the root or the root of all evil? I don’t know. I read this recent piece by Preston Gralla, Seven ways to keep your search history private. I am interested in keeping my searches private from any big enterprise that could correlate my searches to me personally. It’s kind of like the big grocery store chains that give you a shopping card to track your purchases in order to market to you personally. I don’t mind the marketing as much as I mind that everything on my grocery list is in a database attached to my name. A database that can be compromised. I don’t like it that anyone can compile data on me about my personal preferences, habits, or interests. It’s just an invasion of privacy. The same feelings apply to the big search engines selling my information (searches) to marketing types.
After looking at Preston’s list, I decided to install the Firefox extension to “anonymize” the Google cookie UID, so that I can still use gmail and search using the Google engine without my searches being correlated to my login name. I also selected the option to not send any cookies to Google Analytics. I still switch between Firefox and IE7, depending upon my mood. I like FireFox, but IE7 gives you tabbed browsing and that was one of the main features I liked in FireFox. I liked the fact that I could configure FireFox to delete all private information each time I closed the browser. In IE7, which I will not use for personal email, only surfing, with the phishing filter turned off (see below), I changed the location of where my Temporary Internet Files are stored to my local hard drive instead of the network server. That way I can delete that information without worrying about it being backed up by a network server.
Now, more about IE7’s anti-phishing tool. Did you know if you turn on the anti-phishing tool (“phishing filter”) in IE7, IE7 sends the URLs to Microsoft. So now you know that both Microsoft and Google are interested in what you do on the web. Here’s a direct quote from the Q&A on the phishing filter taken from IE7’s help feature: “When you use Phishing Filter to check websites automatically or manually, the address of the website you are visiting will be sent to Microsoft, together with some standard information from your computer such as your computer’s IP address, browser type, and Phishing Filter version number. To help protect your privacy, the address information sent to Microsoft is encrypted using SSL and limited to the domain and path of the website you are visiting. Other information that might be associated with the web address, such as search terms, information you entered in forms, or cookies, will not be sent.”
Yeah. Sure. Right. You have their word on it. Between the WGA (Windows Genuine Advantage) tool and the phishing filter, you have to believe that Microsoft must be having data warehouse headaches right about now. And they probably know more about me than I want them to. When you are behind a corporate firewall, the IP address is going to be the public address of the company, so it’s not like they can narrow that down to a specific PC. But, if you are surfing from home, that IP address is associated with you personally by your ISP. At any rate, we’ve standardized on IE7 for the desktop at work, but the IT and Security folks are all using FireFox. That dang WGA tool gets reinstalled every time you patch your system, so I’ve givenup trying to clean it out of the registry every time it installs. It’s futile. So what is my chief complaint? I don’t think anyone or any company who I buy products from should keep my personal identity associated with my personal browsing or shopping habits. It’s wrong. It’s no one’s business. And it’s not about having something to hide.
I don’t invite you into my house to browse in my underwear drawer? If I invite you over, you are limited to the guest areas. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. My other beef is that storing information that people have not given you permission to store is sitting in databases or data warehouses that can be compromised. That really unnerves me.
Direto de USATODAY
Did you hear about the new breakfast cereal Google might be coming out with? Google Puffs. Kellogg is apoplectic. Yep, and there’s the chain of dental practices, Google Teeth. If Google moves into that business, it could wipe out every storefront dentist from sea to shining sea.
Or maybe those are just somebody’s worst nightmares, fueled by the growing anxiety over an impending global Google-opoly. It seems like every industry is on edge about Google. The company seems to be able to do anything and totally kick butt. NFL strategy meetings in the commissioner’s office probably include sessions on what to do if there’s an unveiling of a rival Google Football League.
We haven’t seen anything like this since the heyday of Microsoft — back when Bill Gates and his crew could launch a cable channel and make everyone believe the company was about to take over all of television. Venture capitalists in the 1990s would refuse to fund a start-up if it was in a business that anyone could even imagine Microsoft might someday invade. Google has suddenly become much scarier than Microsoft. Google is making Microsoft seem like George Foreman — once a menacing, powerful presence, but now sort of eccentric and cuddly.
OK, maybe not cuddly.
Anyway, Google-mania, which has been on the rise for a couple of years, hit an all-time high last week after Google introduced Google Talk. The instant-messaging service isn’t much different from others by Yahoo, Microsoft or AOL. But because it’s Google, people are spinning out scenarios that have Google eventually stomping into telecommunications and putting the likes of Verizon and BellSouth out of business. On top of that, Google last week also came out with Google Desktop 2, which can sit on your PC screen like a control panel, searching files on your hard drive and working as a launch point for playing music, navigating the Web or most anything else you do on your PC. Until recently, most of those functions had been Microsoft’s territory. But wait — there’s more! Google Maps and Google Earth are crashing the whole mapping and navigation party. Launched in early 2005, Google Maps is quickly gaining on leaders Yahoo Maps and MapQuest, according to Web research firm Hitwise. Plus, Google has Gmail, Blogger and Picasa photo sharing. It invested in Current Communications, which makes technology that lets electrical wires carry Internet communications. And now, Google is selling shares to raise $4 billion so it has the cash to do even more stuff, setting off yet more speculation.
Around the world, people are trying to read the Google tea leaves. Search for Google on Google News, and you’ll find headlines from the U.K., South Africa and Australia. In Pakistan, English-language Kashar News concludes a story by saying, “Google Talk may be just another step toward world domination by Google.” Apparently President Bush had it wrong all along, sending the military into Iraq. He could’ve just sent Google. “Google is a global Rorschach test,” says John Battelle, whose book, The Search: How Google and its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture, comes out in September. “We see in it what we want to see. Google has built an infrastructure that makes a lot of dreams closer to reality.”
Which means that if you can dream up a scenario, you can believe Google could pull it off. For instance, Google Talk includes an ability to have computer-to-computer voice conversations — which also is part of Yahoo IM, AIM and MSN Messenger. But because Google has built a massive computing system that can handle more data faster and cheaper than any other in the world, a lot of folks assume Google Talk could quickly turn into a platform for VoIP Internet phone calls. Soon after, Google would be the new Ma Bell. “Google is this era’s transformational computing platform,” writes Stephen Arnold in his new book, The Google Legacy. In the mid-20th century, IBM made the computing platforms that changed the world. At the end of the century, Microsoft played that role. Now, Arnold argues, it’s Google’s turn. No question Google is that ambitious. It is pursuing a “Google everywhere” philosophy, finding ways to make Google a constant in everyone’s communications, entertainment and information handling. To its credit, Google is often getting there by coming out with products that are better than those from competitors. Google Maps can just flat-out do more than Yahoo Maps. Gmail trumps Hotmail.
Google is also winning battles by taking pages right out of Microsoft’s playbook, like making things free to undermine competitors and linking pieces together (Talk and Gmail are tightly integrated) in ways that make each piece more valuable.
Which is funny, because much of Google’s leadership consists of people who learned from Microsoft by being whipped by Microsoft. CEO Eric Schmidt, for instance, used to be at Sun Microsystems and then Novell, two companies that practically defined themselves as Microsoft underdogs. Top investor John Doerr funded Netscape, the browser maker that Microsoft buried. Last year, when Google had its IPO, it positioned itself as an anti-Microsoft. That, really, was the point of its much-heralded credo, “Don’t be evil.” Yet now Google finds itself cast as the next Microsoft, and any company that big and ambitious can’t help but be seen as evil by some. “Google may wish they hadn’t embraced that,” author Battelle says. “It’s a very long rope on which they could possibly hang themselves.” Because you just know the dentists would think Google Teeth is evil.