Is Google too big to avoid an IT monopoly?

Google keeps getting bigger, and often at the expense of its customers. Sounds a bit like Microsoft of the past....

This is the question asked by Robert X. Cringely, among others, in an excellent article detailing some of the strategies Google deploys...and how they compare to Microsoft's.

Like Microsoft's standard practice of cozying up to a startup to learn its tricks, only to then turn on it in the market. Google recently did this with Free-411, an information service: has competitors, of course, and the most daunting just appeared on the market from Google - Goog-411. Goog-411 is actually a bit more sophisticated than free411, offering product and service classifications and suggestions, which, of course, also generate more revenue. But for the most part the two services are comparable.

They should be since Google took a long look at investing in or acquiring free411 under a nondisclosure agreement between the two companies, only to abruptly break off discussions and start its own competing service. Is this beginning to sound familiar? This strategy of getting start-ups to explain their business models and share their technologies was practically invented by Microsoft, which would then break off talks, start a competing product or service and use pressure on industry partners to put the smaller company out of business.

All of which makes Google much more frightening as a prospective partner. My personal, direct experience (while advising a startup) in working with Google as a potential partner suggests that Google has or feels little need to partner with any small company, as it has an attitude of "We have thousands of the best developers - we can outdo anything you can do. Not exactly a promising start to a partnership.

Anyway, Cringely goes on to point out that Google's AdWords business unnecessarily cripples small companies (i.e., its customers), but that Google seems not to care. It's an article well worth reading, if for no other reason than to remind us that however much we may strive to "Not be evil" we may fail. Or it may simply be a footnote that suggests that it's hard to please everyone when you're a Very Big Company.

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About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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