Google has your email. Not just GMail users, but major businesses. Google Apps users store the core of their business in Google’s cloud. Even Twitter uses GMail. I got on GMail very early on, back before users could invite each other, before you were given 5, then 20, then 100 invites to bring other people to GMail. I was excited to use it. The interface, the functionality, it was a leap forward from Hotmail, or the webmail app I had been using on my own domain. There was a time when I was excited to see what the search engine giant would do next. But these days, Google, Microsoft, and now Facebook, are all taking the wrong approach to business.
For the early days of monetizing the internet, you could rely on Doubleclick. Then Google Adwords and AdSense came around. Google’s business grew quickly, efficiently combining their search portal data with their advertising data to show potential advertisers that their money was being spent right. Google bought Doubleclick in 2007. Microsoft followed suit, partnering with Yahoo, to provide advertising in their search portals, and other modern frontiers which Google had already pioneered, such as ads in apps.
Microsoft buys Skype, Google creates Google Hangouts. Microsoft releases Lync to enterprise users, Google sells the Chromebox for meetings. Facebook exists, so the ghost town of Google+ and the sad Socl are born. Remember when MapQuest was a thing we all used? Then Google made Google Maps and MapQuest might as well be dead. Now Apple has their own Maps app for the iPad and iPhone, and Microsoft cobbled together Bing Maps. Bing itself only exists so Microsoft could go head-to-head with Google in their primary market. Why!? Why would you try to compete with Google at the thing Google perfected? Don’t get me wrong, I’m actually a Bing user for various reasons, but it was a bold step that is clearly not actually paying off for Microsoft.
We aren’t even close to done. Hotmail has evolved in to the improved Outlook.com, and both Gmail and Outlook.com offer contact and calendar management from the web. Microsoft tried the smart phone market early, with Windows Mobile. iOS reinvented the market, and Android now dominates. Microsoft has Windows! Google creates ChromeOS. Internet Explorer and Safari are nice, FireFox was everybody’s friend for a long time, but oh, look: here comes Google with the Chrome browser! Google Drive? OneDrive! iCloud! Google is working on the Self-Driving car, Microsoft created Ford Sync, and this week rumors began that Apple could buy Tesla Motors. Microsoft Office dominated the business space for decades, but Microsoft has been forced to create and rebrand “Office Online” since Google Docs is has started to upset the, er… apple… cart. You know what I mean.
I predict that this will be the year that Google learns from the Ouya and Gamestick and release their own Android-powered set top box to compete with the Xbox One. Google will promote it as having Access to the Google Play Store and I expect people will go banana’s over the announcement. It’s biggest problem being that very few games in the Play Store were designed to use a controller, so the experience will still be miserable – but, hey, Microsoft has one. And Google has already proven to have the whole multi-media to the TV thing down, a Chromebox or an Android powered home-theater unit that just happens to play games will be a hot seller. Ya’know, like the AppleTV.
My point is: why? Why does everybody look over their fence at what their neighbor is doing and have to do the same thing? As everybody tries to compete in every market the other companies are in, they will begin to spread themselves thin. Could this desire to be involved in everything lead to the eventual demise of these giants? Is there a problem with doing one thing and doing that one thing extremely well? Windows 8 is floundering, Microsoft is undoubtedly going to focus on enterprise under Satya Nadella. But will they have a laser-like focus, or will they, too, pick up a thermostat company in 2014?