'Googled: The End of the World As We Know It'

Dennis Byron

OK, kids and grandkids, the name of the book I want for Christmas is in the headline above. The book sounds like it might be this decade's "The Soul of a New Machine," the Pulitzer prize-winning 1981 book that was a must read for every IT person and budding computer scientist all during the 1980s. (It never was made into a movie despite the rumors that Robert Redford would play Tom West.)


I listened to an interview with author Ken Auletta on C-Span on Sunday, and I think the book about Google might resonate for all us IT types because it does not take an IT perspective. Auletta is the media critic for The New Yorker, and he writes from the perspective of how the media market - not the IT market - is affected by Google.


The interesting thing is that Auletta wrote a book about Microsoft 10 years ago, in the midst of the last Democratic-party administration's antitrust action against Microsoft, so he can't help straying over the line into IT issues. His summary of the difference between the two companies:

Microsoft (executives were) cold business people. Google (executive are) cold engineers.

Just digging into his more detailed opinion about that statement comparing Bill Gates to Eric Schmidt and the Hardy Boys should be worth the read.


Looking at Google as a media company is a major temptation of investment analysts, which is what I do in my day job. I wish it were the case because I could scratch Google off my watch list the way I have scratched off Amazon and eBay, which are, of course, retailers. However the problem with looking at Google as a media company such as IDG or McGraw Hill (both former employers of mine) or the TV broadcasting networks (before they were acquired by conglomerates) or The New York Times is that Google itself keeps saying it is an IT company. It just happens to use advertising revenue as a way to monetize the value of its IT, primarily its consumer search engine.


And Google affects you because it also keeps pretending to want to get into the enterprise software business. But it can't figure out how to monetize enterprise software with advertising revenue and it knows it can't compete with EMC, IBM, Intuit, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP and the like without some similar twist. After all, Google did try to sell its search software the traditional way back in the late 1990s before it borrowed the advertising-funded approach from the TV networks.


I sure hope the book is as good as the interview. Just as a warning, the interview indicates that the book might have some technical facts garbled. Auletta admits that working with Google was "like visiting another planet." His explanation of cloud computing in particular was too simplistic to the point of being misleading. And like all explanations of cloud computing, his explanation implies that the concept is new when, in fact, it dates from the founding of the IT industry. Also a note to you Gen-Xers and Millenials, both the C-Span interviewer and Auletta are greybeards like me.


And if you don't like to read lenghthy non-fiction, at least look at this excerpt in Fortune.

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