Google's Strategy to Be Everything to Everyone = FAIL

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2011-06-27 Print this article Print

Do you fear Google has its ladle in too many drinking wells online, so much so that it had diluted the company's quality? Are Google's only strengths search and advertising? These are important questions whose answers may well determine the company's future.

Jean-Louis Gassée, general partner for Allegis Capital normally focuses on the mobile ecosystem, but he has just published a nifty little analysis of Google's strategy of being everything to everyone, or as he calls it less eloquently: "Google's SOE (Strategy of Everything)."

Gassée compares Google's variegated Web services buckets as a periodic table. Actually, he uses Google's own API/code table to make his argument:

Google periodic table.png Click to view Google Periodic Table of Web Services

The breadth of Google's Web coverage is as astounding as it is fallible. I believe Gassée is correct when he observes that quality falls when companies try to fill too many gaps in the ecosystem. More on that later. Let's look at Google's raison d'etre, as Gassée added this salient point:

Google's one and only goal is to sell advertising. The path to this goal requires ''radiation pressure'': Google wants to make sure we don't escape their ads. They want to insert themselves into all aspects of our lives, to find out much as they can about as many aspects, activities, and relationships as possible.

Advertising is why this one company, which started with search, expanded to bigger buckets such as Gmail, and then to Android, Chrome, and, for the love of tech, fiber. Heck, have you seen YouTube lately? It's one big ad with some videos for good measure.

It's also why Google added things like Sidewiki and a DNS and a URL shortener and several other little to moderately used services.

Moreover, with $36 billion in available case and no apparent shortage in search ad dollars, which brought the company $30 billion last year, Google can afford to throw a Google Music, Google Wallet or Google Offers against the wall and see if they stick.

The company is event experimenting with getting Android to power whole home appliances, from lights to refrigerators to stereos.

Right now, there is no apparent money-making opportunity there... unless Google aims to run ads for Coke and other goods on a display built into an Android-powered fridge. Don't laugh, if Google can find a way to show ads, it will.

So why is "spray and pray bad?"

Gassée said quality is a problem: "When you're constantly pushing out new applications and services that compete on so many fronts, quality suffers. Bugs are inevitable, support is erratic, apps suffer from a "UI by -- and for - Engineers" syndrome."

Absolutely -- it's logical to conclude that on long enough timeline of product sweep and creeo, quality will suffer. Not every Google team is crack and has the chops to dominate.

Other problems with some of these services -- not the big bets like Android or Chrome -- are that the barrier to entry is so low that anyone can do them, and most already have.

There is no room for scale in DNS when a bunch of companies already dominate, or in URL shorteners, where is excellent and companies like Twitter have an advantage of requiring the shortener to succeed.

LinkedIn is doing well in its business niche, but Facebook has proven the world only requires one huge social network to be hugely successful. Google's only hope there is to add little social strokes to accompany Facebook's massive palette.

All of this is to say that if you pull out the search or ad stool, Google is a melange of often subpar Web services. No magic would be left.

To my mind, what Gassée has done is laid out how vulnerable Google is despite all the claims to its abuses of power in search and ads. Google should point the Federal Trade Commission investigating it to analyses like his to show just how thready its lifeline is.

It would be much more effective than those hollow, rote claims about "consumer choice." |

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