29 Nov

Playground of the Giants


I’ve been giving megacorporations a whole lot of thought lately. In this article, i’ll be looking at three of them: Microsoft, Google and Apple.

First, let’s delve in to the big G, Google. Google is a verb. How many companies have ever become a verb? “Google that.”. There’s a whole lot of buzz around Google, namely that they are some kind of evil corporation, hellbent on world domination. There are a number of things that attest to this. Google is one of, if not the biggest owner of fiber optic cable in the world. This means, they control a large part of the backbone of the internet. They’ve been quietly buying it up along the years, and i believe they are now in the position of largest owner. The buying started in 2005, if not earlier.

Recently, theybid for a chunk of RF-bandwidth, namely the 700mhz area. This is an area that can be used to operate a mobile telephone network. In the 2007 bidding-competition, this was the C-block. The rules stated, that if bidding on the C block exceeded a certain figure, the winner would have to allow everyone to create applications and devices for that block, effectively opening it up.

“As a result of the auction, consumers whose devices use the C-block of spectrum soon will be able to use any wireless device they wish, and download to their devices any applications and content they wish,” say Richard Whitt and Joseph Faber, two of Google’s Washington-based counsel members, in a post Thursday afternoon.

Google threw in a bid of a cool 4.6 billion dollars right off the bat, thereby unlocking the deal as stated above. They didn’t actually have to pay that much (Verizon ended up actually buying the spectrum for a fair 9.4 billion, which also includes other frequencies), but the fact that they could make the bid, means they did.

Google makes money off advertisement. If you use Firefox, and the noscript plugin (very much recommended), you’ll notice that most sites use a bit of javascript called Google Analytics. This is the little bit of code that follows you around on the web, and generates valuable marketing data about your habits. This way, marketing companies can make very specific ads, or just change the layout and presentation of their ads, based on how millions upon millions of consumers surf. They also use text-ads in applications such as gmail, to look through your mail (scary, right?), and then produce ads based on the content of your mails. Say you’re mailing Tom about a new car, you’ll probably get ads regarding cars, auto accessories, cheaper service-plans..

So my question is, can google make it without the ad-revenues? If i suddenly went around like fucking Santa Claus, and installed Firefox on every last computer in the world, along with adblock and noscript, would google go bancrupt? Probably not. They’ve been adding to their portfolio with things like fiber optics and mobile devices (Android, anyone?). But would it be enough to sustain this behemoth? Who knows. The ultimate goals of Google may only be known to a select few. It’s just a proven fact that when any entity gains a lot of power, that results in trouble. Because what do people with power want? More power.

Chapter two in this post is Microsoft and Apple. Both big healthy companies, with a long-running history of weird products, bad products, and amazing success-stories. But one would probably not be without the other. I’m talking about Apple, receiving money from Microsoft to continue operating. This was in the 90’s. Now what did this result in, initially? Microsoft products were now available on Macs. Programs like Office and Internet Explorer became available on the Mac platform. But this hasn’t quelled the interest for Mac applications, such as iWork and Safari, both of which are living healthy lives of their own. IE isn’t available anymore, and the office version is growing a bit old as well. One can dual-boot a mac in to windows, using Boot Camp. No doubt, also a fruit of this unholy alliance.

CNET recently wrote that Apple “owes” Microsoft 30 billion dollars, and as a side effect, most of their success. Had Microsoft not sponsored Apple, they probably would not have gone on to get a significant market-share in mobile phones, computers and software. The iPod is a household standard, and who hasn’t heard of the iPhone, perhaps the most anticipated product launch of the 00’s. Apple has created a whole breed of geeks. People who follow the word of the Steven, use 100 bucks on their haircuts, drink 10 euro cups of coffee, while surfing wirelesly on their admittedly crippled Mac Air. Whatever they make, these people buy. They do the marketing for Apple. All that’s needed is a few select words, usually starting with “Oh and by the way..”, and the apple fanatics take care of the rest. Blogs, offices and dinner tables everywhere are filled with discussion on their new product, the price and features usually a mere subtopic.  Whatever the price, whatever the problems and obvious deficits, people will buy it. They’ll line up to get it.

Funny how one of the most powerful forces in marketing and design today, depended on one of the industry’s grandfathers. When has a Microsoft product last seen even a fraction of the hype of an Apple launch? Maybe Microsoft should have added a clause to get a share of the marketing genious that is Apple, in exchange for all those moneys? Maybe there were clauses in there that nobody knows about. But they sure have stayed quiet about the whole deal.

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