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Author Topic: Google vs. the rest: Is it fair?  (Read 8805 times)
Lashiec
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« on: October 29, 2009, 08:10:36 PM »

Earlier this morning, Google introduced a beta version of its new phone application, Google Maps Navigation. As the name suggests, this is nothing more than a turn by turn navigation app, using all the information Google has accumulated over the last years and made available via Google Maps. Nothing really special, except for the fact this is a free application for Google's own Android OS, with versions for other smartphones coming at a later date. The rest of the app details have been covered by Gizmodo in a neat post.

As noted there, Google faces no competition with its newest toy. Similar apps for the iPhone run around $25 per year, while Google is totally free (at least for the time being). Gizmodo is concerned with the severe lack of competition at the same price level, and wrote another piece detailing what's in in for the rest of navigation software makers, who also offer navigation devices that could end up being replaced by the same smartphones Google is offering this app for.


The criticism expressed in the article can easily be applied to any other venue Google is or may be involved in the future. It has been commented several times how most Google products face little to no competition, with most pressure coming from other behemoths like Yahoo or Microsoft, instead of innovative startups like RTM, and one wonders where all that venture capital money went. But I never considered what's in for all the companies making business in fields that Google chose to participate in, and how its lack of a price can seriously damage these companies in little time, possibly putting them out of business. It may be nice to have superb services available for nothing, but man, it obliterates any competition it may have. Not to mention that, while Google main sources of revenue can sustain other ventures for now, in the long term everything could change, and we could end paying for services coming from just one company. Mapping the entire planet is a costly affair.
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Ehtyar
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« Reply #1 on: October 29, 2009, 08:32:52 PM »

Nice article Lash Man, thanks!

Ars also posted a story on Google recently with some interting points (if a little sensationalist). You can find it here.

Ehtyar.
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Target
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« Reply #2 on: October 29, 2009, 08:37:01 PM »

isn't this the kind of behaviour that got MS into trouble?
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JavaJones
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« Reply #3 on: October 29, 2009, 09:19:17 PM »

The video I watched today makes it seem kind of, er, "special". I mean yeah, it's "just" turn by turn directions (and voice) with Google's data, but... It's *with* Google's data. And its search technology. And that's huge. Watch the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGXK4jKN_jY&

As for whether this is scary, unfair, bad for competition, etc... well, the funny thing about Google's revenue model is everyone else can use it too. cheesy No, seriously, everyone can make money off of ads, Google makes that possible. Now I know, having tried to run an ad-funded site myself (wasn't my idea, :p) that it's not that easy to make money. Google has a lot easier time because it's the hub, the ad provider and, in many cases (e.g. YouTube) also the content provider. Still, it's ads that get Google its money, and if ads are working for them, they can work for others. If they're not working for you, how are they working for Google? Find out and emulate. I know for my own site that it was in large part a lack of effort and applied intelligence that kept the money out of my pockets.

Google makes enough money in some areas to subsidize in others, e.g. making Google Voice, Gmail, Google Directions, and other services free. But what really enables them to do this is leveraging their powerful infrastructure and data store. Surprisingly enough Google makes a lot of this available to others through APIs and other methods. So the power is theoretically available to all for the taking, in some sense.

I won't say that Google does not have some unique and difficult to emulate advantages. But the same is true of almost any large corporation with money, at least in theory. They can always throw more resources at a problem. But quite honestly, if the solutions that come out of Google are consistently better (and, for the most part, they seem to be), I find it hard to complain too much. Google got where it is mostly by being good at everything it does. If that's no longer the reason for their success, or at least a big part of it, I must not be seeing it. If and when that ever does become true - Google continues to succeed while its products become vastly poorer than others in the market - then I'll have a lot more questions and concerns.

- Oshyan
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Fred Nerd
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« Reply #4 on: October 29, 2009, 09:34:18 PM »

Has anyone else got a catpcha (is that the right spelling) off google?
I went to do a routine search from the box in Firefox (nothing new/updated) and they called me a suspected bot.
The nerve of them, considering their bots do all sorts of things for indexing purposes
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zridling
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« Reply #5 on: October 30, 2009, 09:59:47 PM »

Quote
Lashiec: [Google's] lack of a price can seriously damage these companies in little time, possibly putting them out of business. It may be nice to have superb services available for nothing, but man, it obliterates any competition it may have.

Google takes advantage of open source code and open development unlike those other companies. Look no further than their Linux-based Android "OS" this week for Verizon. That phone is seriously cool, and unlike the proprietary iPhone, its software isn't locked down. But that same open source model that Google uses provides: open formats, which lend to reliability; low-cost, because development is shared; and since the code is available to all, security problems are easier to snuff out. Finally, since Google doesn't have to wait on other things to release at the same time, they get benefit of faster deployment. Those competing companies just have to find another way to make money -- usually on the service, not the [traditionally] closed/proprietary code.
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Tuxman
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« Reply #6 on: October 31, 2009, 08:17:11 AM »

Google's "open source model", based on spying innocent people who don't even have a computer (Google Earth, Streetview)? No, srsly...
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« Reply #7 on: October 31, 2009, 09:59:47 AM »

A warning of things to come ?     cheesy

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Lashiec
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« Reply #8 on: October 31, 2009, 12:22:09 PM »

Google takes advantage of open source code and open development unlike those other companies. Look no further than their Linux-based Android "OS" this week for Verizon. That phone is seriously cool, and unlike the proprietary iPhone, its software isn't locked down. But that same open source model that Google uses provides: open formats, which lend to reliability; low-cost, because development is shared; and since the code is available to all, security problems are easier to snuff out. Finally, since Google doesn't have to wait on other things to release at the same time, they get benefit of faster deployment. Those competing companies just have to find another way to make money -- usually on the service, not the [traditionally] closed/proprietary code.

o_O

Google may make extensive use of open source software and/or contribute to many open source projects (either with code or money), which is very commendable, but its business model is not that different from the other companies it's competing with. Yeah, the iPhone is closed, but Apple also makes good money on the App Store, as it does with iTunes. Last time I checked, both are services. And I wonder where Android and Chrome would be without Apple massive contributions to WebKit.

Besides, Android-based phones are locked down. It's much easier to "jailbreak" them, and the consequences of doing that are close to zero compared to the iPhone, but for most users it will be exactly the same thing. What it counts is what companies can do with Android, and the plans they offer.

Regarding Google Maps Navigator, Google is actually not making any money on the service, the app doesn't even have ads. They're simply using information Google acquired thanks to the funding they obtained from other very profitable ventures, and for now they're not recovering anything on that investment, at least not directly with the services that provide access to those maps and everything else.

But look at their competitors. TomTom devices are based on Linux, they even were involved in a patent controversy with Microsoft over the use of FAT filesystems in those devices. Garmin is a member of the Open Handset Alliance, which is led by the very same Google. Both are selling devices and software which provide you with an extremely useful service that costs millions to maintain and keep up to date. You may say that both companies should expand their products and services offerings, particularly TomTom which almost is a one-trick pony, but don't tell me they should suck it up and move over because Google has arrived, and its business model is better, when it's not, at least for all the companies involved. The end user is another story.
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Dormouse
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« Reply #9 on: October 31, 2009, 12:46:02 PM »

These companies killed off the PC based map software businesses (like MS' Autoroute) that were there before them; now it looks as if they are under threat themselves from technological developments. When smartphones get to the stage that they can do what their devices do, their hardware business will stop because very few will want to buy 2 devices when 1 will do. And that is whether or not Google get involved.

I understand that a lot of people dislike Google. But at the same time, Google have continued to be innovative (unlike MS) and have stuck to a model of business that is free to the end user.
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Kamel
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« Reply #10 on: October 31, 2009, 01:03:09 PM »

I do not care for google's business practice at all. Unfortunately though, every single other competitor STILL has not figured out that the best way to advertise is discreetly. This is the single trade business "secret" that google has completely comprehended, and thus became very successful because of.

Compare the amount of clutter on any other search engine to google's... case closed.

They have very carefully and strategically placed themselves where they are, and have done a great job. However, IMO, the grounds are ripe for a competitor to offer a similar service and give google a real run for their money. All it would take is a website which works well, is not complex and overcrowded, and an e-mail service that allows significant amount of storage without ads at the bottom of each e-mail and a clean interface to boot.

It would take me about .5 seconds to decide to never touch google again, if there were comparable services available elsewhere.
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Tuxman
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« Reply #11 on: October 31, 2009, 01:16:21 PM »

It would take me about .5 seconds to decide to never touch google again, if there were comparable services available elsewhere.
What exactly do you miss elsewhere?
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Kamel
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« Reply #12 on: October 31, 2009, 01:21:30 PM »

It would take me about .5 seconds to decide to never touch google again, if there were comparable services available elsewhere.
What exactly do you miss elsewhere?

Not to sound rude, but I think I explained that in my original post quite specifically.
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Tuxman
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« Reply #13 on: October 31, 2009, 01:29:38 PM »

Well:

Quote
All it would take is a website which works well, is not complex and overcrowded, and an e-mail service that allows significant amount of storage without ads at the bottom of each e-mail and a clean interface to boot.

There is a bunch of them out there (comfortable free mailers and well-working searching engines), that's why I was asking. Which alternatives did you actually check?
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« Reply #14 on: October 31, 2009, 01:41:38 PM »

Of course people seem to be forgetting that this is just what capitalism is all about. It's not really surprising behaviour undecided
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« Reply #15 on: November 01, 2009, 12:25:31 AM »

Well:

Quote
All it would take is a website which works well, is not complex and overcrowded, and an e-mail service that allows significant amount of storage without ads at the bottom of each e-mail and a clean interface to boot.

There is a bunch of them out there (comfortable free mailers and well-working searching engines), that's why I was asking. Which alternatives did you actually check?

Well, I'm not necessarily required to report to you, but I will gladly provide some examples of places I've checked.

Here is a list of providers, in the following format
Name Clutter Relevance Formatting Privacy Notes (scale of 1-5, 1 being bad, 5 being good) also note that not all fields will be populated
Google 5 5 5 2
Yahoo 1 4 3 ?
Dogpile 3 3 4 n/a
altavista 4 4 4 3 "There are, however, a few instances where we do collect personally identifiable information in order to fulfill your request. Click here for examples of these instances."
bing 3 5 3 4
mamma 5 3 4 ? -- doesn't really work very well (video search completely broken)

I'm sure there are more, other search engines are improving vastly lately, so I have high hopes a great replacement for google soon enough.

I'd prefer it if there were different search engines with specialized content, that grouped it well. Google attempts this with certain custom searches, but ultimately no content control makes it so that most results are still crap. It's also difficult for a search engine to be able to determine which links are good/bad, since people searching for something don't generally know what is best and what isn't.

Quote
Of course people seem to be forgetting that this is just what capitalism is all about. It's not really surprising behaviour

Of course, and this is why the ground is ripe for a good competitor, all in the nature of good, healthy capitalism.
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JavaJones
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« Reply #16 on: November 01, 2009, 01:16:59 AM »

And any good, healthy capitalist competitor will do their darndest to track you and make money off you. cheesy

What exactly is it you don't like about Google's business practices?

- Oshyan
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Tuxman
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« Reply #17 on: November 01, 2009, 06:42:44 AM »

Their privacy policy.
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« Reply #18 on: November 01, 2009, 03:14:54 PM »

As opposed to Microsoft's or Google's or...? I've received a lot more spam-like mail from Yahoo and its affiliates, just for one example, than I have Google. The biggest "bad" thing Google does, as far as I know, is content analysis and ad targeting based on it. That bothers some people and doesn't bother others (like me). I guess it's just a personal thing. *shrug*

- Oshyan
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Tuxman
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« Reply #19 on: November 01, 2009, 03:17:54 PM »

Do others spy you in every corner of your life?
(Streetview, Google Earth)

Do others store everything related to you just to enable others to get a full profile of you?

BTW, Google assigns my real name to Tuxman.de just because of my nickname. Sorry, but I dislike its way to find connections.
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« Reply #20 on: November 01, 2009, 03:37:41 PM »

There are probably institutions out there with even more info on us than Google.
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« Reply #21 on: November 01, 2009, 03:42:39 PM »

This is, of course, no reason to support Google.
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JavaJones
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« Reply #22 on: November 01, 2009, 03:47:05 PM »

Yes, many others do things exactly as Google does, or worse. cheesy

If taking pictures on one day in a neighborhood is "spying", then I'm guilty too. I've even posted some publicly! *gasp* It would be another matter entirely if Google were trying to setup realtime photography of these areas, that would be a lot less easily understood as beneficial and a lot more like spying and potential invasion of privacy. But as it is, what Google provides is a useful tool, they're doing nothing illegal. What they photograph is only what you can see from the street, so if you show your private life on the public street, that's not Google's problem. Wink It's not like people can use Google Streetview to determine when you walk your dog or take out the garbage or go to work (thus allowing e.g. a criminal to know when you're not home and rob you easier). And of course we all know Google will remove people's faces if requested - they do it automatically now anyway.

As for Google Earth, Google didn't take those pictures and the data has been available for a long time publicly. Google just made it easier to access.

I've found tremendous benefit from both services, and I think any potential drawbacks are fairly minimal all in all. But again, to each their own.

I'm not sure who Google is sharing their data with either, I've never seen any ill effects from it, again unlike Yahoo and in fact MS too, both of whom I've received unsolicited "partner" offers from (I assign a unique email address to every service I sign up to so I know who shares my info).

In the end I don't see Google as perfect by any means, but for a large corporation they seem to do pretty decently in terms of treatment of their customers, general respect for privacy (you can opt out of most stuff), and not sharing data without permission. And I find their services generally more useful than their competitors to boot. *shrug*

- Oshyan
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Tuxman
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« Reply #23 on: November 01, 2009, 03:51:10 PM »

Quote
not sharing data without permission
... except for advertising. Oh, yes, advertising is a noble goal.
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JavaJones
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« Reply #24 on: November 01, 2009, 04:41:54 PM »

Quote
not sharing data without permission
... except for advertising. Oh, yes, advertising is a noble goal.
Hmm, if it means lots of great content and services can be free, I kind of think it is! Heheh.

- Oshyan
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