The best monopoly the world has ever seen

The amount of complete gibberish I am reading about the HTC-Google deal is phenomenal.  You don’t need particular insight to see what is happening.  Nor do conspiracy theories help or those “grand scheme” type wackos that explain how it is “just the first step” of something enormous we all don’t understand.

Google is keeping the Android ecosystem healthy.  Google is doing what no government is fast enough or decisive enough to do.  Bailing out a company with something good to offer the world.  Much like Motorola before that.  No, the plan is not to “kill Apple” with some super phone.  Quite the opposite.  Pixel phones will continue to be in short supply.  They are not meant to be iPhone killers.  They are simply tools to show the way ahead.  Not light years ahead, just the next year.

Being a monopoly, much like being a dictator, is not an easy job.  You have to make everyone look good and take a back seat even when minor things don’t go your way.  Wait for everyone to get onboard instead of issuing marching orders and killing them off.  AndroidOne is an excellent example of the “try, try again” approach.  Sure, they could force everyone in a number of ways.  When you own most of the searches on the planet, YouTube, Google Maps and other prime everyday tools, it would be easy to force people.  But Google isn’t Facebook and it isn’t Apple.  “Do no evil” means “wait until they all think they want what you want them to do.”

Google isn’t “challenging its partners” as some ignoramous wrote in the Verge.  Selling off Motorola wasn’t an admission of failure.  The Android ecosystem looks much healthier with Lenovo and Motorola and Nokia in it.  In essence they are all Google, all marketing and selling machines that make money for Google.  Google learnt from Microsoft’s mistakes: Never make it too obvious that you control the whole technology platform.  Microsoft and Apple are welcome diversions in this respect, making Google look like less of a monopoly than it really is.  They kick up a big fuss about whatever silly little project they are launching all the time, keep press and people busy thinking about something else.

Google is an awe inspiring monopoly.  It controls most of the answers to the planet’s questions.  Never in history has one institution had such power.  I ask it if it will rain tomorrow, how to get to my next appointment and why Hitler didn’t attack in Dunkirk.  Google knows how many iPhone Apple will sell in Indonesia better than Apple does.  They have probably correlated it to search queries on peanut butter or something.

So if some idiot journalist wants to wax lyrical about it’s “failure to make a feature phone and grab market share” just do what Google does:  smile and ignore.

Google is evil. But not like you imagine it is.

“Ah, yes, you’re the guy that has a thing against Google.”

It wasn’t the best of introductions but I knew what he was on about. I do have “a thing” with Google.  I am jealous as hell!  Because a select few people in Google are literally the closest a homo sapiens has ever come to being an all knowing God.

This is not some conspiracy theory.  Some time ago Google started hiding search results.  Out of on thousand people coming to a website via Google search, almost nine hundred are now a blank slate.  Google doesn’t tell us which keyword sent them here.  “Unknown search terms” is their way of admitting they are evil.

Worse still, the kind of keywords not appearing in results is far from random.  Google has used all their deep learning algorithm prowess to skilfully select categories so you can’t game or reverse engineer it.  Even in languages other than English, their technology is awesome.  90 per cent of the planet is using a search engine which then sends them to results based on a completely secret method.  And then it tells us nothing about where and how it did it.

So what?  Well, for starters, Google can hide or promote any idea, product, brand or other entity.  There are extreme examples, whereby a government or rich person pays them to do it.  Relegating a search result to page two of search results is usually good enough, though I have seen cases where the unwanted result disappears completely after on phone call.  Completely.  Like it never existed.

But that isn’t the biggest issue.  The real question nobody is asking is “how does Google sell all this knowledge?”  If you want to know what teenagers in your region will be buying tomorrow, Google can tell you.  Yes, it can sell you the information.  The corellations between search results and real life transactions and trends are pure gold.  Google knows if your next export idea is good or not.  Google knows what will sell and what will fail.  Much like they did with influenza, Google knows better than anyone at any time in human history, what is going to happen tomorrow.

All large organizations have more or less secret divisions.  When Microsoft decided to target governments all around the world, they didn’t call the division “blackmail and coerce department”.  It was lobbying.   Unfortunately Google works in much shadier ways.   Kings of industry have personal and secret relationships with Google.  Not their “head of sales” or “head of Research and Development”.  It is outside the office where this sort of information is exchanged.  Like insider information for the stock market only much much more powerful.

Google not only knows which government will win the elections, Google can greatly influence the result.  Google doesn’t even care, they can sell advertising and information to everyone on all sides involved.  Their rising levels of secrecy and the pittance of data they do allow us access to proves Google is more powerful to do evil than any other organisation in the history of mankind.

Google can destroy you. “You” being anyone and anything. Scary?

I remember the debate in some English Literature class: will the future be like George Orwell’s “1984” or Aldus Huxley’s “Brave New World”?  I am a social media scientist by nature it seems because Huxley was always where I would put my money.  But the “soma” of our time isn’t a drug, it is information.   And one company seems to be controlling it all.

I was chuckling to myself while watching the hilarious “Google autocompleter” video.   I almost posted it on Facebook.  But I have worried too long about this to fall into the trap.  Google is not evil as per se.   Google is wielding the biggest weapon ever to exist in human history.  Let’s hope it doesn’t get too evil with it.  But what harm is there in April fool day’s pranks like Gmail motion?

It is getting worse than free.   When Google decides to put all companies related to GPS, mapping and anything related to pasture it is one thing.   Spending gazillions creating Google Maps, navigation software, and even promoting services around this ecosystem is worrying for competitors, annoying for lawmakers (since they don’t seem to have a profit making reason to do it) but useful for end users.  OK, it disrupted a major developing industry in ways we can’t even decipher yet.   Losing money on video serving via YouTube on a scale unimaginable to any corporation for years however is quite another thing.  It looks crazy and I wonder why other corporations aren’t emulating the “free” model.   Give away something really enormous in order to hook customers on something seemingly unrelated.

The silly little spoof video just puts it a step further in my mind.   Google can buy or create content to disrupt the world even more! Why stop at making all books available online for free? (Whether their authors want to or not…)  In a way, they are lucky Steve Jobs is almost dead because he is the only person with the cash and the will to do something similar.   They can just buy the rights to anything they like and use it to gain eyeballs.   It would be the equivelant of BP buying distribution rights to a popular sitcom or Pampers to the next “Cars” movie and then using the publicity or forcing consumers to do something in order to enjoy their favorite show/film.   It would be like Nike buying out FIFA and stopping the final of the World Cup to say “we want you all to ‘like’ our page on facebook or we will stop the game!”

Except Google is smarter than that.   Google has managed to keep looking like the underdog in everything it does. Google makes every evil step it takes towards an unimaginable monopoly in the search for information look like a legitimate one.   For the common good even.   It is Big Brother wearing a Tshirt and sneakers.   It is the equivelant of “soma” in Huxley’s brave new world, like a drug that keeps everyone happy, a glut of information that keeps us sedate and unable to act.

If you aren’t too scared of getting on Google’s black list, use the comment box below to leave a response…  But the Thought Police will know instantly!

Using paradigms to find opportunities: how an inkjet is like a coffee machine

“So people get this 100 euro coffee machine, but then have to pay almost double the price for the capsules?”  I love consulting because you get to play with different business problems every day.  “This sounds a bit too much like the ink jet business!”   They are selling the machines below cost to people tired of instant coffee.   Or those annoyed at the complexities of semi automatic ones.   But they are then killing them with the consumables.

“Why don’t you make a machine that simply refills capsules?”  Technically much much easier than ink jet cartridges.   There are no electronics, it is simply a plastic cup full of coffee.  In most cases, not even under pressure or in a vacuum.   And the available selection is terrible, just 3 or 4 tastes per manufacturer.   All you need is a machine that grinds coffee and puts it in little plastic buckets with a seal on top.  You could even install these machines at…ink jet refillers.  (Techies drink a lot of coffee.)   The margins are great and the taste will be better (freshly ground coffee).  Consumer choice increased.  There are no real licensing issues.   If they can navigate around a complex machine-chemical interaction like ink jets, they can do coffee.

It is a point that has often struck me.   The first time I met up with big wigs from the U.S. arm of InFocus projectors I asked: “why don’t you make a bespoke system of interchangeable lenses?”   I have been using Canon cameras all my life because of my lens collection.  Whether you are trying to make a monopoly or break one, it is often some peripheral which points the way.   If you have deep enough pockets, you can sponsor the transition; in times of economic crisis this is a form of lending.

A bit like giving a capsule coffee machine as a wedding present but then selling them the capsules…