Business Technology: Google Becomes An Irresistible Force
Hot companies come and go -- it's Google's leadership in helping others imagine what could be that will measure its lasting impact, Bob Evans says.
Of all the things that happened this past year, one stands out in particular as a megaevent whose repercussions will continue to have profound impacts well into the coming year and probably even the coming 3-4 years: the ascendancy of Google to prime-mover status.
Hot companies come and go, but Google's impact will endure because the company and its products and its vision are altering at very fundamental levels the perceptions among C-level folks about information technology's relevance and its impact. Those also are reminders that the greatest value that technology vendors can impart to their customers is not so much the stuff they sell as the knowledge and inspiration that can be wrapped around or opened up by those products.
If you had to pick the most-influential technology company in the world right now, which company would you choose: Microsoft, which has probably held that spot for the past several years? IBM? Dell? Cisco? Oracle? SAP? Or Google? Which company has become the front-line innovator? Which company is setting the agenda for the entire industry? Which company is causing hundreds of other IT vendors and thousands of customers to reimagine their strategies? Which company is helping its customers prepare to do things tomorrow that they could not have done yesterday?
While each of these fine companies can answer those questions with conviction, I think the leader among them is clearly Google. It releases new products monthly --- and I don't mean incremental upgrades of old standards, but eye-popping new things that allow (or force, depending on whether you're a customer or a competitor) people to see things in ways they couldn't before. And on a more fundamental level, how much has the search function changed the way you work? The way you shop? Look for entertainment? Travel?
Advanced Micro Devices Inc. has declared itself the winner of its self-proclaimed "dual-core duel challenge" it issued to Intel back in August. Although the win comes in some respects by default, or TKO, as Intel has declined to be drawn into the skirmish, and is indicative of the growing momentum at AMD, the microprocessor championship belt remains in Intel's grasp.
-- Darrell Dunn, InformationWeek blog, Dec. 13
Remember the old Apple "1984" TV ad where the warrior-woman runs through the hypnotic drones and twirls and hurls the big sledgehammer that shatters the giant image of the Overseer who's brainwashing everyone? (I located the link, of course, on Google, and it took me about 10 seconds in total to find it and to set up the mechanism of sharing it with you.) Google's doing the same thing with information of all kinds: books, music, maps, libraries, and more. It's attacking the idea that some information is too complex to be organized, too obscure to be found, too pure to be shared, or too hard to be realized. And it's doing this on a personal level and at the enterprise level -- that's what's so striking about the company's emergence.
Some of what it's done or attempted has been less than perfect. As my colleague Tony Kontzer wrote last week about the company's launch of Google Transit, "Sometimes, when you're trying to innovate, your best intentions can be misinterpreted." But if perfection were a requirement for every new business, the world would be a pretty business-free place.
More important is the underlying idea: digital technology is unleashing new capabilities at a staggering pace, and business models and behavioral models are evolving perhaps faster than ever before (how many IM screens does your 10-to-16-year-old handle simultaneously, while also listening to music and talking on the phone?). And for all of us, that means shaking up our thinking, adapting faster than ever before, mutating, innovating, imagining.
That, I think, has been Google's ace: It has led the way in helping others imagine what could be, rather than just accepting what is. Remember part of what the Overseer says in the "1984" ad: "We have created, for the first time in all history, a garden of pure ideology. Where each worker may bloom secure from the pests of contradictory and confusing truths. Our Unification of Thoughts is more powerful a weapon than any fleet or army on earth. We are one people, with one will, one resolve, one cause." That ugly idea hit a deep chord with a lot of people 22 years ago, and the same thing holds very true today: None of us wants to be limited, held down, prevented from discovery and imagination. And I think Google has become the most-vigorous champion of those ideals, and when you combine that vision with dazzlingly easy-to-use technology and a business model that capitalizes on all this new behavior, you've got the most influential company in the entire technology industry, and possibly one of the most influential companies of any kind in the entire world.
In closing, here are a couple of kudos for other achievements in 2005: in the category of Best Innovation for serving the IT audience in a dynamic new fashion with some humor mixed in, The News Show [thenewsshow.tv], where 15-year InformationWeek editor John Soat and Paul Way created the daily Web-video show with John serving as anchorman and executive producer; and in the obscure but fun category of best E-mail promotion, there's this very short gem about RFID and knowing who's been naughty or nice .
This marks the 10th year I've had the great privilege to say Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you from all of us at InformationWeek, and my colleagues and I hope that for all of you 2006 is filled with much happiness, great health, warm family times, and lots of success and fun. See you next year!
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