Katie Benner, a writer published on the Bloomberg View web site, presented a hypothesis about Google on January 13, 2015. She questions whether some of Google’s recent features, what I would call its edges, are familiar because they are characteristic of another very large tech company – Microsoft. But has she actually rounded these edges to render an otherwise sloppy picture into something somewhat more appealing?
The title of Benner’s article is Google is the New Microsoft. Uh-Oh.
The sticking points, for me, in her characterization of Google as a maturing tech business “print[ing] money” are some otherwise simple mistakes Google has made, which are NOT the kind of mistakes worth anyone’s sympathy. Unfortunately Benner doesn’t talk to these points.
What she does opine about is her portrait of “innovation” (an otherwise meaningless abstraction if there ever was one) as an elusive quality of product development existing somewhere beyond the grasp of “hugely profitable compan[ies]”, like Microsoft.
What is missing from the piece is Benner’s definition of “innovation”. Is it safe to say she does not consider Google Glass to be “innovation?” What about the driverless car? Or, finally, what about inexpensive DNA profiling? As anyone following Google is aware, each of the above products have emerged from the “Googleplex” (the last is offered by a company headed up by Sergey Brin’s wife, 23andme).
So, to follow the point further, if the above products are not examples of innovation, would it be safe to assume Benner is talking to a definition of the term perhaps closer to what Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, presented last year, when he positioned his business as an enterprise focused on delivering solutions to enhance personal productivity? In an earlier post to this blog I wrote on this point, with reference to an article Irving Wladawsky-Berger wrote last year for the Wall Street Journal’s CIO Blog on the concept (readers need only review The Science of Innovation to get a glimpse of how Wladawsky-Berger understands “innovation”).
To wrap up this exposition, then why doesn’t Benner include Microsoft along with Apple in her ranks of large businesses capable of “innovating core products”. Unfortunately I can not answer these points as, in my opinion, Benner’s article rounds off these hard edges. I would have preferred to see them nailed together into a tight frame for Google’s mistakes, which I regret, are perhaps a lot more pedestrian and far removed from any notion of “innovation”.
The biggest of these, and the most recent as far as my gaining cognizance of its existence, is Google’s architecture for its Android IP business. Deciding not to update some comparatively recent versions of this O/S is a wrong decision not likely to win Google many friends from the OEM community, nor from end consumers. Certainly the decision to abandon these versions was correctable, and a rather simple thing to fix without a lot of buzz about “innovation”.
Ira Michael Blonder
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