It's Also About What You Don't Do

Scott Francis
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This article in TechCrunch hit a chord with me – because I have picked up on some of the same issues with Google:
But why? Why is Google now a villain to many in the industry? I don’t believe it’s because they’re evil, I believe it simply relates to the Plainview quote. Increasingly, Google is trying to do everything. And they have the arrogance to think that they can. And it’s pissing people off.
Actually, it doesn’t piss me off, personally.  But, I want to put the Steve Jobs question to Google:  what are you going to say “No” to?  And how do you know that you’re doing the right thing when you say No? Right now it feels like Google says “yes” to a lot of projects.  But they say “no” to very few markets.  I’ll take Android as an example.  Google had a strong ally in Apple (and vice versa).  They had common market interests, common competitors (e.g. Microsoft).  If Apple spurred on a new generation of phones that consumed more Google ads, that’s good for Google (and doesn’t require Google to launch its own phone OS).  If Google’s great apps (maps, gmail, search) worked well on iPhones, Apple sells more phones. But by betting the farm on Android, Google lost a great partner and ally.  Not that any of these relationships is guaranteed forever, but I certainly expected the alliance to last longer than a year or two.  And I’m not convinced that Google gets more revenue per device from Android than it does from iPhones – I’ve yet to see someone break those #’s out so that we can understand if their Android investment *actually* makes sense. The TechCrunch article covers lots of other areas where Google is competing with major industry titans or at least category killers in the niche areas.  My takeaway from this is that perhaps Google hasn’t learned the power of “No”. At BP3, we’re all about BPM.  That’s it.  When we get asked to build a custom app, if it isn’t BPM, we politely decline.  If it is a big integration project – politely decline.  Saying no has power.  Our branding is focused on what we actually do, and do well.  It doesn’t get diluted by a less-than-stellar performance on something outside our core competency.  It also allows us to partner effectively with companies that can really help our business – they know what we do, what we do well, and what we don’t do.  And therefore they can shape their partnering strategy accordingly without worrying about whether we’ll be interested in the food on their plate and not just happy with what is on our BPM plate. Maybe it is too late for Google to put the genie back in the bottle – but we can look back and think about how things might be different.  They could have taken a bit more “hands-off” approach to Android  – sponsoring the project but not getting too invested in pushing it to vendors and carriers – let those vendors do more of the heavy lifting, and not getting involved in positioning against Apple or any other specific phone vendors.  A bit more hands-off approach might have preserved their relationship to Apple without undermining their goal of having the lowest common denominator phones capable of browsing the web or running a Google Search (and seeing a Google ad).  Would the value of good partnerships with firms like Apple outweigh the benefits of an Android? When you’re looking at your own business, what is it you don’t do?  What would you say no to?  

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