Who's Afraid of Google? The New Evil Empire

Will Google hurt the software business like it has damaged the publishing and news businesses?
One of the more significant non-events just happened – Google’s lukewarm embrace of Salesforce.com – and there’s a lot of speculation about what Google in the enterprise software market would mean. So let’s talk about what Google is really up to first: A clearer understanding of Google’s role in the overall economy will shed some light on what an alliance with Salesforce.com, or any other enterprise software vendor, would mean.

Let’s start by calling Google for what it is: a publishing company that makes money from advertising, one that is so successful that it is slowly sucking the life out of the mainstream publishing business, and along with it the profession of journalism and the role of the fourth estate in modern society.

And let’s also start by calling Google for what it isn’t: a company that will make an impact in the enterprise software space any time soon, deals with the likes of Salesforce.com notwithstanding.

Based on what it’s been able to accomplish to date, I deem this company to be the new evil empire – this from a company whose informal motto is “Don’t be Evil.” Google’s evil is more threatening than anything the original evil empire, Microsoft, has ever succeeded in doing, and in that regard Google has already topped its rival, even if it still hasn’t really made a dent in Microsoft’s core business with its free, on-demand software.

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The evil starts with Google’s primary business, search, a content aggregation function that is destroying the value of information on a daily basis. Stewart Brand’s famous claim that “information wants to be free” was really a claim about free access, not free value, but in Google’s hands information has ceased to have value to anyone but Google.

Brand’s free-access dictum was, I believe, what Craig Newmark had in mind when he created Craigslist, which has decimated local newspapers around the country by killing their valuable classified listings. I tend to think of Craig more like an Albert Einstein, an egghead just a little removed from the realities of the destruction he was creating. But if Craig is Einstein, then Google is the Manhattan Project – an assembly of the best and the brightest who, in the process of striking a blow for freedom, end up creating one of the most dangerous geniis ever to escape from the bottle.

The same company that is killing the value of information is also destroying privacy in the process – something that good old Microsoft never succeeded in doing as well or as insidiously. I’m talking about Google Street View: the absolutely disgusting way in which Street View has become a voyeurs paradise (with contests for the most embarrassing and salacious “view” abounding) is further evidence of the unfortunate impact of the way this company chooses to conduct its business.

Before I close my rant, let me return to my opening paragraph, where I call the Google/Salesforce.com alliance a significant non-event. It’s significant because potential battle lines are being drawn, with Google and Salesforce arrayed against the “old paradigm” of Microsoft, SAP, Oracle, etc. That Google wants to extend its hubris to enterprise software is significant: they must think they can do for mainstream software what they’ve done for mainstream media, the value of information, copyright, etc.

But the deal is decidedly a non-event because it’s about a pretty minor issue – Google AdWords integrated into Salesforce’s CRM. This certainly is not how Google will destroy mainstream software, nor will it further help Salesforce.com’s attempts at a ‘no software” world. Sorry, AdWords just ain’t enough to revolutionize enterprise software.

And, more importantly, Google really doesn’t have a lot to offer the enterprise customer beyond search. Google’s on-demand Office-wannabe is far behind where Microsoft is taking Office (as in, an interface to enterprise software), and Google’s understanding of the enterprise market in general is so limited that no amount of a Salesforce.com IP infusion will help.

I for one don’t look forward to the day when Google tries to make a serious play for the enterprise, if they ever do. What private information will a Google search yield about your company, when they’re done making the world’s information “universally accessible?” If you’re like me, you’d rather not find out.






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