I think that I started this discussion at just the right time. According to cnet, South Korean officials have raided a Google office over anti-competitive practices relating to Android. They claim that it’s anti-competitive to force companies to use the Google search engine with Android if they want Google applications and the Google logo on the device. Personally, I’m not really sure how this is anti-competitive, or at least why Google is being singled out for this. Apple does the same thing, as does Nokia and Microsoft. When I still lived in the US, I remember Verizon forcing Bing on me and changed my default internet settings on my Blackberry (granted Korea couldn’t go after that one) but the idea to me is bizarre.
However, this is a great way to discuss how Google, in a broader sense, is at risk for antitrust action from many national governments. In my last post I explained the idea of market foreclosure, which Microsoft used in an attempt to capture a monopoly in the server market as they had in the PC market. South Korea will most likely be arguing that Google is using a captive audience to force their search engine on their users. In the bigger picture, I think this sort of tactic will likely be used for other markets. For example, Google is using their large market share, and the social capital they’ve gain from being a trust worthy site, to build email products, then office suites, map and geolocation services (with recommendations), and of course blogging sites like the one you’re currently reading. Since I have a google account, from way back when Gmail first was created, I’ve gotten all these additional features for free. i haven’t had to do anything and they just appear as services that I can use.
Even if I’m not logged in to Google and I go to Google.com there’s a huge selection of services that I can use without logging in. However, they become more powerful as soon as I log in. Google is using their monopoly of search engines to leverage users to use other products they’ve created. Let’s say Yahoo! decided to try to create an office suit in the same manner as Google and basically try to emulate Google in every way with all of their products. I’m sure that some of the users there would take advantage of the free document services. However, I also believe that Yahoo! and Google cater to different portions of the market. Yahoo! has become the defacto home page to an older crowd than Google. Which could mean that the users of Yahoo! may not want the same products. I have a Yahoo! account, which I only use for Fantasy Hockey and Football. I never use it for email, I never search the web using Yahoo! I only use Google. Why? Because it gives me the results I want.
So, now that we understand that Google has been leveraging their search market share to move into other markets what kind of impact does that have? I think that it will actually prevent other people from using other services out there. However, I think that with internet systems there is no real reason to keep with one product family over another. It’s a matter of trust. I think that people trust Google more than other companies, which is why they are willing to use them for other products. I couldn’t imagine people using a Facebook Docs the same way that people use Google Docs.
In my next post I’ll discuss more of these implications of these topics. I will also compare some of the Google products to Windows Media player and how something that seems like a big deal today, may not be a big deal in a year or two. Technology moves so fast.