Nov 10

Nat Torkington

Nat Torkington

I For One Welcome Our New Google Overlords

My friend and partner-in-crime for ETel, Surj, wonders whether Google could be the new Ma Bell (Unca Sergei? Grampa Larry?). His thinking starts with Om Malik comparing Google's mobile strategy to Yahoo!'s: Yahoo! works with existing players while Google wants to do it their own way. This isn't just their mobile strategy, though: in everything they do, Google wants to do it their own way. We expect Google to reinvent whatever area they touch, as they did with maps, e-mail, and how we use the Internet--and we're disappointed when they don't: blog search, feed reader, and portal were all very received with a resounding "eh".

Yahoo!'s strengths are different: they play well with others. Google is often called arrogant, whereas Yahoo! seem to have emerged from their arrogant phase. They build relationships, appease their partners, and are only slowly building their own content to compete with their partners. They do innovate (the keyword advertising business is Overture's baby, Oddpost did Ajax email before Google, and the 360 social network is infinitely more useful to them than Orkut is to Google) but they haven't been able to capitalize on their inventions.

This plays out in the mobile space, too: Yahoo! partners with mobile operators, reinforcing the status quo of closed operators and dinosaur business models: "we'll provide some premium services and your lock-in will be our lock-in." Google's not so willing to play by the carriers' rules: they bought Android and got the creator of the Sidekick and the Android technology: an open platform for telephony development on mobiles. Add this to the bandwidth buy and Google's attempts to do wifi everywhere, and you form an interesting picture of Google creating a nationwide developer-friendly mobile wireless platform, bypassing the "orifices" (to use Steve Jobs's phrase) of the carriers.

I love that idea. As we build the Emerging Telephony conference, we're trying to figure out what's coming in 2006. The big news isn't VoIP qua VoIP: we've been able to route calls over the Internet before. The big news is the applications made possible now we have Internet developers able to write voice applications. TellMe have a great developer program where you can build VoiceXML applications that they'll host for you: zero infrastructure voice applications that can even call out to the web for highly dynamic behavior. Asterisk gives you zero cost infrastructure: use AGI to integrate external applications with your call in the same way that CGI lets you integrate external applications with your web site.

But the biggest problem we're facing is mobile. Surj is bullish (he ought to be: he worked for France Telecom for a while!) but I'm bearish. Anything cool in mobile has been 18 months away for the last six years. I think a lot of reason for this is the business model: the carriers have to try and make 60% of the money in the mobile space, which crushes the innovation. The only big telco I can think of that might be considered innovative is AT&T who have developed some great VoIP and voice services and seem to be relatively progressive. Of course, they don't have a wireless division so aren't mobile carriers. Carriers haven't been hot-houses of innovation, they've been charnel houses.

So it's about time that someone, anyone, found a way to route around their brokenness. Huzzahs to Google if it be them (host still doesn't resolve, though :). Imagine the explosion in hardware and software development if there were an open network--hmm, it just might resemble wifi growth. 'Tis a consummation most devoutly to be wished.

tags:   | comments: 7   | Sphere It

Previous  |  Next

0 TrackBacks

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Comments: 7

  Douglass Turner [11.10.05 11:18 AM]

Hey now wait a second what's so bad about being an orifice?

Why, just look at ... well Steve Jobs himself! Steve is doing quite a nice job thank you very much building a lovely little iOrifice called iTunes. Steve's orifice is a marvel of opacity.

Any podcasters out there? Raise your hand if you're just happy as a pig in slop over the way you are treated by iTunes support staff. Oops, I forget they don't actually have a support staff.

The similarity between the armies of hopeful young mobile content providers groveling before a Vodafone or Sprint for pence/pennies and the complete disregard of Steve's iTune staff is remarkable.

Hail Orifice!


  Douglass Turner [11.10.05 11:29 AM]

Hang on, put down the Web 2.0 koolaid for a second and place a bookmark in your copy of the Pick Axe book:

given the chance you know and I know that everyone reading this blug would LOVE to be an orifice.


  Sharp Thinker [11.10.05 12:46 PM]

> Yahoo! works with existing players while Google
> wants to do it their own way.

Looks like that analysis conveniently ignores contrarian evidence, and only selectively uses what fits the pre-conceptions.
Yahoo has a long history of fending off other clients even connecting to yahoo messenger, while Google used an open protocol, and promised (I don't doubt they will deliver) open Server2Server communication as well with Jabber. Also Google _is _partnering with people, just think of where you get the GoogleToolbar. So does that put the theory upside down?

Of course not. It's just plain stup^H^H^H^H unhelpful to frame the discussion with these kind of arbritrary categories. It's plain propaganda...

  Nat [11.10.05 01:20 PM]

Google's open protocol is another example of their open platform approach, while Yahoo!'s IM fights support my thesis that they've been a closed company. When Y! did interoperate with their IM client, they only did it with selected big partner (Microsoft) and not by opening Messenger as a platform. You're right, Google is doing some little bits of partnering (e.g., the Sun announcement with the toolbar, Everybody Hates Chris on Google Video) just as Yahoo! is doing some platform work (their recent API push, Flickr/upcoming acquisition). But I think the fundamental characterisation of the two companies as open platforms vs proprietary partnerships is strong and represents most of what the companies do.

  Brock [11.10.05 01:33 PM]

AT&T was just bought out by SBC; so much for that.

  Nat [11.10.05 01:45 PM]

Doug--you're right, Jobs is an orifice too. I never claimed iTunes wasn't an orifice!

PS, I peed in the Web 2.0 koolaid.

  TexAnna_B [12.03.05 04:19 PM]

Sorry y'all, my husband already gave @ the orifice…

Post A Comment:

 (please be patient, comments may take awhile to post)

Type the characters you see in the picture above.