In Google's "glass house," a battle with Bing looms

Commentary: Copy or theft? How Google set themselves up to get Bing’d.

Okay, so now Google and Microsoft officially hate each other, with Google complaining about Bing stealing their ideas, and Microsoft chiming back, “grow a pair.”

All of this is, of course, very funny because isn’t Google’s whole business model about imitating, co-opting and commoditizing?

Talk amongst yourselves, and tell me if you agree.

It started with the search index, when Google slurped up the web in a way that they could sell advertising around it.

Greater good, I suppose, but I’m relatively sure those in the media industry would agree that Google has done more to hurt their business than to help it. Wouldn’t they?

Note to the media industry: Don’t all go rushing out to make an iTunes-like deal with Google so they can find a way to give away for free what you still sell for cash money today.

Most recently, Google’s attention has shifted to the mobile domain, where they’ve tried (with success) to embrace, co-opt and give away the mobile user experience and software platform play innovated by one-time best friend, Apple.

Android and Apple

Ever-virtuous, they even shined a much-needed spotlight on Apple’s insidiously closed nature (although very few iOS developers or iOS device users have noticed).

Knowing that open always prevails, Google has led a revolution in mobile that empowers carriers — yes, carriers — to once again ratchet control away from consumers by building locked-down devices replete with crapware, because as Android head, Andy Rubin, would have us believe, “That’s the nature of open.”

Haven’t we seen this picture before?

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that Microsoft is “innocent,” if we can even agree that such a term means anything in the tech domain anymore.

After all, from time immemorial, or at least since Microsoft first copied and pasted the Mac “look and feel” into Windows and got away with it, the game has come down to one of two things: Either be a great innovator, and build a differentiated market position. Or, failing that, be a fast follower.

This is something that Google should be able to understand, viewing almost every online service these days as one that they can improve upon, all too often by creating a disappointing imitation.

Now, I am not complaining. I like a decent chunk of what Google does. And it’s free, so I should be thankful, I think.

Pot, meet kettle

That said, Google should remember that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Why quibble over degrees of theft?

Or, degrees of openness, for that matter. I suppose an irony of the Google-Bing saga is that if Google was truly as open as it claims to be, these proprietary algorithms would be open, right?

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Google should tip their hat to Microsoft for playing the same hand on Google, and focus instead on kicking Microsoft’s butt on the competitive playing field.

That’s what Apple has to do, right?

If, on the other hand, it’s theft, and a moral wrong, then Google should quit copying everyone, stop trying to commoditize everyone else’s hard-fought-for business models, and focus on innovating wholly new ideas.

Either way, they are between a rock and a hard place in this matter. Glass houses are like that.


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