I wanted to write a brief note on three recent stories that have a Google nexus.
Yesterday, Politico ran a story on Google’s looming antitrust battle here in America. Enforcers at the FTC and DoJ are concerned that Google is too powerful in its core search business, and have begun jockeying for the right to adjudicate and then regulate the Silicon Valley behemoth.
Also yesterday, L. Gordon Crovitz had a piece in the Wall Street Journal suggesting that Microsoft (itself once intensely scrutinized for its business practices by the DoJ and the EC) is wrong in lodging a complaint at the EC about Google’s ostensible anti-competitive actions against competitors of its search business.
And finally, today, the Wall Street Journal ran an opinion piece by Vint Cerf (one of the granddaddies of the Internet, as well as Google’s chief Internet evangelist) on the need for American policymakers to boost the profile of engineers and scientists in order to foster more American innovation.
- On the Politico story – Though blame or judgment of Google’s business practices isn’t the focus of the story, one thing is clear: The story is a virtual version of the “perp walk” that can hardy be thought a positive “brand builder.” When the sheriff and jailer wants you, regardless of what the facts are, that’s never a good thing. Where reputation is one of the core functions that self-police (still) unregulated companies like Google, Rolling Stones’ guitarist Keith Richards’ theory that any publicity is good publicity does not apply. The virtual “perp walk” should be avoided at all costs.
- On the Crovitz piece – In commenting on Microsoft’s first suit in the EC against a competitor, Crovitz laments that “lobbying to hobble competitors has become the sad new norm.” Well, he’s wrong. It’s been going on for some time in the ICT industry. Sure, it drains resources and focus instead of freeing companies up to innovate. But, we have to see what the facts are in this case (and that’s its own process struggle in the EC). Witch hunts are no good, especially when they lead to needless regulatory prophylaxis (as Microsoft well knows), but the Redmond company might be right. Companies – if they truly harm consumers – shouldn’t get away with that type of behavior. While the new Microsoft suit is not the exemplar of “turn the other cheek,” their suit is hardly unexpected. To think that Google is somehow immune to the laws of human nature is hogwash, no matter how “un-evil” they might be. What goes around comes around should surprise no one.
- And finally, on Cerf’s article – When things look sticky, roll out the “let’s save the children and baby seals” piece. And, that’s just what this is – a PR “look the other way” as Google begins its long walk to the courtroom (and potentially to the “jailhouse”). Expect more of these as their pot becomes hotter (and it will).