Google Beats FTC, Creates Whole New Tier of “Renegade-ism”
"As it became clear the FTC had its sights set on the company, Google recognized it had no choice but to mature or risk its own “Microsoft moment.” In the months to follow, the company embarked on a coordinated push to expand its lobbying balance sheet, donate more to lawmakers, connect better with public-interest groups and make new friends in the academic community, many sources told POLITICO.”
On one hand: It’s nice to see that Google matured past thinking their original defense: “We promise we’re trying to help the world, not hurt it” alone would beat FTC antitrust wing-clipping. Thank god. I love you. You make my life easy and, because you grew up, are still allowed to make my life easy.
On the other: my underground high school kid roots are flaring up just a bit, and a thin-but-there-for-sure blanket of sad nostalgia has settled around my perception of Google as a renegade. As Politico so eloquently put it, “the traditional outsiders worked the system from the inside.”
A single tear as an initial gut reaction. But waaaiiit a second…
In beating the FTC this time around, is the internet giant more or less of a renegade, and, as a result: more or less of an antitrust risk, more of less quickly moving toward a goal of untouchable global information monopoly?
Gut reaction 2: Probably more.
Now that Google has crystallized its ability to defend itself on a whole new playing field, (legitimate massive corporation vs. Silicon Valley tech startup) Washington politics are just one more complex, interconnected system for Google’s brilliant logical minds to frolic in, spider, organize, itemize, and…own.
Let’s face it: the company is based on mastering then commanding the most illogical, messy heaps of information systems. My prediction: Google will dominate (they’re already well on the way) the art of beltway manipulation into its back pocket. That system has already proven it’s prone to harboring untouchable forces, protected by a Kevlar web of favors extending from infinite sources, in infinite directions. What single force has ever been more equipped with minds and resources that specialize in working a system to its favor from absolutely every conceivable angle?
These next few months will be interesting. Google will undoubtedly continue to dominate the search and internet ad space, and will undoubtedly continue to grow. The sheer size and speed with which Google innovates will undoubtedly prompt additional rounds of FTC investigation—my bet—before 2013 is over. It’s inevitable. Google is big, fast, successful, and voluminously moving through uncharted legal/regulation territory.
Will this be the straw that finally forces all kinds of government and legal regulations camels to finally be legitimately re-examined and revised into the digital age?
I’m no longer torn: It’s still the digital Wild West, Google is still the renegade, and this victory opens up the door for some potentially pretty revolutionary changes in the way the technology/digital/internet landscape is regulated.
Amazon recently released Q4 (and year end) numbers. Gigaom reports that, aside from interesting Kindle Fire stats, the biggest hyped data point is the company’s headcount—employees are up 67% vs. YA. Even more interesting is CFO Thomas Szkutak's justification that hiring has skyrocketed due to AWS growth and the subsequent need for increased customer support.
This may be an indication that Amazon is shifting its business model to focus more on higher-margin, enterprise software-oriented “product” offerings (instead of books). If that’s true, I’m impressed (though not surprised) at the huge company’s foresight. Establishing a standard of customer support, and bulking up on engineers before taking the leap into more specific product development is a calculated (though obvious) move that fewer and fewer technology companies are abiding by.
Thanks for establishing another shining beacon for smart process, Amazon. There are many tech startups (and plenty of established companies, too) that could benefit wildly by following your example.
A whole new era opens up for checkin/location-based apps. CSR reveals plans to bring GPS down to the microlevel (think convention centers) to make device-tracking that much more detailed.
"The spec is dead." This is the adamantly definitive statement made by MG Siegler on TechCrunch today. His article reviews recent tech marketing trends that sell devices and new technology to consumers based on “human language” (think Apple’s assertion that the 4GS is the “Fastest iPhone yet”) instead of via a list of tech specs.
So, yeah…of course this is true…from certain perspectives. Let’s take a tiny step back and take the adoption of technology into consideration as a backdrop for the tech spec’s supposed dive into oblivion.
The good ol’ days Siegler speaks of when gamers religiously compared PC specs to make purchase decisions aren’t behind us…they’re actually probably even more prevalent—it’s just that many more, many less traditionally tech-savvy consumers are now comfortable buying technology. The tech spec hasn’t died—it’s just been diluted as a marketing vehicle. Gamers respond to specs; the Joneses respond to emotional marketing.
But this doesn’t mean the spec is dead. The shift in marketing techniques actually—you could argue—makes the spec more important (or at least the implication that “spec” is synonymous with well thought-out, elegant technology). The “spec” is the recipe for a great user experience. Without a solid experience, even if Amazon is already plugged in, or Apple hypes the device as a “joy to use,” the product won’t last.
Similar to how simplicity often requires the most complex path, encouraging adoption of a device with emotional and brand marketing actually makes the brand’s technical R&D job harder. It means the brand is asking the user to trust and believe that the hard part is done; the technology a brand is putting into their hands will live up to a set of highly subjective, and highly emotional standards, despite the objectivity of hardware.
The thought, dedication, and pride that goes into a killer spec isn’t dead…unfortunately, it’s now just expected.
"It hasn’t been a day yet and the jerkoffs come out," my good friend, John, sent to me with a link to this Gawker post. Of course, it’s Gawker. The outlet’s entire existence is based on offensive posts, comments, and general prods at the public. This type of probably inappropriately-timed stock opposition to popular human sentiment is to be expected…
For me, though, what’s interesting about this one is my reaction to it. I’m not disgusted or even really that annoyed. Those reactions are actually far overcast by a fascination with the incredible job it does of requiring that—contrary to the title—we contemplate Steve Jobs as something much bigger than even the standard “visionary” label that essentially goes without saying.
Going through the article I was compelled immediately to point out the utter ignorance of the line:
"When we start mourning technocrats as idols, we cheapen the lives of those who have sacrificed more for their fellow man."
No one will argue that Steve Jobs wasn’t living in poverty in Africa assisting, one-by-one, his stereotypically less fortunate fellow humans. He didn’t make a physical one-to-one difference. What he did do was recognize a passion and an uncanny talent for making technology more accesible and more understandable to human beings, and devoted that talent to enhancing the lives and personal relationships of millions across the globe. That’s right…his gift wasn’t one-to-one…it was one-to-millions.
He shattered communication and technology adoption barriers that no other effort or company had even attempted. My parents thought texting was “stupid” until they got an iPhone. Now, because of the simple, elegant interface, I get random text messages from my parents that they’re thinking about me. I get ridiculously amusing pictures of my Dad with a llama at a petting zoo (yes, this actually happened because he knew I’d love it). I get to stay closer to my parents, and touch them much more often, all because of the opportunity our relationship is afforded by one device.
Another phenomenon that strikes me: during the early years of the iPhone, one of the highest indexing (and most rapidly growing) demographics for adoption of the device was American households with <$70K incomes. With the introduction of a new, cheaper, more omnipresent option for accessing all the power of the internet, lower-income families’ barrier-to-entry to owning a “computer” was wildly decreased.
So when Gawker writes:
“He did not meaningfully reduce poverty, or make life-saving scientific discoveries, or end wars or heal the sick or befriend the friendless.”
I have to disagree. Never would I have put Job’s accomplishments or impact into those words prior to reading this article, but each of those jabs can be countered. Jobs did make access to the power and the information of the web more accessible to lower income families; he introduced a method for easily disseminating and putting at arm’s length life-saving information (think about all the of first-aid apps that have reportedly saved life after life during disasters); he made social media and other organizing technologies mobile and nimble to, maybe not end wars, but begin protests and demonstrations in offense to human injustice; and yes…friends are closer when you have an iPhone.
So, joining in: Steve Jobs, thank you. Your presence will be sorely missed, but your inspiration is surely here to stay.
Mashable reported today that an Austin, TX advertising firm, Phillips & Co., recently rolled out a new service offering called Blue Marble. The concept? The company will install QR codes on the physical roofs of businesses in an attempt to leverage Google Maps and Google Earth as “free” advertising space.
It’s actually a really simple, elegant idea; I’m surprised we hadn’t already thought of it. It’s interesting, though, in its reminder that we just keep layering on entirely accessible, entirely integrated plains of virtual space and realities on top of our physical ones. Google Maps, Foursquare, Yelp, and many others can end up just serving as one more empty space to fill with graffiti, vandalism, or advertising. Fascinating.