Thursday, June 02, 2011

Eric Schmidt Is Wrong- Google Isn't A Social Network Company

I found Eric Schmidt's mea culpa for leading Google to miss business opportunities in social networking to be profoundly misplaced. Perhaps even a touch too egotistical, as if merely spotting the customer needs meant Google would have dominated or even seriously contested the product/market.

On the contrary, I find myself in agreement with a guest who appeared on Bloomberg yesterday. I can't recall his name, but he was a youngish man with a rather hip manner who apparently founded some social-networking-related consulting or other type of firm. He opined that the attributes and skill set which made Google what is is- search algorithms, advertising and some competitive inroads in the area of basic business application software- made it an unlikely candidate to either originate or successful develop social networking businesses.

It's an astute and, I believe, correct assessment. The co-founders of Google were geeks. They recruited Schmidt, after his lost battles with Microsoft while at Novell, to be the adult in charge at Google.

The Bloomberg guest even noted the somewhat disdainful manner in which Schmidt referred to "the friends thing" to describe Facebook's core business focus. If any firm could have pre-empted Facebook, it was, as I have written in prior posts, Yahoo. Yahoo had both information and facilities to set up accounts and connect with people years ago. But Jerry Wang and Terry Semel botched that aspect of the firm's business, leaving the door open for what humbly began as a college picture book migrated to the online world.

If Google had driven heavily into the social networking product/market, it probably would have caused distractions, created a sort of split-personality among the company's business groups, and perhaps have caused more overall harm than good for Google's financial performance.

It's a rare firm that can do more than one major thing, perhaps with affiliated minor things, well. Apple has sort of done it, but not really. Jobs' Apple has become a specialized digital device firm with linking content management via iTunes.

Other than that, no technology firms, to my knowledge, have succeeded in two radically disparate businesses.

There's absolutely no reason to believe Google would have, had Schmidt, or anyone else at the firm, spotted the opportunity prior to Facebook's rise. To think it would have seems rather arrogant on Schmidt's part.

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