Open is the new closed

Open is the new Closed

First thing in the morning, before I had my coffee even, I saw this -

and it deserves a post. Google is a great company but they are kidding themselves if they think they are in anyway benevolent or doing the world a favor.  They are a business and are doing what businesses do – make money.  Looks like these guys have a 90’s mindset about openness, in spite of, ironically, being the company that ushered in the web era, and it just plain wrong. I say Google is the new Microsoft and in many cases they are even worse. Of course that needs some explanation.

First up, they open source every piece of code they write. Well, almost every piece except the ones that make money for them directly. So in that sense they are in stark contrast with Microsoft. And hence they are claiming to be the good guys by default. That is bullshit and in fact dangerous. They open source stuff because they know it will not hurt them and more so gives them free marketing as the good guys.

Ten years ago client software mattered. People installed software by inserting a CD and clicking on buttons. Microsoft became evil because they had the most customers and also because they made it difficult for competitors to have a competing service. The software ecosystem has changed dramatically over the last 10 years. Google realized this a long time ago before any of us ever did.  Now the software is hosted in the server and people access it using their browsers.

Microsoft in the 90s Google
The platform was the PC

It was the desktop computer and there were other operating systems but we now use the word PC as synonymous to a Windows machine.

The platform is the web.
Had the biggest share of users on its platform. Has the biggest share of users browsing the web.
Developers had complete access to the platform. The SDK was thorough. Developers have free and complete access to the web services through an API.
Implemented/bought any and every innovation that happened in the space after its proven to drive revenue. Examples include Word processing , network based file sharing (from Novell), directory services (from Novell and others), Databases (Oracle), Outlook server, Sharepoint. Implemented/bought any and every innovation that happened in the space after its proven to drive ad revenue or get eyeballs. Examples include Android, Google voice, picasa, gmail, word processing in the cloud, Social networking (buzz, Orkut), Google products (after pricegrabber and others became successful)
Spend tons of money on research but not much to show for innovation. Spend tons of money on research but not much to show for innovation. The only thing google changed was web based mail. The rest of them are all ideas from other companies it either bought or implemented itself by getting inspired.

Like I said earlier, Google realized that data is king much earlier than any of us did. So its only goal is to move every service to the web. That way they control the data and everyone else uses the service. With this model, the software does not matter anymore. They can give it away for free and that is exactly what they did. Customers who only had Microsoft for comparison thought that a company that gives code away for free must be Gandhi or Jesus and looks like Google believes it too.  Google only did what is beneficial to them in terms of getting market share and developer share.  The software infrastructure that Google gives away for free is the equivalent of the Visual Studio/Compiler infrastructure that MS gives for free ( In fact MS I am not sure if MS gave this away free or not). They are needed to build software to empower and enrich Google.

Now I also said Google is more dangerous to the end users than Microsoft could be. Microsoft never owned user’s data. The only attempt at storing user’s data backfired big time for Microsoft. Remember passport and the outrage after the announcement? Users give Google all their data and all the services built on top of Google’s API will give it more data. Google is dangerous because there is no outrage. Data is what matters and not how they get it.  Google with its “open” and “free” mantra made Open the new closed in this redefined software landscape.

I do understand that every company implements ideas from the other but playing the good (benevolent), open card when you clearly know the truth is not right. As a side note, I don’t understand the Apple bashing. I know that it has become the thing to do nowadays but Apple is honest and direct in dealing with their customers. They brought true innovation to the phone for example (multi touch, proximity sensors, accelerometer, GPS chip in the phone). That is because they are visionaries. Google just copied these into their operating system and made it free. It made it free because it wants to crush competition not because its a good (benevolent) company. It made it free because it makes money in search and ads not hardware and software.  Now Vic obviously thinks differently and  I would be happy if he makes what ever he is smoking free for all and yes, they can sell ads on it 🙂

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