Google products are interesting but not different

Let me be the first to admit that Google’s new line of technology looks pretty sweet. My interest is piqued when new devices arrive, regardless if I trust the company’s motivations or generally suffer from a fickle relationship with the outfit.

Google
The new products from Google just mimic everyone else.

In case you missed it, Google’s “Made by Google” site is alive and well. Yesterday, the business introduced its response to the iPhone with Pixel, a virtual reality headset called the Daydream View, an updated version of its Chromecast streaming device, and a voice activated speaker called Google Home (think Amazon’s Echo). All of the aforementioned products are solely produced by the company, a change from past practices.

Google really had me with the debut of its new gadgets — possibly because they looked a lot like Apple products. Yet, unfortunately, I speedily lost when it chose to poke fun at Apple, the very company it is mimicking. That doesn’t get anyone to switch and it’s wasted energy.

The only way to steal market share is to be truly different and better than the competition, especially the market leader. A jibe is okay, but it looks empty and petty when your products are no different.

Are the products from Google any different than anyone else?

Here’s exactly what I mean. Google said, “3.5mm headphone jack satisfyingly not new,” which was followed by a cough in jest. That jest was a slight at Apple for not including a headphone jack on the iPhone 7.

What Google missed by that jab was that Apple was thinking differently, which falls in line with its brand. Google has its own powerful brand, but it plays into Apple’s hands when its products do not think different. That means Apple is positioned against them.

While you must position yourself against the market leader to steal share, it’s difficult to do when your own products mimic the market leaders, no matter the industry.

My fickle relationship with Google

Consider this — certain brand preferences are so rooted in us that it feels natural as breathing when we use one of these rooted products.

When I buy peanut butter, it’s always going to be Jif. When I buy something online, my go to is Amazon. When I buy spices, they will be McCormick.

And when I search online, I use Google.

Google
Why is Google right for searching but not for being in your home?

Thing is, I recently wrote a blog blasting Google Home. For those that don’t know, the Home is Google’s answer to the Amazon Echo: a stand alone, voice-activated speaker. It will play music you request, complete tasks rooted in its interface (like turning off your lights), and answer any trivial question you wish to ask it.

I remain steadfast in my claims about Google Home. I still don’t trust the tech giant because I feel like it is always collecting and storing information on me and housing it in its servers.

Surely, I am not paranoid to suggest that. Right?

But then my mind comes back to this:

Google is unrivaled when it comes to search engines. 

Admit it. It’s Google and everyone else.

When I find someone using Bing or Yahoo!, I feel pity for them. Don’t you feel the same? I wouldn’t be surprised if these noobs still had a Hotmail account and frequented AOL from a dial-up modem.

So then, if I don’t trust the intentions of the market leader, why the heck is it my preferred default search engine?

Easy.

It always has the answers I need. It provides me the most relatable search options without the clutter. What’s more, it’s smart.

Therefore, being smart means using the Google search engine as I need it. It also means recognizing its power and not inviting it into my home imbedded in a speaker that’s always on. That’s not smart.

Google Home is a scary proposition

I don’t always trust Google.

Let me take that back. I don’t trust Google at all.

Call it paranoia, fear or any other similar word you can find in the thesaurus. But a company that wants to store all my data is a company in which I am leery.

I am apprehensive of ever signing up for a Gmail account or using Google Docs or any of the company’s free programs. Free isn’t really free when it means risking your privacy, is it?

That’s why when Google announced Google Home last week, the red sirens blew up in the back of my head.

Google Home is “Always On.” That’s a scary idea. 

In case you don’t know what Google Home is, it’s Google’s answer to the Amazon Echo. If you don’t know what the Echo is, it’s a voice activated speaker. When signaled with the spoken word “Alexa,” it awakens and provides an answer to your command or question. You can ask Alexa to play a certain song, what the temperature is going to be tomorrow, or anything else you could think. It’s a snazzy device to have around the house.

Google Home
This Google Home device scares me more than the Amazon Echo.

There was a concern that Amazon could listen to what you were doing at any given time. But Amazon has held steady that the device can only listen to you when you clearly give it a command. And it doesn’t always get those commands right, so I am not worried. Plus, you can also turn off the microphone at any time. I trust Amazon’s brand enough to believe that to be true.

Yet, I don’t trust Google.

Think about this. The company that controls 90% of all web search traffic and collects all of your data each and every time you use it has now constructed a device that already knows your browsing history and can potentially listen to your interactions at home with “Always On” technology.

I’ll give that a giant, “No thank-you.”

The power of Google is relentless. And I’m sure the Google Home device is revolutionary. But knowing Google is behind it means I’ll never have one in my home.

The confusing Google Alphabet structure

Google announced that it is forming Alphabet to be a holding company of sorts for all of Google’s many and varied businesses. The explanation for this new venture is that Google wanted to separate its money-making businesses from those still in development. That way, the thinking goes, it will be more transparent to Wall Street.

Okay fine, but I don’t really see how creating a parent company is any different than what Google has now and Alphabet is certainly not a better name. YouTube, for example, is not known as Google or even YouTube by Google. It is simply YouTube and the same can be said for Android.

For the sake of simplicity and focus, why add an additional name to confuse matters? The Google division of Alphabet will most likely always dictate what the other business units can and can’t do. The money Google makes has a direct relationship to what, where and how far the other moonshot ideas can go.

That is the way it always has been with Google. Or do I now call it Alphabet?

Adding to the complexity.

I understand the financial desire to break apart disparate businesses. But the reality is that companies already do that with adding complexity. Sony reports the sales figures of each of its divisions, as do all conglomerates. But even with the mistakes that Sony has made over the years, it has kept its name intact.

Here’s the kicker – Sony’s mistakes are well documented, including by me. (Particularly as they related to missing out on combining its music catalogue with its music player only to be kicked in the teeth by Apple’s iPod and iTunes.) But it remained one company with one name.

Is this now the Alphabet headquarters?
Is this now the Alphabet headquarters?

This Google Alphabet structure is running a terrible risk of losing the innovative culture that has propelled the Google brand to be one of the most successful companies on the planet. Adding another layer of bureaucracy, management and complication will not make Google Alphabet more innovative as some have predicted. Instead, it has the real possibility of squashing innovation.

The success of Google has always been the result of it applying its wealth of knowledge from computing to consumer data to infrastructure to other seemingly non-related endeavors, taking brain power from one area and applying to others. Creating a parent creates unnecessary compartments that Google has never had before. In essence, creating a parent company is a direct conflict with its company culture.

Google is relinquishing a portion of its brand equity, throwing away the power of its brand and creating an inefficient brand architecture that it really did not need. Brand is about being clear and simple and easy to understand. Alphabet or Google (I don’t even know what to call it) has done the exact opposite on all counts. Alphabet is not clear, simple and easy to understand.

I have been involved with many companies who claim they are highly innovative and the one thing I know for sure is that red tape kills innovation. Google has created red tape. It’s no longer one Google, it is a collection of companies.

Alphabet will have a honeymoon phase where everyone will play nice and get along. But I have a feeling that, over time, cross pollination of ideas will begin to slow down and some of Google’s world-class talent will view the new structure as a hindrance to being innovative and find that their once beloved Google is now just a corporate cog in ABC company.

The Google monopoly and the right to be forgotten

Europe’s highest court ruled that Google must delete some search results people deem embarrassing. This is causing all sorts of blogs and opinions on what exactly are our rights to privacy. The story so far revolves around requests from convicted pedophiles, criminals and political candidates. Oh, goody.

What is not being debated and should is Google’s ever-increasing stranglehold as the arbiter of free access to information. Google controls 90% of the web search traffic and that is just too much. A decision from Google affects business, governments and individuals. It answers to no one and doesn’t even tell us how it decides the importance of what it decides we should see and read.

IN__GOOGLE__1338298fThe court decision is even more troubling. The decision actually says if such personal data “appears to be inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant,” the search results must be removed.

So I guess Google now decides which answers to our queries are most important and worthy of sharing. Which web sites should be ignored and now will decide if the information is worthy.

Wake up World Wide Web! The promise of access to unlimited information and the liberty of search is being challenged by our own inability to see that our presumably benign decision as to which search engine we use has dramatic impact on openness and liberty. There was a time when there was a long list of search engines to choose from. Now most of us think there are only three: Google, Bing and Yahoo.

But trust me, there is only one and, as long as we use it exclusively, we risk what happened to my business six months ago. You can read my blog on it here.

Unless we do, Google will be free to decide what appears to be inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant.