Don’t be evil: Hope for fractured convergence

Google is a remarkable company.  They’ve flipped the business model in numerous ways, because they can.  But what’s happening in the mobile space is becoming a both exciting and troubling.  I love how they give away navigation data, or that they pay manufacturers to use their phone.  Soon they will subsidize your laptop, and maybe even your TV.  It’s giving folks who don’t normally have access to some of this technology a way to buy it.  And in the mobile space, with their new “phone”, they are trying to break the carrier-driven model (which I argue would come anyways once LTE rolls around, as most carriers will then be on the same technical platform).  To Google, it’s all about getting the accessing the world’s information and letting you search it quickly (and of course selling ads).

But soon, a single company could provide your software for your email, browser, OS, TV, and mobile phone.  That’s every single way I consume information, purchase products, and communicate with my friends and family.  A single advertising company.

Right now, they are a fairly friendly privacy company.  But what happens if growth slows, or there’s a change in leadership, and the company is pressured to seek alternate revenue streams.  I’m not sure I’m ready for a single company to own/control access to all this data.  I like convergence but not this much.  The question as a consumer is where do we draw the line?  Google has not made many major missteps with privacy (though last week’s comments were awfully close).  But what if that changes?

The thing is this – there should be a large competitor that’s challenging Google and trying to perform the same convergence, and there isn’t a clear one yet.  Yahoo tried with Connect TV/Digital Home, but they have been struggling.  Microsoft has been trying to push Media Center for awhile, and their mobile platform is confusing at best.

Apple seems the best poised.  Although no one has said it, the new Google device is their answer to the iPod Touch, a tremendous device that can be used for a variety of things, including as a phone (and I’m guessing an HD camera soon).  But Apple tends to attack verticals.  Regardless, I will continue to use my Apple phone, my Windows laptop, and my garbage software on my TV.

I hope some startups and incumbents come up with ways to challenge Google on all fronts.

FYI – I’m long Apple.

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