Google and the Walled Gardens


(The title of this post sounds like a really bad band.) This is going to be one of those long posts with a lot of links, in order to connect the dots. Work with me . . .

We’ve been hearing about recent shifts in the online landscape and I wanted to take some time and outline this changes and then guess at what the potential outcomes may be.

Apple recently pulled the Goolge voice app from the app store citing an overlap with existing iPhone functionality. Apple has also recently started to ask app developers to submit a maximum, 255 character descriptions of their apps to help people find apps they’re looking for. This is only a big deal in that they did not utilize Google search. Which would have made sense, since  . . . you know . . . Google knows a little bit about search. In retaliation, Google quickly removed Apple from all search results (Joke!)

Earlier in this month, we heard that Google would be releasing a Chrome operating system soon. Google envisions the Internet as one large platform housing all things (entertainment, information and communication) with the computer (terrestrial/mobile) as access points. They will surely build OpenID into their browser/OS. With this in mind, the concept of an operating system gets a little more than muddy. Of course this is a potential intrusion onto Microsoft’s turf and in a way Microsoft started the trend by including their browser with every copy of the OS (which was seen as an unfair advantage by Netscape back in the day). The scrappy Microsoft is also fighting back with its release of search engine Bing and their new partnership with Yahoo. Now their ~7% market share and Yahoo’s ~8% market share will combine to create a crappy, yet ever threatening ~15%!

What does all this mean? At surface level, it appears as though Google wants the Internet open for all to enjoy. As any good academic does. But in reality Google is simply a powerful business; one that may need to be regulated at this point. As a business, Google is concerned with the dramatic rise of walled gardens on their lands and their ability of the upstarts to generate ad revenue: specifically Facebook & iPhone.

(Facebook’s inherent social recommendation mechanism, not its advertising, is really its strength. The same is true for Twitter but recently we’ve seen an example of Twitter controling trending, which can also be interpreted as Walled Garden behavior. (Hard to believe Twitter hasn’t heard that Digg had to relinquish their platform to their users. )

It is important to remember that Google can’t see into Facebook nor the iPhone. (Some think the only reason Google created Android is to deliver ads.) Facebook is busy creating it’s own internal landscape, enabling ecommerce along and social advertising, while Apple is busy making sure its iPhone is never open by showing the iPhone as a the threat of national security. Apple is also partnering with “all music labels” to get their new tablet to be the single source for what can only be called; the new album.  In the end, these entities are in Google’s way.

Google may partially succeed in keeping the web open, with user personas because of OpenID in Chrome (eventually FF, IE and Safari), but they will not own the advertising landscape that Facebook and the iPhone provide. These platforms circumvent Google all together. Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, who sits on Apple’s board must appreciate the competitive landscape that he is in. Apple to the left, Facebook (and potentially Firefox) to the right and Microsoft right behind him. If this were a movie, I’d sell tickets.

As for what the future holds, I think that Google will buy Twitter. I also think that Google will buy Apple at some point. (Just a gut feeling.) Maybe after Jobs is gone but I think they really want to buy them since Apple things that Google does not and more importantly wants to. I think Facebook will continue to grow for awhile and then be acquired by Microsoft. We will see.

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