Saturday, August 27, 2005
Google is simply amazing. Prime the pump for raising another round of capital from the market by releasing not one, but two, slick products. Offer them for free to insure rapid adoption. Google Sidebar is a near killer app. The individual pieces are nothing new; I'm already running most of them in one form or another. But having everything available in one place is very convenient and quite impressive. Currently Google is indexing my Gmail messages so they'll be included in my searches, just like my hard drives.
But there's more. I consider myself a charter member of the digerati, a hot-shot bleeding-edge cyber-cowboy who knows how to write Perl-script workarounds during his coffee breaks. Alas, I'm actually such a techno-clutz that I haven't gotten around to programming my six-month old, snazzy, $500 cell phone. I minimized Google Sidebar this evening and couldn't find it again. Where the hell did it go? Like Jerry Pournelle in his crazed episodes from Chaos Manor when Byte was a must-read geek fanzine, I figured I knew more than these Google guys. Clearly, they're trying to foist off a beta that really is a beta, not a finished product they call beta to deflect criticism of bugs. So I deleted Google Sidebar and reinstalled it. Reinstalling is what you do after rebooting by powering down and praying to Vishnu that the machine will be reincarnated as an Apple avatar that crashes only once a year, if that.
I soon realized that I hadn't needed to delete the Sidebar app at all. Sidebar hadn't disappeared; it was merely hiding on my task bar. After all, I'd minimized it. But the point, and I do have one, trust me on this, and I know to check the umbilical cord that connects Cheetah to my Black-Ice Pantera because cables always go first, sorry that's Jerry Pournell again, my point is that reinstalling is no sweat. The Google Sidebar finds all its connections and reinstalls immediately. And it's running a lot of stuff: look at that column to the right.
This is a tipping point. Software that takes advantage of what it knows about you, that draws on the intelligence of the net, and that does what you want it to do without having to ask: that's a new experience. Manual? We don't need no stinking manuals. This stuff follows the conventions the net has taught us. It's intuitive. That's great design. Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
I've been using Open Office for ten days now, and I really haven't felt much need to go back to Microsoft Office except for Word. (In Word I've mastered some arcane features that I have yet to find in Open Office.) Could I one day free myself of the Microsoft shackles?
I'm a marketing guy at heart, and brand is everything. Perception is reality, right? Brand is how Evian gets away with charging $2.75 for a bottle of water. Brand is why Grey Goose vodka costs three or four times as much as vodka that tastes just the same. Brand is why people pay to carry an American Express card instead of a free VISA.
The Microsoft juggernaut may be more vulnerable than they think. If you had to choose between Microsoft and Google for a $2 million Customer Relationship Management system, whom would you trust? Pretend that the Microsoft CRM has to be installed on your hardware, while the Google CRM would be hosted on its gargantuan server farm. Go ahead, take your pick.
Microsoft will be around for the remainder of your lifetime and your children's lifetimes. Renewals and maintenance will see to that. But will Microsoft release apps as user friendly as Google's? I don't think so. Google is winning hearts and minds. They'll be able to grow with high P/E superbucks.
That's just my opinion. I might be wrong.
Bank marketers know that frequency of impressions, not transaction amount, defines the primary banking relationship in the eyes of the customer. For example, if I have a $2000 balance in my checking account at Wells Fargo and write 20 checks/month, and also have a $125,000 mortgage with Countrywide, I'm likely to say my bank is Wells Fargo, even though I have 50x more with Countrywide.
Google appears on my screen much more frequently than Microsoft. Sure, Windows is always underneath, but usually I don't see it. I do see Google -- in my side bar, in the search window in Firefox, when I do a general search, in Picasa where I sort photos, in GoogleTalk, and in Blogger, which I use to maintain ten blogs.
As a brand, Google sounds friendly, and they've yet to give their customers the shaft. Microsoft sounds tiny and flacid, and everyone I know has some tale of woe. I remember back when Windows would crash at least once an hour. Hell, I bought Windows 1.0 (it never did run). I remember Microsoft Bob. And I'm still angry that after being found guilty of monopolistic practices, M'soft stopped investing in IE, proving the rational economists right.
Whoops. That's the magic of brand at work. I didn't start out meaning to slam Microsoft. That's just the vibration I'm getting.