Depending on Google

Google often figures in discussion about use of free or low cost software as well as of what are the boundaries of corporate commitments to Open Source. The uniformity and simplicity of Google applications give them a seductive appeal. Yet in my own use of them and in discussions with clients, they also carry with them a sense of unease.

How much can we count on Gmail, Google Docs, Calendar and the rest when their free or low cost availability depends almost entirely on Google’s continued domination of web search? “Do no evil” notwithstanding, how much can we count on Google’s commitment to privacy and security? While providing many Open Source tools, how much can we count on software whose core remains entirely closed and proprietary? Is migration of software to the cloud inevitable and a Good Thing?

These questions come up about other corporate leaders that figure large in software selection and strategy these days. Google fascinates us because it has become ubiquitous and the issues easier to grasp.

If this is you, check out the Google assessment by R&D; firm faberNovel. It has the teasing title, “Why could Google die.” You can read it here:, or you will find it easier to view full screen on slideshare

The report assesses internal weaknesses, as well as legal, strategic, and other threats. The strategic threats category caught my eye. Google faces challenges from both its large, global competitors as combined with possibilities at the other end of “disruptive technologies” from new companies. Things in software will keep changing. Time frames that you can expect a given software strategy to last continues to shrink.

Likewise, though the authors did not give it high priority, they noted that competition from Open Source alternatives could have a high impact. This in combination with the reports assessment of privacy concerns make for a large potential threat. This is likely true for most all corporate software systems, including others straddling the Open Source/proprietary fence.

Last, the report notes recent interruptions in Gmail and problems with other Google services, which many of us experienced. Yet the authors do not connect this with the difficulty or impossibility most Google users have in getting customer service. As I mentioned in this space some time ago about using free Gmail without a backup plan, this falls into the category of “no free lunch.”

Many idealware blog readers would benefit from viewing these slides, both to ponder Google as well as a framework for considering where we all stand with other corporate software providers.