Playing Hard Ball: Good Business or Bad Numbers

December 28, 2011

Amazon and Google are in the search game. There are some interesting interactions between the companies, and I cover one facet in an upcoming column for Information Today. Think open source, application programming interfaces, and metasearch for data fusion. But I wanted to document what look like two unrelated actions. I find the similarity of user response interesting, but I have been around long enough to know that what we note in Harrod’s Creek means little or nothing where the big boys live, work, and sit in traffic.

First, I noted “buySAFE Sues Google Over Trusted Stores Service, Fears Annihilation.” The main idea of the story is that Google is nosing into a market space where buySAFE has a tent. Here’s the passage I noted, but, alas, I don’t know if the information is spot on. I want to point it out because it suggests a certain spirit, perception, and mindset I find interesting:

[buySAFE]  claims that Google may have timed the roll-out of its free Trusted Stores program “so as to impede buySAFE’s effort to raise additional capital”, which it says it requires to expand its business. According to buySAFE, “Google’s acts and practices have a dangerous probability of driving (the company) from the market”. In fact, buySAFE says Google’s actions have “already succeeded in drastically slowing buySAFE’s annual growth rate”. And to think almost no one knows Google Trusted Stores even exists today.

Next, I saw this item about Amazon, an outfit which is losing its “we’re just booksellers” positioning with its spiraling services and products line up. Navigate to “Kindle Case Maker Calls a Corporate Bully in Federal Lawsuit.”

Is Attila’s management method getting more traction than other approaches?

I can’t get excited about Kindle cases because the gizmos lack durability. I have had six, maybe seven, and I have resigned myself to replacing them due to stuck buttons, cracked screens, broken mini USB plugs, and other issues caused because the addled goose still reads books. Here’s the passage I noted with the caveat that I have no idea if the story is accurate. Just read it for positioning:

“This case presents a classic example of unlawful corporate bullying,” according to the suit. “M-Edge developed a very successful product line: personal electronic device jackets with multiple features for the Kindle and other e-readers. Amazon thereafter repeatedly sought to hijack the product through threats, deceit, interference with M-Edge’s customer relationships, and patent infringement.”

On the surface, we have some enthusiastic business managers working to earn their bonus. However, when one thinks about the similarity in services and the companies’ interesting relationship to one another, I had several thoughts.

First, maybe despite the substantial


positive financial information reported by both firms, the management of these companies sees a benefit in circling the wagons to protect market share and revenues. In short, could 2012 looks less rosy than the talking heads on US cable news suggest?

Second, the similarity in business tactics suggests that companies which are now coalescing into de facto monopolies are doing what the trust busters in America’s distant and far off past tried to stop? If this centralization of utility services continues, will a technical fault trigger significant cascades of technical and financial events?

Third, are both firms’ search systems losing their efficacy? I have stubbed my toe with A9 and Google as recently as yesterday. I find myself running into precision and recall problems with increasing frequency. Are my disappointing search results indicative of a marginalization of this core service?

Third, the public visage of the two companies is quite different from what the profiles were three or four years ago. The kinder, more gentle approach seems to be waning. Could it be my imagination or has a more forceful approach gained the upper hand?

Worth monitoring Amazon and Google I assert.

Stephen E Arnold, December 28, 2011

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