Google and Real Motivation

November 29, 2009

Get ready. The addled goose is going to assert that a former, real, live Google employee may be looking at the tail of the brontosaurus, not at the whole beastie. Exciting for sure.

Venture Beat’s “What Are Google’s Real Motivations behind Chrome OS?” reminded me about the strengths and weaknesses of the received wisdom about Google. On the positive side, comments about Google provide clear statements of obvious Google activities. For example, consider this statement:

Chrome OS is Google’s latest entry into the consumer space. It is designed to be an operating system that runs on customized hardware and provides the user with only a state-of-the art browser running  HTML-5 and some plugins.

The comments are given additional authority because the author can state:

As a disclosure, I am a former Google employee, having worked there from 2002 to 2008, but I don’t have any inside information on this project. In fact I didn’t even know of its existence before I left.

That comment makes clear the downside of the received wisdom—Employees of Google do not have much, if any, perspective on the broader technologies that Google has in its bag of tricks. In fact, I sold a copy of my first Google book to a Googler, who shall remain nameless. His comment to me was, “I had no idea.”

There you have it.

Getting a perspective on Google’s billions of dollars of investment in technology is tough. The company’s senior mangers (about 150 when I did my last count) don’t provide much information to employees and even less to those outside the company. Not surprisingly, when Google moves in a new direction with a baby step product / service like Wave or Chrome, the discussion rambles hither and yon about the “real motivations”.

Give me a break.

The motivations for Google’s senior managers have been clearly stated by the company for a long, long time. Here’s my short list:

  1. Monopolize information, information access, and information services without making the mistakes Microsoft did
  2. Become a big company, a $100 billion is a target I have heard mentioned a couple of times
  3. Disrupt and exploit opportunities these disruptions create
  4. Use basic methods of information control to make it tough for people to see the end game
  5. Exploit the Google infrastructure (scale, cost performance advantages, rapid deployment, iterative development, etc.).

I probably left out a couple of points, but there is no mystery behind any Google product or service.

Who is the target of Chrome? Forget whether Chrome is good, bad or indifferent as software goes. The point is to poke a small hole in a Microsoft revenue stream. Enough holes means that Microsoft will implode because its need for cash is huge and there are only a couple of solid revenue streams for Microsoft. Microsoft has been trying to cut off Google’s money supply for a decade and so far, Microsoft has failed. Google is using Chrome as one more rapier thrust. If Chrome fails, Google will try another sword. Chrome and other Google products map to the strategy of disruption.

Employees drink Google-doped Kool-Aid and have as tough a time figuring out what Google is doing. Googlers appear to have lots of free but in reality engineers rarely stray far from their core love and competencies. As a result, clumps of Googlers work on project those people enjoy. Asking them to comment on what Dr. Guha is doing is going to elicit a “who’s he” response. I asked about a major Google acquisition and the senior manager replied, “I didn’t know we owned that company.”

To get a better perspective on what Google is going to roll out in the months ahead, you might want to buy a copy of my Google trilogy and read about the specific engineering investments that Google has * made * (not is making) in technology that will severely disrupt a number of business sectors. For telecommunications, Google’s been there and done that. Now telco is a mopping up exercise. I heard a podcaster with a huge audience say that Android would challenge the iPhone. Telcos were not on this person’s radar any longer.

It is important that other business sectors understand the Google technical capabilities. Former Googlers, pundits, mavens, SEO experts, and azure chip consultants are describing the here-and-now. Google’s next-day actions are the ones that are going to make the greatest impact. Have you read a Google technical paper today? Nah, it is easier to read the recycled received wisdom, right?

Stephen Arnold, November 29, 2009

I too must disclose to the Securities & Exchange Commission no less that I was not  paid to write this opinion. I bet quite a few pundits writing about what Google did are getting lots of money to explain the past with 20/20 vision. Too bad, Google’s future actions are the ones that are unsolved mysteries.


One Response to “Google and Real Motivation”

  1. Googleverse on November 30th, 2009 6:52 am

    Google’s real motivatiom will only become clear when Chrome OS will be available to general public and when it comes out of beta.

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