Imagine Google as your phone carrier. What? You can't? We can't either. Heading into 2011, here are five reasons why Google won't make that leap from search power to carrier.
CNNMoney.com Dec. 30 offered a compelling piece arguing that Google could
become a phone carrier that competes with Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile
and others in the United States.
David Goldman argued
that the search and Web services provider has
established the Android operating system
as a popular platform, has tried to
sell unlocked phones online and is experimenting with providing ultra-high-speed
broadband via Google Fiber
, the free phone management service, is the company's
ace in the hole, Goldman believes. All of these efforts are geared to drive
greater adoption of Google's search and Web services.
eWEEK can think of many reasons why Google wouldn't go there, but, assuming
Google was willing to spend $20 billion or so of its $33 billion in cash building
out the required infrastructure, here are five good ones as 2011 gets under way.
1) Incumbents Despise Competition
Competition among carriers is so cutthroat that the idea that Google might
throw its hat into the carrier ring must feel like treason to Verizon, AT&T
and other incumbents that have embraced Android on several smartphones. These
carriers wouldn't take kindly to Google encroaching on their turf. MG Siegler
at TechCrunch corners
this competition well. Such a move could seriously chill
carriers' adoption of Android.
2) Congress Calling
Silicon Alley Insider's Matt Rosoff underlined
a key reason why Google won't become a carrier:
Verizon and AT&T spent more than $7 million in the third quarter of 2010
lobbying the government. With that kind of political sway, it's highly unlikely
folks on Capitol Hill will allow Google to proceed as a carrier. The powers
that be would bring the full scourge of the Justice Department and Federal
Trade Commission on Google for trying such an audacious move.
3) Public Trust
If Congress is on the fence, consumer privacy advocates such as the Consumer
Watchdog will surely tip it toward the side of the carriers. Google's prospects
as a phone carrier take on a dim light when one considers the company's trust
level is at an all-time low following its WiSpy
and Google Buzz
privacy issues. Privacy peeps won't easily cotton to
the notion of Google owning the broadband pipes and spectrum airwaves. These
groups don't require proof to allege that Google will tap people's phone lines
and conduct gross deep packet inspection if it is allowed to become a carrier.
The cries of Google as Big Brother from 1984 will echo throughout the halls on
Capitol Hill, fueled by the paranoia that Google has indeed grown too big for
People associate Google with search, and perhaps Gmail, in the United
States and abroad. Adding carrier to the
superlatives mantel is a tricky fine line to walk when Google hasn't even
demonstrated the marketing savvy to effectively communicate and sell products
such as its Nexus One smartphone or Google TV. How would it possibly appear on
consumers' choice horizons as a carrier and then get them to buy in? We think
this extremely unlikely.
5) Today's Choices Are Good Enough
Despite massive grousing by consumers when their calls get dropped from one
city to the next, we don't need another carrier. The Big Four have the glut of America
covered, with smaller providers such as U.S. Cellular filling in spots in the
great Midwest. Unless Google provides something that is empirically
proven to be faster and more robust and provides a cost savings to users over
existing plans-anyone else tired of paying $70 to $200 a month for voice and
data under current carrier rates?-the market won't bear it.
Google Ad Infinitum
Something to consider: Let's say Google worked out some deal with Verizon,
AT&T and others to make them amenable to letting the company play in the
carrier game. And let's say the government welcomed Google with open arms.
Would you want Google to be your wireless carrier? In short, would Google be
crossing a psychological barrier of people picking Google to be the proprietor
and manager of not only their search and Web services, but the broadband pipes
and airwaves to deliver it?
If Google can do that, what is to stop it from creating its own media mecca,
creating a Google TV network and playing against NBC, CBS, Fox and ABC?
How far down the rabbit hole can we go with Google?
Something to mull as you start your 2011. Happy New Year.