Google has announced a souped-up version of online application suite Google Apps. The (un)creatively named ‘Premier’ edition offers enhanced functionality, more online storage, phone support and a bunch of other corporate-friendly features. All with a 99.9% uptime guarantee, for a flat USD50/person/year. Not just a tempting offer for small businesses who want to avoid spend on IT infrastructure — Google has already signed up Procter and Gamble and General Electric as flagship clients.
Sounds like value to us — importantly Google have also published programming interfaces for their office suite, so that third-party developers (or switched-on corporate IT departments who see which way the wind is turning and want to continue to justify their salaries) can enhance and tweak functionality. All that virtual team collaboration stuff? Already in place. Blackberry integration? Soon, probably. Yawn, then take a deep breath: next comes the modern bit.
Google Apps is the first mainstream system to give business users tools which really begin to acknowledge the cloud, tools which aspire to the benefits of those long-used by Linux hackers and wikipedians; tools with which to engage and work with strangers or competitors for mutual advantage. They aren’t there yet — Google’s initial focus is to get some traction in the mundane worlds of word-processing and data-crunching — but the trajectory is easy to plot: on- and up-wards into business-focussed social media. The challenge is to reshape — or re-create — traditional business processes into a form where they can really profit from such tools.
Companies find it difficult enough to move from Flash-heavy websites crammed with stale corporate nonsense, to actual conversation with their audience. It will be much harder for most to find a path on which they can make their borders more porous, their processes more diffuse, their knowledge more open, and yet still have an edge. But adoption of tools like Google Apps — even in their current early form — might serve to redirect people’s attention up from their desks, out through their screens, and into the cloud where the world is. It’s a start. Wait and see.
As soon as the Google/YouTube deal was confirmed, YouTubers were busy yakking about it into their webcams. Fears over increased advertising and the sheer size and influence of Google seem to be the main themes. This of course gives Google a live and evolving focus group of users to help them decide if not what to do (we strongly suspect they already have a Big Plan — if not several) then how to do it. On the corporate side, Google are also having to assuage client News Corps’ fears about their burgeoning media empire… suddenly that scary little film about Googlezon doesn’t look so fanciful…
Google continues its onslaught into Microsoft’s territory with the launch of a spreadsheet application.
Why is this interesting? Well, for a start it has significant implications for advertisers — after all, you can’t advertise in Windows, can you (although we suspect that Microsoft’s ‘Live’ offerings in the next version of Windows will be edging closer to that)? As ZDNet points out:
What better application could you think of to embed ads into than one that people use for budgeting and price comparisons?
Google will be watching carefully who uses Spreadsheet and what they use it for. Once the company has proved the application and gathered enough usage data, then it’ll launch an AdWords option for Spreadsheet and start to test its viability as a vehicle for contextual ads.
Google seems to be following the same line Ronald Reagan took with the Russians in the 1980s (“Is Google the new Microsoft?”, May 13th). Reagan speeded up the break-up of the Soviet Union by forcing it to spend beyond its means on weaponry to defend against perceived, but actually unreal, threats such as the Star Wars programme.
In much the same way, Google is throwing up many cheap-but-flashy initiatives that force Microsoft to spend huge sums in order to contain perceived, but probably illusory, market threats. Can we not anticipate the same outcome: the break-up of software’s acknowledged evil empire and the emergence of its captive technologies into the world of fair competition?
Google trends is the latest demonstration from Google that it understands us more than we understand ourselves. It’s also part of Google’s reaffirmed emphasis on search since diversifications such as Google Video and Google print.
Our initial searches would indicate that porn is rapidly encroaching on news in terms of volume… especially in Manchester…
However. Note to Google: if you want this blogged, make it easy a la Technorati.
Google sells users WiFi in return for ads that will follow them around.
The FT reports today that Google and Earthlink have beaten five other bidders for a contract to blanket San Francisco with WiFi coverage. The ‘catch’ is that users will be tracked to within 100 or 200 feet and beamed ads from local businesses in exchange for wireless internet access.
The service is likely to take six to eight months before it’s up and running and expect lots of debate re the privacy implications of proximity advertising before then. As the FT points out, this kind of marketing has been possible since the proliferation of bluetooth on mobile phones but — with the exception of kids bluejacking each other — very little has been done to exploit it commercially. Google is already teaching people about the possibilities of location-based tech with Google Earth and the already notorious Gawker Stalker Maps (which uses Google Maps to flag celebrity sitings in New York) — and what better way for local businesses to find customers? Beats the ‘Golf Sale Here’ sign anyday.
As far as the internet ecosystem is concerned, Google is the weather.
Nice quote, but this week Wall Street was disappointed by Google’s only-just-under-90% growth, and their share price dipped accordingly. Glitch, or is the magic starting to fade? We tend to believe that Google will be around a while longer, and that they’ve got a few more profound changes to bring to our lives before BST calls GOOG a SELL. Over at CNN, they’ve polished up their crystal ball and written up a nice summary of the Googly futures predicted by some of the world’s most influential futurists (hate that word!), including George Dyson and Ray Kurzweill. Their scenarios? Take your pick between:
Google is the Media
Google is the Internet
Google is Dead
Google is God
We’ve been pushing the Google Is the Media angle in some recent posts here, and we’ve covered the God theory before as well…
The strategic sleight of hand behind the successes of the second dotcom boom.
How long ago it seems, the dotcom bubble and bust. To our eyes, there are two real differences-which-make-a-difference between the first dotcoms and what’s going on at the moment:
There’s a touch of the vaudeville magician about the current crop of dotcoms: while distracting their consumers (and the markets) with simplicity and openness, they make their money (and are betting their futures) on plans for media empires to rival anything we’ve seen before.
While punters are having fun with these new toys — uploading their photos, posting to their blogs, gawping at the bigshinything — those same consumers are themselves building, click by click, from the online terra nulla, new media territories where tomorrow the future of marketing and sales will be decided through products and services sold back to them via the channels they themselves have created. Brilliant!
As evidence, we offer the following:
Google is still viewed as a search engine, but its revenue (and future) depends on its footprint as a media owner: every Google brand extension gives it more media surface on which to plant its ads — and as for targetting, who knows what you want better than Google?
The must-have iPod probably only really exists to get iTunes onto people’s desktops, and to thus give Steve Job’s growing media empire an early mover advantage in owning media delivery in the next decade — leveraging both brand loyalty with consumers and his success in getting traditional content owners to actually sign up for online delivery — a major triumph given their conservatism.
Skype wants ‘the world to call for free’, but still makes its margin from the extras it offers which allow Skypers to interact with the world of traditional telephony.
For these magicians, a little prestidigitation to keep the brand simple also makes it easier to expand or change the real business plan without having to worry whether its on-brand or not, and without really letting consumers into the secret that they’ve been charmed into doing all the hard work of building the market for them.
It’s not just consumers being roped in to create the very markets in which the dotcoms wish to sell. The most savvy of these businesses offer out their services for others to innovate with.
Got a clever idea for a location-based service? Use Google Maps for the interface, and concentrate on the bit of your business that’s unique. Want to add voice chat to your dating site? You don’t need to spend millions on infrastructure, just build it using Skype. Google, Skype, Flickr and the rest make it easy for other people’s clever ideas to come to market: each business using their services increases their media surface and earns them some incremental revenue. Individual bloggers might add a few new pages for Google ads — a startup using Google Maps might just kick-start a whole new category of media in its own right. Lowering the bar for other clever businesses is a low-risk investment in the 99.9999% of innovation that happens outside the established dotcoms themselves.
These then are what the volume businesses for the 21st century look like — billion-dollar enterprises with cuddly, fun brands and friend-get-friend appeal, which offer access to their core services ‘for free’ to other innovators in return for new media opportunities in the ecosystems they encourage to flourish around them. And so far, it works: not only are these upstarts making obscene amounts of money, they’ve jump-started a new wave of creative systems and services. Look on their works ye traditional media giants, and despair.
Rumours abound that Google is about to launch a rival to Apple’s iTunes.
A posting on Slashdot flags a Forbes report in which an analyst predicts that Google may be making a move into online music distribution:
Robert Peck speculated that it makes sense for Google to create a rival for the popular iTunes service by Apple Computer, given the explosive growth of unique visitors to the iTunes’ Web site. Further, ‘Nielsen indicates that iTunes users form a distinct target audience with brand preferences along autos, alcohol beverages, magazines, and television,’ he added.
Google began the week an online hero after refusing the US government access to its data. And then it launched a self-censored service in China …
Brandrepublic US reports that Google is now facing legal action from the US Department of Justice. George Bush’s administration claims that it needs the information in order to defend an internet child pornography law that is unrelated to Google and that has been struck down by the Supreme Court. Google has refused this request on a number of grounds including that the request was vague and unduly burdensome, and that it would reveal trade secrets. Not to mention representing a massive infringement of civil liberties. Nicole Wong, a lawyer for Google, said:
Google is not party to this lawsuit and their demand for information overreaches. We had lengthy discussions with them to try to resolve this, but were not able to and we intend to resist their motion vigorously.
And then the story gets rather more murky. The Financial Times points out that Google does not actually cite privacy as the primary reason for refusing to comply. Instead, the company’s main objection is to the government’s attempt to use its ‘highly proprietary’ search database to access and use to defend its position in court. Fair enough – Google has a right to protect its brand. But maybe in today’s United States the ‘personal privacy’ card just isn’t worth playing.
To make for more transparency in the discussion on Google’s censorship in China, I’ve collected a selection of search results which differ in Google.cn and Google.com. For example, for the keyword “Tibet” over 33 million pages seem to be missing on Google.cn.
So much for the company’s much vaunted ‘don’t be evil’ code.