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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Wednesday February 24 2010

Snapped by me earlier this evening, outside Embankment tube station:

image

So, the Evening Standard is still doing headline billboards, in a few places, if not in nearly so many as before it went free.  If you click on the October 20th picture, you’ll see that same guy, in the same spot.

The above headline about Google refers to this story, and looking back at that Samizdata posting I see that Google also featured in one of those billboards, the one I snapped on March 19th of last year.  That story was about the privacy worries associated with Google photo-ing every street in the world.

2009 culminated, in London, in a huge flood of adverts for Google’s Chrome operating system.  One of the Oxford Circus platforms that I photoed on December 30th had nothing but Google adverts:

image

It’s an irony that one of the biggest forces in the world undermining the use of adverts in dull old meatspace should now be making such lavish use of that same space.  I guess you could say they drove the price down, and then took the deal themselves.

Am I imagining it, or was 2009 the year that Google went from huge to the top spot in their line of business, overtaking Microsoft?  They certainly seem to be attracting a lot more attention now than ever before, both with their own adverts and – surely not coincidentally – in the form of increased media coverage of their every other move, triumph or quarrel.  There is that big China thing, still boiling away, and I vaguely remember some spat they got involved in in Australia, which sounds a lot like the row in Italy referred to above.

My Guru, my Mr Man who Does For Me, computerwise, thinks that Google are absolutely not to be trusted, and are best avoided.  They know everything about everyone, and the rewards for them behaving badly with all that knowledge can only grow and grow.

That rather fits with my prejudice, which says that the virtues that any person or thing most volubly aspires to tend to be the ones he or it feels that he or it lacks.  And the virtue that Google aspires to is the daddy of them all, virtue itself.  Don’t, Google says to itself, not caring at all who overhears, be evil.  This tells us that Google is sorely tempted to be just that.  The way things are playing out in China just now does look decidedly evil.

But I could just be babbling there.  Comments anyone?  Does Google now rule the (computing) world?  And if it does, is that good, or bad, or what?

Well, if you ask the stockmarket, it tells you that right now Microsoft is worth $251 billion, Apple is worth $181 billion and Google $169 billion. Read into that what you will.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 25 February 2010

They seem to have to some extent replaced Microsoft at being the most controversial computer company.  I remember when blogs and forums were full of people denouncing Microsoft for ignoring standards and spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt about Linux. All that noise has died down.  It its place, a lot of noise about whether Google knows too much, can be trusted, and so on.

So if noise is proportional to importance, Google probably is the daddy.

As for staying away from them, well, there’s something of a trade-off between security and convenience.  But it’s not a straight trade-off because you could do everything yourself and end up doing it in a less secure way than if you had got Google (or some other company) to do it for you.  (’It’ being pretty much anything now that cloud computing is the buzzword of the day.)

Some interesting links:  Google talks about being hacked in China, which leads to doubt about whether cloud computing (a way of sub-contracting out your IT infrastructure) is secure enough: http://searchengineland.com/after-the-googlehack-33508

Google adds a new feature to its email client that exposes lists of people’s email contacts to the outside world without them necessarily being aware of it.  Speculation about how accidental this was ensues.  It could be a big problem if you’re an Iranian dissident, but then again you probably already have problems: http://www.freedom-to-tinker.com/blog/rmackinnon/google-buzzkill

Does Google rule the world?  In certain spaces: search; advertising; email; maps; I would say yes.  In other things: browsers (e.g. Chrome); mobile phones (Android vs iPhone vs others); social networking (Twitter vs Facebook vs Google Buzz); office infrastructure (Microsoft vs Google Apps); I would say no.

I’d also say that no matter who rules a given roost now, the speed of turnover seems only to increase.  IBM rules for longer than Microsoft, who ruled for longer than I imagine Google will.  There seem to be a lot of things happening around social networking and real-time search that could turn out to be very important but that nobody really understands how to do well yet, least of all Google.  See Robert Scoble’s blog (e.g. http://scobleizer.com/2010/02/22/coming-soon-the-disruptive-molecular-age-of-information/ ) for more about that.

I could also just be babbling.

Posted by Rob Fisher on 25 February 2010

Rob

Thanks.  That didn’t sound to me a bit like babbling, and was just the kind of response I was hoping for.

Thanks in particular for the links.  And isn’t it great that the links don’t disappear of the right hand side of the page, like they do in some places.  Or is that merely because I am using Chrome, rather than IE or Firefox?

Or is it simply because the links contain hyphens rather than underlinings between words?

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 25 February 2010

Michael

Rob mentioned IBM, and I can definitely remember when they ruled computing.  And they’ve made a bit of a comeback on the quiet, have they not?  So how much are they worth now?

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 25 February 2010

Brian: As of right now, $165bn. So still quite a lot. (Oracle $121bn. Cisco $137bn. Hewlett Packard $118bn. Vodafone $114bn. AT&T;$145bn. Verizon $71bn. Nokia $48bn. Dell $25bn. Compare with Sony $33bn. Disney $60bn. News Corporation $34bn. Time Warner $32bn).

It may be that part of the life cycle of such companies is that they lose their vibrancy but by the time they do they are so ingrained in the way most corporations work that their cash flow from business customers declines little if at all. IBM is that kind of beast and Microsoft is becoming it. They remain profitable but have little relevance to you or me when we are not at work. Google is perhaps in an earlier stage of being that sort of company. Apple always somehow remains itself though.

That said, Apple and Google seem to be fighting over the same businesses a lot more than they were. Not sure why this is.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 25 February 2010

Am I imagining it, or was 2009 the year that Google went from huge to the top spot in their line of business, overtaking Microsoft?

Which line of business?

There is no line of business which is “stuff related to computers”.

Google makes a huge amount of money selling advertising.

Microsoft makes a huge amount of money selling office software and servers (and operating systems to run them with).

They’re not really competing, currently. (And I’m not sanguine about Google’s chances in Microsoft’s core markets, really.)

(And on the points made in the comments, I don’t think market capitalization is useful.

Imagine if Google had never gone public, and had gotten private funding to get it where it is now; their market cap would be zero.

The only thing market cap measures is the cost of a hostile takeover, really. It’s a horrible measure.)

Posted by Sigivald on 26 February 2010

It’s true up to a point that Google is an advertising company, because that’s where their money comes from, but they wouldn’t be selling advertising if they didn’t first have search, and to a lesser extent email and the other stuff.  Microsoft also have search (Bing), and they’re presumably doing it to help the money making bits of their business too.  So there is competition of a sort between Microsoft and Google.

Google Apps vs Microsoft is also competition, although it’s very uncertain which way of doing things will win.  I’d say “not really competing” is only true for certain values of “really”.

Posted by Rob Fisher on 26 February 2010

Hi Brian, You’re right, I was in London over Christmas and I too was stunned by the amount of Google Chrome ads everywhere (Not just on the platform posters, but up the escalators as well). I think they have massive intentions for the future and will probably be the first ones to bring out fridges that dial out for milk and cd players that buy from amazon.

Personally I like my Firefox and nobody will stop me.

Posted by Spencer Jackson on 01 March 2010
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