Tugging the lion’s whiskers

I particularly liked Greg Linden’s post titled “Google teasing too many lions?“. I had read the orginal post by Robert Cringely titled “Is Google on crack?”, but read it is such a hurry that I missed its points and implications, which Greg caught.

I am wondering if Google is indeed teasing too many lions?

On one hand, Google has an estimated 10,000 employees and if they can’t handle all they are doing with that kind of staff then I would question their management’s abilities to run the business. I think it is good for them to diversify to spread the risks, seeing what sticks and what doesn’t (remember Froogle.) That only makes sense to me. The only quibbles I have is that they don’t seem to cull bad ideas quickly enough, some things seem to stay in beta well past their 1.0 date, and some businesses they buy just whither away.

On the other hand, maybe there is too much diversification going on and Google is going after too many established businesses, creating a lot of enemies along the way. All these things are going to be significant distractions from their core business, making them vulnerable in the long run.

I think there are good arguments on both sides, but on balance I think it is good for Google to test new business ideas and challenge existing businesses. If anything that will wake up existing businesses who are too entrenched to generate competition and create value, both of which benefit the consumers. If Google succeeds, we as consumers stand to benefit, and if they fail, it will probably be because they tugged the incumbent’s whiskers getting to wake up and react.

The one thing I would caution here to Google is not to get arrogant, this is usually a very effective way to loose customers. A degree of humility is a good thing.

Disclaimer – I own Google stock.

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