Sunday, 19 March 2017

Google Is The New Microsoft - And Not In A Good Way


In the quarter which Android surpassed Windows to become the biggest operating system on the planet, Google chose to annouce major changes to its Hangouts app. This following the recent launch of two new messaging products. Which itself followed the previous release of a number of other messaging products.

The symmetry with Microsoft of the past is interesting - and should be raising major warning signs for Google.

Windows has been number one for decades. Really since the launch of Windows 95 every other platform has been a rounding error compared to the breadth of Microsoft's number one platform's installations.

That strength allowed Microsoft to reap phenomenal rewards and see of competition by either buying them out or starving them of oxygen in their market space. The story of Stacker is illuminating here, probably as much as the more high profile Internet Explorer / Netscape story.

Microsoft initially missed the bus on the internet and then had to scramble to catch-up. The anti-trust behaviour, for which Microsoft was prosecuted, was one of the mechanisms Microsoft used to quickly catch-up.

Microsoft never learnt its lesson though and managed to miss the significance of the smartphone revolution. Without the leverage of a near monopoly, it never managed to catch-up. That's a miss which will cost it dearly on an ongoing basis.

Google is the company in a near monopoly now. It has similar problems to Microsoft in the late 90s / early 00s, in that it has limited control of OEMs (even those who install Google Mobile Services), has to support a widening range of hardware and faces a perception that it does not have the customers best interest at heart.

And it has missed on Social and messaging, two areas where it can ill-afford to lose.

To be fair to Google it seems to have recognised the need to compete in both arenas, it just doesn't seem to have been able to deliver a competitive product. 

Not least because it is repeating mistakes Microsoft made with Windows Mobile / Windows Phone. Putting a product in front of customers and then sacrificing it on the altar of something newer, better and entirely incompatible with the previous version.

I can't even begin to think how many times Google has iterated its messaging product. 

Right now Facebook is unassailable in social and as a result it is hoovering up huge amounts of advertising revenue which would normally fall to Google.

Meanwhile Apple's iMessage / Facetime product so completely owns messaging that, on its own, messaging amounts to the biggest single reason to switch mobile platforms to iOS. 

Projecting platform migration patterns into the future Google faces a very real problem. New smartphone users generally enter the market with an Android smartphone and trend towards buying an iPhone when they upgrade or  as soon as they can afford to. iPhone buyers almost never leave. While there are new users and emerging markets to capture Android's numbers will continue to look good.

The story reaches a natural conclusion with Apple owning the smartphone market, Facebook owning the social market and Google relying on content and other platforms to keep its income flowing.

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