This post is related to privacy in so far as it’s hard these days to talk about Google and not mention privacy in the same breath (as least for anyone involved in the privacy profession).
I’m been thinking about Google a lot lately: strategically, competitively, and in terms of their product mix. I’ve come to a rather radical conclusion that I haven’t seen elsewhere so I thought I’d share. Ostentatiously, Google’s mission is to “organize the worlds information and make it universally accessible.” However, strategically they seem to be on a mission to become the universal middle man.
Consider the number of Google products and services that aim to position them between consumers and producers:
goo.gl (url shortner)
Offers, Adwords and other advertising products.
Page Speed Service
Google can’t physically come between consumers and producers (as say an ISP could though they may be going this route too with Google Fiber) but they can interject themselves virtually. Because of the need to be adopted on either the consumer or producer side of the equation, they add value by offering services that are free (or provide a benefit over costs like adwords). The goal of these services is to, again, get Google in the middle of the equation.
Where the lines of producer and consumer are blurred, such as interpersonal communications, Google also offers a suite of products to be the conduit between the parties: Google +, Voice, Gmail, Groups, Youtube.
What’s interesting is when you start viewing the competition in this light, there really is no competition. Apple is doing the same thing with it’s operating systems, itunes store, app market but there are two obvious distinctions: 1) Apple is only positioning itself between consumers and producer’s of information not products and they aren’t positioning themselves between either producers of consumer goods nor in the consumer as producer (i.e. social) market and 2) Apple is attempting to rent seek and take advantage of it’s position to maximize it’s income.
The next competitor is Facebook which can take advantage of it’s social networking site. To a degree it’s trying to leverage that to get between producers and consumers with it’s advertising platform and with it application space, but this strategy is necessarily limited.
Microsoft probably has the broadest competitive suite of products and services. However, it’s strategy doesn’t seem as cohesive.
There are a host of other companies that compete with Google in niche markets, but nobody (except maybe Microsoft) has the breadth of services strategy aimed at wedging themselves into every transaction.