Archive for December, 2010

Google is being too nice and humble with Android

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Engineers are humble. Take a problem to them, they would leave everything else and start debugging together. You can use their code for free (with the comments intact). They’ll accept the bugs and maybe even tell you beforehand about the bug which is not on the list. They’ll even create a single-use prototype for the benefit of other people. Google is that engineer who wrote Android.

Carriers & vendors are manipulating Android to push their own agenda and Google who could be the cop is just playing an ombudsman.

The end consumers of Linux suffered because Torvalds is humble. Everybody screwed around with the source and companies monetized at the expense of users. There are 10 different ways of installing a small piece of software on any distro. We know the Linux story. I fear that could be the Android story as well.

In the US, Verizon is pushing it’s own version of apps, screens,  and if I have read it right elsewhere, one of them does not carry the Google search app. Why can’t Google call the chops a la what ‘Intel Inside’ did for PCs? Why a buyer in India does not need to know that a Micromax mobile carrying Android is built by Google Engineers? Why the brilliant marketing campaign does not carry any Google branding?

Yes, it can be argued that the charter of Android is not to control what the carriers and vendors do to the phone. Isn’t seamless customer experience a big charter enough which Google can define?

It can also be argued that this is not scalable to build relationships with every phone vendor and telco. Good news, there are only 150-odd who are worthy of business in the markets which matter. Wouldn’t Micromax give a warm welcome to an Android engineer? Any help from a large company, plus, the permission to use the logo is always welcome!

Android does not want to be iOS, but it cannot be Linux  either. It needs to find a middle ground; maybe it needs to learn from the Intel ecosystem. Intel does not leave it on to ISVs to shuffle the chips but controls the whole ecosystem inside the PC. Intel was reportedly not nice to it’s partners. As a consumer I’m not bothered whose arms gets twisted–I need my clean screens with apps I can trust.

More than Android, Google–the brand, is losing opportunity to get into the minds of buyers for whom the phone is the first computing device. Being nice is not serving the purpose of users; Android is just a year old, it’s time to call the shots and establish some rules. Carriers do not have a choice and Google has to realize that. If it continues to be nice, I fear it would end up being the project coordinator.

Disclaimer: Using Linus’s effort is to prove a point and to wake Google up–not an attempt at taking pot-shots. He is a Deva for every engineer.

Related post:

From Google to Facebook: The shifting monetization landscape

Saturday, December 4th, 2010

Last year, Bloomberg reported that Google, which has the market share of over 65% in search, made a $54 billion impact on US economic activity. For every $1 a company spent on search related advertising, they receive an average of $8 through profits through Google Search and AdWords. Google created a platform where businesses optimized their web presence, thus increasing monetization.

Google supplied the two necessary ingredients for a successful platform (a) Monetization and (b) Users. Rest was left to the developers to figure out as to how to connect the dots and monetize. A lot of startups were built assuming Google’s existence in mind. Entrepreneurs started developing on Google–the platform.

Things have changed in last year, with facebook becoming the destination of choice. What Google lacked as a platform, Facebook has provided a set of tools and APIs to allow developers to build on it.

On the other hand, a lot of people are calling facebook a closed platform, but if they look deeper, Facebook’s set of tools and API is the connecting link to the outside world. Facebook Connect (which has 100m+ websites using it) and the Open Graph are the window to the outside world. The former connects a facebook user to a website, whereas the latter brings the data residing outside into facebook. Combined together, this gives facebook a full-duplex connectivity with “objects” which are not within the facebook ecosystem.

As facebook accelerates the opening of the proverbial “walled garden” via even better tools & it’s API, the pace of development would also increase.

Let’s compare the google vs. facebook ecosystem. Google monetizes it’s document graph while facebook on top of social graph.

Google vs facebook: Encoding intent

Google builds on the fact that a user encodes it’s behavior by creating documents (or webpages). For example, a personal blog post has an author’s stream of consciousness encoded in it. When Coca-cola creates a webpage, the brand and it’s product intentions are encoded in an HTML document. Google then deduces the intent and the interlinked behavior and churns everything through it’s algorithm for search, discovery and monetization using it’s advertising programs. Compare this with facebook, these encodings are verbatim; relationships are threadbare. Furthermore, the intent & relationships are identifiable via the explicit intentions laid out by people connected to it. While Google monetizes the various nuggets of implied behavior, facebook does the same via harnessing the collective force of explicit intentions.

Why build on facebook? I strongly believe that as the web becomes increasingly complex, the findability of a document becomes next to impossible, we’ll go back where we started–Our personal network. The network of trusted friends and advisors for help; whether we are looking for answers to questions, recommendations for products, or simply connecting with strangers. We’ll traverse through our social graph and use the intent of the graph to get the results for our queries.

Facebook is emerging as a platform beyond intent (ad networks, lead generation) and casual interaction (social gaming, virtual gifting) but also a serious destination for tangible-goods commerce, content discovery and business to business interactions.

If you look at advertising, facebook could corner a large pie of the $140 billion brand advertising market. Compared to Google, I don’t have to search on facebook to see an ad, nor facebook has to harvest my clickstream, the sheer presence and precise demographic data and my conscious stream makes an impression commanding much higher CPMs compared to other real-estate. Search advertising on which Google builds it overall revenue of $10billion annually is just overall $25 billion worldwide. I can speculate that a portion of this would also move into the facebook ecosystem as tools for discovery and search start showing within the facebook ecosystem. The latter could add to facebook’s share of performance advertising.

Virtual and tangible-goods commerce are still under evolution. Though, facebook credits do not bring a huge windfall yet, Facebook is working on a paypal-like competitive offering which may be extended to the apps ecosystem. This is going to revv-up the revenue from non-advertising sources. Couple this with local deals from facebook places, which is still building momentum.

In case of facebook, the precision of explicit intentions is high compared to implied behaviors from reams of webpages. There is a huge possibility that facebook’s impact on the economy to be 10x than that of Google as facebook is also a destination rather than a powerful traffic cop. The space to watch is the discovery and commerce within the facebook ecosystem. There are unexpected opportunities being presented to developers and entrepreneurs to develop applications beyond gaming and now is the time to get-in!