Google Trades Trust for a Cheap Shot at Microsoft

Rob Enderle

Some days it is almost painful to watch Google. It's successful financially, having become the expert at exchanging consumer information for "free" products and getting advertisers to pay the bill. It is actually not that dissimilar in concept to the Native Americans trading Manhattan Island to Peter Minuit for $24 in trinkets. Google gets billions and the users who create this value are paid in simple software products and services. That is actually rather smart, even though it makes the rest of us look rather stupid. (I'm feeling a lot of kinship with those ripped-off Native Americans at this moment, though they at least got the $24). I know of one woman who was given unsafe directions who is questioning the value of free right now.

 

Google effectively announced that it is discontinuing Windows and the cited reason is "security." This is unlikely the real cause because Windows wasn't the cause of the security problem cited. It was the use of the now-outdated IE6. Google is in the process of bringing out its own OS and would need to move to it in any case. The company could also have addressed this issue simply by requiring Windows 7 and locking down the settings to make it as or more secure than the alternatives. But Microsoft is a competitor, and using a competitor's product is a bad thing. This, coupled with the need to plow the field for its Chrome OS is vastly more likely to be the reason Google made this move. Also, given that Google is under broad investigation for stealing user information while driving around mapping the world, you would think "security" would be one of those topics it would want to stay away from at the moment. Since there are actually a lot of Apple users at Google (it still allows the MacOS), can we anticipate that it will stop using the MacOS and state the reason as "freedom"?

 

Dishonesty is a bad way to build a market. For a company with the concept of not doing evil at its core, it increasingly seems that Google is specifically targeting evil as a goal. Intentional dishonesty is evil, but not uncommon with large companies, particularly young ones. Let's focus on this, and why lying isn't just evil, it's stupid.

 

Marketing vs. Lying

 

It's rare in most of the companies I've worked with and for to have marketing people with a background in marketing. There seems to be a common practice to rotate engineers through marketing roles as some kind of training exercise. This isn't a bad idea, or at least it wouldn't be, if there were strong marketing skills retained in the organization that could be used to teach these engineers what marketing is, and what it isn't. It isn't institutionalized lying.


 

I say this because a few years ago, when I was transferred into a marketing organization myself and confronted a managing director on a piece of marketing collateral that said we were doing things we actually weren't, he effectively called marketing "lying." In his mind, marketing was the practice of telling customers whatever was necessary either to sell your own products or, in that instance, to keep them from buying from someone else's. He said (as I remember it), "This isn't lying, it's marketing!"

 

What he, and others like him, failed to realize is that customers aren't as stupid as folks seem to think. Eventually they figure out that you aren't telling them the truth. From then on, they don't believe anything you say and will gravitate away from your products. People don't like to buy from companies they don't trust.

 

Appearance of Lying

 

People often fail to realize that it doesn't matter whether you are actually telling the truth, but whether you appear to be. For instance, if Microsoft said it wasn't using Oracle software because it was too expensive -- even though that would likely be true given that Microsoft's cost on its own software would be cheaper and the security difficulties of having Oracle on campus would be uniquely prohibitive -- no one would believe that was the primary reason, even if true. It would appear Microsoft was lying and customers would not trust anything else that Microsoft said.

 

For much of the '90s, Microsoft made statements that were questionable and its lack of growth in the last decade can likely be attributed partially to that. The most famous was "scalability day," where it tried to showcase that its products could scale to mainframe levels. Ironically, the products actually did scale, but the cost of the effort exceeded the cost of the mainframes they replaced by several times. And folks didn't believe it anyway. Microsoft did critical damage to its credibility and it has taken years to recover.

 

Wrapping Up: The Danger of Disparaging Competitor Products

 

One of the policies I admired from IBM while I was working there was the one against disparaging a competitor's product. This wasn't because doing so was evil, but like negative campaigning, it generally made the company doing the disparaging look untrustworthy. IBM, at its peak, was the most trusted company in the industry, and its success was largely tied to this trust.

 

Of the companies I work with, EMC is the most closely focused on building and maintaining trust, and it is my current gold standard in that regard. Regardless of whether lying is evil, Google and the rest of us should be looking to build and maintain trust, not trade it cheaply for a little bit of ink and a slam at a competitor. Google has aspirations to move into the enterprise; plans like this killed Netscape. Such a move isn't easy. Learning from the mistakes of others has not proven to be Google's strength, and this announcement is yet another example of that.

 

Regardless of what Google says about Microsoft or Apple, the lesson to be learned here is that the successful path is to maintain the appearance of trustworthiness.



Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jun 2, 2010 5:36 AM a. asdf a. asdf  says:

I have to agree. How safe is the Google Chrome browser anyway?

Here's something to consider, from: http://www.zdnet.com/blog/security/google-chrome-vulnerabilities-starting-to-pile-up/1858

"If you build a browser in isolation, you don't get the benefits and knowledge of the smart people who have come before you. Yes, Google's browser is open source, like Firefox. But even Firefox came from Netscape, which had tons of background in the browser world, and Mozilla, too, has learned from a mistake or two. It is easy to call into question Google's ability to build a safe browser given its rather poor track record in other areas of security. And no, you shouldn't download it - not if you care about your security. So, like cryptography, you shouldn't build a browser unless you really, really know what you're doing. "

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Jun 2, 2010 7:23 AM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says: in response to a. asdf

Google seems to want to make mistakes as if they were the first tech company ever to come to market.  They seem to have either done the cliff notes version of any class on industry history or just figured that what was past was worthless.   They seem to be systematically remaking every single avoidable mistake already made by Microsoft and others.  I seriously think their CEO should give his salary back because he, at least, should know better.  This is the long way of saying "I agree".  

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Jun 15, 2010 12:41 PM Ayaz Haniffa Ayaz Haniffa  says:

We have created a monster...

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Jun 15, 2010 12:49 PM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says: in response to Ayaz Haniffa

To quote the immortal Tonto while chatting with the Lone Ranger while being surrounded by a thousand hostile inda..  er, Native Americans.   'What do you mean 'we" are in trouble white man'.  

I'm not taking the blame for Google...    

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Jun 15, 2010 12:52 PM Ayaz Haniffa Ayaz Haniffa  says: in response to Rob Enderle

I like your quote I was a huge fan of Lone Ranger back in the day.

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Jun 16, 2010 2:17 AM Gary Barr Gary Barr  says: in response to Rob Enderle

Rob, can you not hear the contradictions in your last statement to me? When you decide whether your defense of your Article is that Google is worse than Microsoft or that you are disappointed that Google has not held itself to a higher Standard, I'll respond.

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Jun 16, 2010 2:21 AM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says: in response to Gary Barr

Sorry, I thought I was being clear.  I think companies should learn from the mistakes of those that came before and not repeat them.  I had this same problem with Microsoft in the 90s when they started repeating IBM's mistakes.  

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Jun 16, 2010 2:29 AM James Williamson James Williamson  says:

Rob,

The problem with Windows runs much deeper than a browser or Windows Messenger (which I believe was the real culprit at Google, not IE). The problem is that Microsoft's OS is designed with a great deal of internal interoperability, which means that one weak spot in the OS can conceivably mean havoc anywhere else in the operating system. For example, you can open an Excel spreadsheet inside a browser window (which, architecturally, makes no sense). Backdoors, open ports, bad structural concept are endemic to the Windows platform because of the operating system design.

UNIX, Linux, and Mac have a very different operating system design, which is why, comparatively, they have a minuscule amount of security breaches.

That is why security is the issue and why Google allows users to have Apple computers. Apple is a Google competitor too, and the fact Google employees can run Mac negates the whole "Microsoft is a competitor" argument.

Best regards,

Jim

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Jun 16, 2010 2:41 AM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says: in response to James Williamson

The only reported security breach Google had on Windows I'm aware of was due to a bad patching practice that left IE6 in place and likely left Windows unpatched for extended periods of time.  This is like blaming GM for quality issues after a crash related to not replacing your brake pads timely.  In that case there is no argument that GM has quality issues, but the reason for the problem would have had nothing to do with them. 

As far as using Apple perhaps it only means that their own platform isn't ready yet and that the Chrome OS initially targets Windows and not Apple.  They'll have to run something while they are getting the Chrome OS ready. 

But the main part of my point was, because of the competitive relationship and cause of their breach, the reason behind the decision is questionable and makes them look untrustworthy.  Much of what Microsoft was accused of doing in the 90s they didn't actually do, but they looked guilty and thus bled trust. 

Trust they desperately needed later.  This is about maintaining the perception of being trustworthy not about the decision itself.  They are welcome to use any technology they want but they need to be careful when they announce their choice's that they don't destroy their credibility in the process.  They will need that credibility later on as both Microsoft and IBM showcased.

Apple may be the only company that deeply gets the importance of perception and how it trumps reality.  However their lesson is one I think every company should learn. 

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Jun 16, 2010 3:47 AM Sakher Hiari Sakher Hiari  says: in response to Rob Enderle

In fairness, I think you should consider Microsoft's track record in the browser business. IE explorer which - was a late comer in the browser business - tormented users of Microsoft's windows OS for quite a long time before "appearing" to have finally stabilized over the past 2/3 years. IE was, and still is something that you can't  get far from, if you use the Windows os. The simplest reason for which you would keep IE installed, is that it simplifies the updates process for the windows OS; and considering the large amount of updates from Microsoft for it's windows OS, much of which relates to security, you normally would have done so.

One needs to stop and consider what Microsoft would have done - or just may have never bothered to do for its customers - if there had been no competition from Google (and the likes of Google!). 

                 

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Jun 16, 2010 3:52 AM Gary Barr Gary Barr  says:

I'm wondering if Rob is another Microsoft Fan Boy. This Article sounds to me like he took a shabby premise, launched into a diatribe as if his assumptions were sound, and using superb circular logic proved his assumption.

Rob, if you love Microsoft that's your choice. I've been a Microsoft Watcher since Windows 3. I was a proud owner of that POS as well as DOS 4 so don't try to tell me about Google being less than truthful. Microsoft has a record of lying to their Customers. Remember "Tell them it's a Feature"?

Please peddle your Cr*p to someone who is ignorant enough to believe it. It seems they are easy to find.

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Jun 16, 2010 10:44 AM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says: in response to Sakher Hiari

Remember Firefox really was the competition that drove Microsoft to fix IE6.  But the point of this piece isn't the decision Google made, it was that they traded trust in order to shoot Microsoft with it.  They had a problem with IE, certainly, but that problem was due to their failure to keep IE current, a problem that would occur with their own technology if people didn't update it to address threats timely.

This isn't about competition, it's about Google continuing to make really foolish decisions which compromise its own integrity and image. 

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Jun 16, 2010 10:55 AM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says: in response to Gary Barr

Agreed Microsoft has made some horrid decisions with regard to its own integrity and the trust of its customers.   It just seems that Google should learn from Microsoft's example as opposed to feeling they need to repeat, and exceed, the mistakes Microsoft has made.   To my eye, Google is making the same mistakes, mistakes that could have been avoided, that Microsoft has made only faster and worse.   Google patterned itself to be better than Microsoft, better should mean they avoid Microsoft's mistakes not excel at them.  

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Jun 19, 2010 6:27 AM Gary Barr Gary Barr  says: in response to Rob Enderle

"Much of what Microsoft was accused of doing in the 90s they didn't actually do, but they looked guilty and thus bled trust.  "

What! I was watching every move at the time. I don't know what you were doing, Rob, but I cannot believe you saw the same Proceedings I did if you say that!

You really ARE a Microsoft Fan Boy.

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Jun 19, 2010 6:54 AM Gary Barr Gary Barr  says: in response to Rob Enderle

In my experience Organizations are more like people than we might first notice. There are good ones and bad ones, Reputable ones and Shady Dealers, and different people will put any given Organization into different Categories according to personal beliefs and experience.

Also, like most people, Organizations will tend to make their own mistakes. It is indeed the rarity to see a person or group of people (Business, Club, Church, etc.) with both the capacity and willingness to learn from anything other than their own mistakes. Some people go so far as to say the only things that are really ours are our mistakes. (I don't go quite that far. It is, however, a famous quote.)

It is also common that an Outside Observer can see things the Person or Organization cannot.

I do not object to your Comments on Google's Behavior. You gotta write about something, right? What I object to is your Hyperbole. I object to your White Wash of Microsoft's Misguided, Pernicious, and Malicious ways and your attempt to tarnish Google as equaling or exceeding them. While I do not find Google above reproach, any comparison of their behavior with Microsoft's must invariably find Google shining like a star and Microsoft covered in the mud (of MS own making).

Any comments from anyone other than Microsoft Fan Boys (and girls)?

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Jun 21, 2010 5:22 AM James Williamson James Williamson  says:

Hi,

I agree with you user1302133. I replied to this article because I thought Mr. Enderle was seeking a balanced, informed, intelligent discussion. While I certainly appreciate the fact he responds rapidly and with gusto, his responses fail to address his readers' primary points. For example, I commented about defects at the core of the operating system to prove that security issues lie at the heart of the problem, and Mr. Enderle replied with odd statements about Apple trumping reality.

And before you start, please note I am aware of various security lapses in Apple's products. Hence my statement "comparatively, they have a minuscule amount of security breaches." As further proof, look how dangerous PDFs with embedded JavaScript are on Windows and yet the same PDF files are virtually harmless on a Mac or Linux box.

It's not about marketing, not about making weak slap-face comments at Microsoft's competitors. The issue is about technology and security, and these are areas where MS has a proven track record of failure due to the architecture of their products.

BTW, here is a link to the Windows Messenger breach I referred to:

http://www.pinewswire.net/2010/04/report-google-hackers-stole-source-code-of-global-password-system/

"According to the Times, the theft began when an instant message was sent to a Google employee in China who was using Windows Messenger. The message included a link to a malicious website. Once the employee clicked on the link, the intruders were able to gain access to the employee's computer and from there to computers used by software developers at Google's headquarters in California."

With all due respect, given that Mr. Enderle claims to only know about Windows security breaches in outdated versions of IE, his inability or unwillingness to address the real issues beneath Google's decision, and a blind eye to the recent past, he simply knows very little about which he writes. Cheers.

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Jun 21, 2010 5:54 AM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says: in response to James Williamson

Here is the detail on the IE6 exposure that opened Google (and others up) and got the press. 

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/01/19/google_china_attack_malware_analysis/

There were clearly a number of triggers but the cause was running IE6.  It wasn't a Windows problem it was a Google process problem, they weren't alone with the problem but are the only ones on the list of companies hit banning Windows and not simply fixing their process.  They may have just cause it just doesn't appear that they do and perceptions are everything.

Regardless of the cause this would be like GM banning the use of Toyotas by employees for safety issues.   People would likely focus on whether GM was telling the truth then on the safety issues because GM is at war with Toyota.   If Microsoft banned Google Search because of concerns about personal information security, even though there is ample reason to suggest that might be the case, would you believe them?  Of course not the same is true here. 

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Jun 21, 2010 11:35 AM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says: in response to Gary Barr

Actually I covered the proceedings for a number of news services.  The allegations that Microsoft was intentionally crippling competing products were proven untrue.   This concept surrounding Microsoft for much of that decade.  The test was Real Networks who testified for the State, under review it was determined that they had erred in development and that Microsoft had not done them any damage.   It is fascinating to watch Apple overtly use this same behavior on their new platforms that Microsoft was unsuccessfully accused of. 

Microsoft got nailed for two things, one trying to use their power to lock out Netscape (ironically most of what they attempted was unsuccessful but you don't get credit if you are bad criminal) and for being incredibly arrogant during the entire legal proceedings.   The Prosecution was hardly blameless though as it often appeared that both sides would have done better had they swapped witnesses.   It often appeared both sides chose witnesses that were mentally challenged.    The worst, and likely the turning point, was Bill's own testimony.   Good lesson here, don't try to outsmart experts in their own field.  

As far as Google, they are now under investigation for the theft of personal information and intellectual property on a number of occasions.   Maybe you're watching another Google; the one I'm watching has effectively been kicked out of two countries now, is under broad investigation for personal information theft, and increasingly seems to think itself above the law.   At the core of this is arrogance, which was at the core of most of Microsoft's issues in the 90s.  If they keep on this path they will likely have the same outcome. 

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Jun 22, 2010 8:32 AM Gary Barr Gary Barr  says: in response to Rob Enderle

The Google I'm watching has been incredibly successful in Innovating a way to turn Search Results into Advertising Profit. They then use those dollars not to turn people into Millionaires and their Owners into the richest people on the Planet, but to bring MORE Products and Services to the Public at low cost or (usually) no cost. Finally, they are the lone Search company standing up for both Individual's Privacy Rights against large Corporations and the Federal Government and Open Access to Information in Totalitarian States (which got them 'kicked out').

Your Spin of that just shows what lengths you will go to lam-blast Google. You are a Microsoft Protagonist and Fan Boy and not worthy of any further dialog with me.

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Jun 22, 2010 8:41 AM Gary Barr Gary Barr  says: in response to James Williamson

"... his inability or unwillingness to address the real issues beneath Google's decision, and a blind eye to the recent past, he simply knows very little about which he writes. Cheers."

I don't think it's ignorance, user1471691. I think he willfully Spins his 'facts' to White Wash Microsoft's misadventures and tar Google unfairly as being as bad or worse than Microsoft.

Rob Enderie is a biased, agenda driven, Microsoft Proselytizer. He does not deserve the attention of any one trying to Reason with him. We only build his ratings with this Site and ensure his continued ability to spread his Crap.

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Jun 22, 2010 10:36 AM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says: in response to Gary Barr

People said the same thing about Microsoft in the early ninties.  Stay tuned...

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