In the early 90s, Novell Netware was the first website that really impressed me. It displayed a stack of books that you could select to read. The early Internet was purely for the geeks, and then one day, the commercial market figured out that there was money to be made online, and the revolution began. Google and Amazon were two of the companies that arose during this time.
Google's founders and engineers figured out that they could outdo the AltaVista search engine by creating an elegant and simple interface that allowed people to search on the Internet and find what they are looking for. As their search engine became better and better, they started to sell statistics about Google users and thus fueled the ad market.
Google added numerous services along the way -- some are still with us and some have been retired -- but everything revolved around search. Search engines initially had little insight into human behavior because the person behind the keyboard was unknown. Yes, browser cookies might have shown how often one visited a website, what the IP address was, and how often the device was turned on. But it did not have information about who was doing the browsing. Google finally realized that it needed to compete with Facebook, and it came up with Google+ to track every breath you take and every sigh you make -- and sell that data for more precise advertising.
[What's next for Google? Read Google In 2014: 10 Predictions.]
The Internet might have begun as a system for communication, but it has become a machine for selling. Well, there is a giant of a company that's totally focused on selling and the measurement of sales that somehow is not recognized by the majority of non-geeks as an IT company. Of course, I am talking about Amazon. Since the beginning of Internet time, Amazon has collected information about the type of powdered milk I purchased for my daughter 16 years ago. It learned about the type of clothing that she has been wearing at every stage of her life. It learned about my purchase aspirations by watching my window shopping behavior through my browser. Every time I clicked on a watch, a banner came up showing what options were similar.
It is Amazon, not Google, that is the best search engine for marketing. If you want to sell, get your data from Amazon.com because it is precise. While Google will sell you magazines, books, video, and music, Amazon does it at least as well or better, as Amazon knows much more about you than the music you like. There is the Google PlayStore for your Android applications, but there's also the Amazon Appstore. Amazon also happens to be the largest cloud provider in the world. Amazon has Amazon Web Services, where large vendors such as Dropbox are hosted. (I wonder if they connect the dots also on their customers' Dropbox behavior.) Amazon also has media streaming services. What's more, it is finally now competing with Google Analytics through a service called Kinesis. And if you are looking for developers, you can certainly find a whole slew of them in the AWS marketplace.
Amazon has its own mobile market -- Kindle -- that can identify all of your habits including reading, searching, location; and, of course, the most important is your spending, merchandise returns, and what you think about a particular item. The precise measurement of this data collection is certainly unmatched by any rival at this time.
We constantly compare two major companies, Apple and Google. But we tend to forget about Amazon. And I think Bezos is finally coming out of the shadows and declaring his company to be an IT power by announcing that Amazon is developing drones for package deliveries. So why is it that if I ask people to describe Amazon, they talk about it as if it were only an online store? Amazon is much more than that. The most interesting competition in the next few years will be not between Google and Apple but between Google and Amazon.
George Baroudi is Vice President for information technology and CIO of Long Island University. He is an electrical engineer by training, with more than 20 years of IT infrastructure, program development, and ERP implementation experience.
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