Google's expected launch of a web based spreadsheet continues its push into markets that have very little to do with its mission to index the world's information.
The spreadsheet launch the Wall Street Journal reports will come on Tuesday, adds to a long list of desktop and web-based applications that Google has been introducing on a regular basis. One question I've been asking is: Is it okay for Google to take away a competitor's lunch and not even bother to eat?
By which I mean is it okay for Google to compete with many smaller companies, using its massive scale, integrating the applications into its platform - and not even bother to try and monetize those applications? And it is not even in its mission?
It is certainly not illegal to do this, and the cost of buying a small company and releasing the software for free is tiny for a company the size of Google. But, it puts people out of work, and puts companies out of business, and Google shareholders don't get any benefit. Wall Street doesn't raise the valuation of GOOG because it now has a web based spreadsheet.
In some ways GOOG's actions are similar to the way Microsoft integrated small applications and system utilities into its platform. Microsoft also engaged in illegal business practices to maintain its monopoly, nobody is accusing Google of that. But, it is far removed from its company mission statement.
I'm a big user of Google's software and services, and they continue to get better and better. That's the beauty of launching web based applications, you can see how and who is using the software and make improvements. MSFT has to run focus groups to figure out how its software is being used.
Google has a far better development model. But in my view, each of those applications should be its own individual profit and loss center. That would at least equal the playing field with smaller competitors who are trying to survive by building a business model around their products.
Will Google wait until it has driven competitors out of the markets and then start charging? I don't know and Google doesn't know either. At its recent media day at the Googleplex, the founders Larry and Sergey, and joint CEO Eric Schmidt said most of the products were "experiments" and they didn't know if, or when, they would monetize them.
In some ways it seems as if Google is out of control. Its internal product development teams are self forming and self-recruiting. It costs very little for Google to innovate since it expects its staff to spend 20 per cent of their time on their own projects. It's already paid their salaries and it offers them the world's largest computing platform. How can you compete against that?
What's the point in assembling a startup and raising funds for a web service that Google's internal teams can re-engineer in a matter of weeks?