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Because They Can. (Cringely on Google)

'Cringely' offers an anecdote to illustrate Google's power over the soul of the market: He goes into the bank to deposit a check, gets in line behind a kid who insists on keeping ten feet of empty space in front of him.

... The queue was perhaps 20 feet long and right in the middle was this 10-foot gap. I was in no hurry, I thought. That gap was not going to cause me to get to the teller more than a second or so later than I might if the gap was closed. No problem.

Only it WAS a problem. As the minutes passed that gap started to drive me insane. Finally I asked the kid to move forward.

"It was making you crazy, right?" he asked, clearly enjoying the moment.

(Ah, yes, the joys of being a self-important little putz..but I editorialize....)

Google has something over $6B -- that's six billion dollars -- in cash on hand right now. That's cash -- not credit, not valuation, but real money that people have paid them. And everyone wants to know what they'll do with it.

The day when six billion could buy three Eisenhower-class aircraft carriers has long passed, but you can still make a pretty good splash with that much cash. So, as Cringely points out, all the gorillas in technology are sitting around waiting to see exactly what it is that they'll do. Which gives them an amazing amount of power -- as long as they don't actually do anything.

Putting things in perspective, Google has been really really super good at exactly one thing: Self-promotion. Sure, some of their technology is pretty good, but there's really no evidence that their algorithms are really any better than, say, Teoma's. What they do have is more power. There's a saying among marketing folks: "Go big or go home." Google went big, more or less from day ten or so. "Day ten" because they had to get the money to go big with, first. And that's where self-promotion came in.

I distinguish between "marketing" and "self-promotion" here because I think it's important. Google, at the root, has always rooted its mystique in the cult of personality that's coalesced around these mythical beasts "Sergey" and "Larry". That's suffered a little, no doubt, as a result of Eric Schmidt's incredible childishness in response to CNet feeding him a half teaspoon of his own company's medicine. Nevertheless, Google still builds its reputation in large part out of the sheepskins of its PhD-filthy workforce.

As Cringely points out (and as I've pointed out for years, myself), though, and much like Microsoft, Google's technical solutions are seldom really cutting edge, but because of their market dominance people more or less have to use them. What Google have done well is mobilize the good will of geeks; which is to say, what they've done well is to work the cult of personality for all its guerilla marketing mojo.

And now, all they have to do is twitch -- or even hint at twitching -- to make gorillas jump. Rumors abound: Google is buying up dark fiber, so they can run their own internet; Google is building a vast new data center, so large that it will need a major hydroelectric plant to power it; Google is producing their own desktop OS. Sometimes they're even true: Google is in the process of rolling out its own "desktop", a search/chat/email client that will allow them to entrench even more deeply and even more richly enhance their vast database of geographically-linked internet behaviors.

That database is the elephant in the room in any discussion about Google, though of course it's useless without the market-muscle to deploy (and grow) it. In military terms, Google's market mojo pairs up with its database like big satellite-guided bombs pair up with the geographical databases that tell you where the targets are. It's their market position that lets them get the database; the database is what's going to guarantee their market position for years to come.

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