Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Google and the Limits of Strategy

Ben Thompson:

This is why favoring Android in any way was such a strategic error by Google: everything about the company was predicated on serving all customers, but Android by definition would only ever be on a percentage of smartphones. Again, it’s possible Apple would have built its own Maps product regardless, but Google’s short-sighted favoring of Android ensured that for hundreds of millions of potential Google users the default mapping experience and the treasure trove of data that came with it would belong to someone else.

This is where that infamous Gundotra speech matters: I’m not convinced that anyone at Google fully thought through the implication of favoring Android with their services. Rather, the Android team was fully committed to competing with iOS — as they should have been! — and human nature ensured that the rest of Google came along for the ride. Remember, given Google’s business model, winning marketshare was perfectly correlated with reaping outsized profits; it is easy to see how the thinking and culture that developed around Google’s core business failed to adjust to the zero-sum world of physical devices. And so, as that Gundotra speech exemplified, Android winning became synonymous with Google winning, when in fact Android was as much ouroboros as asset.

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