By MG Siegler
“I have a competition in me. I want no one else to succeed.”
I’m reminded of Daniel Plainview’s admission in There Will Be Blood when thinking about Google (NASDAQ:GOOG).
While the company is still largely beloved by the public, sentiment seems to have turned against them amongst their peers, and even amongst many of the startups around Silicon Valley. While these tensions have been building for months — and even years, in some cases — we’re seeing this on display more clearly than ever now thanks to the patent issue(s).
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.
“Microsoft and Apple have always been at each other’s throats, so when they get into bed together you have to start wondering what’s going on,” Google Chief Legal Officer, David Drummond, wrote this week when accusing those two companies of trying to destroy Android. And he’s right. After a decade of being bitter rivals, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) now seem to have aligned interests. But you don’t have to wonder what’s going on, it’s very apparent: they both hate Google.
The two recently teamed up to screw Google out of the Nortel patents, spending billions to make that happen. And before that, they attempted to do the same with the Novell (NASDAQ:NOVL) patents (though the DoJ blunted some of that attack). Next up for the dynamic duo: the InterDigital patents. Apple is definitely exploring acquiring them, and don’t be surprised if Microsoft is right there to help once again, to ensure Google doesn’t get them.
All of this is even more interesting when you consider that it was once Apple and Google who were closely aligned. And it was a common vision that brought them together as well — appropriately, the end of the Microsoft-dominated computing world.
The two got so close, that Google then-CEO Eric Schmidt even joined Apple’s board of directors. And Google was instrumental in helping create some of the early applications for the iPhone (Maps, YouTube, etc). It seemed like the two would team up to take down the carriers next.
Then things got very complicated when it became clear that Android and the iPhone would soon become very direct competitors. The rest has been history.
But while Apple and Microsoft have been the two highest profile Google combatants in recent months, they’re far from the only ones.
At least just as big of a Google antagonist (and perhaps even more so) is Oracle (NYSE:ORCL). While the Apple and Microsoft lawsuits against Android threaten to disrupt the platform and/or make it more expensive, Oracle’s lawsuit threatens to destroy it. Oracle is suing Google over the unlicensed use of Java in Android — its core.
If one of two damning emails are allowed to be used as evidence, it sure looks like Google could be in some serious trouble. Those emails appear to extend the idea of Google’s arrogance. As Android chief Andy Rubin wrote in a 2005 email, “If Sun doesn’t want to work with us, we have two options: 1) Abandon our work and adopt MSFT CLR VM and C# language – or – 2) Do Java anyway and defend our decision, perhaps making enemies along the way.”
They obviously chose the latter. And while Sun is no more, Oracle now controls the rights to Java. A very big enemy has been made along the way.
The list continues from there.
Facebook and Google have long been at odds with one another. Now, with Google+ giving Google a significant presence in Facebook’s social game for the first time, tensions are higher than they’ve ever been. While the two sides have been fighting publicly, behind the scenes, it’s worse. This is true even though many of Facebook’s employees are former Google employees. Facebook’s alliances with Microsoft can’t help matters either.
For a long time, Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) was Google’s most direct rival. You might think that after Google quickly dominated them in search, there would be peace now. Nope. Yahoo also has no love for Google still to this day. When Microsoft was attempting to buy Yahoo a few years ago, Google was seen as one potential savior. And they almost were, until the DoJ began looking into a potential Yahoo/Google search partnership and Google had to back out. Instead, Yahoo was forced to tie up with Microsoft.
These days, you’ll hear Yahoos complain behind the scenes that Google often just takes ideas they implemented first but never caught on because Google is the dominant player in the space.
Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Google are also increasingly at odds with one another. Amazon is about to enter the tablet space in a big way later this year — and they’ll be doing so with their own flavor of Android. They also have a competing Android app store. And while this may seem like Amazon entering Google’s space, remember that Google went after Amazon first. While Google hasn’t really be able to compete in the cloud storage and services businesses so far, it hasn’t been for a lack of trying.
Out of any of the larger entities in the space these days, is seems like Twitter and Google should have interests that align the most. Like Facebook, many of Twitter’s employees are ex-Google. And while a search deal a couple years ago seemed to pull the two close together, that deal has since expired, and there is no sign it’s going to ever be renewed.
Google has tried to buy Twitter a few times, and Twitter has backed away each time, most recently leaving billions on the table. And while both sides say fairly complimentary things about each other in public still, behind the scenes, again, it’s not good. Many Twitter employees flat out don’t trust Google. And Google+ has exacerbated that situation.
Speaking of failed Google acquisitions, after Google tried and failed to buy Yelp and Groupon (NASDAQ:GRPN), they moved forward on products that competed directly with them. In the process, Yelp felt Google was actively screwing them in search results. Bad blood galore now.
On the smaller startup side of things, both Color and Path turned down massive acquisition offers from Google. Part of it was because the startups wanted to remain independent, but a large part was also that neither groups of employees wanted to work for Google. Naturally, Google has since been working on products that compete with both — not only Google+, but also mobile apps created through Google’s Slide division.
The list goes on and on. At this point, it would be easier to list tech companies that are completely friendly with Google — because there aren’t many. Again, most won’t speak out publicly about this — partially because Google is still one of the largest acquirers out there and not everyone is Twitter, Color, Path, Groupon, or Yelp, that will turn down hundreds of millions or billions — but if you talk to individuals that work at other companies, it becomes very clear very quickly that there is not a lot of love for Google out there anymore.
In my view, this stems from Google’s desire to do everything — which could threaten the company for other reasons. Once just a search company, they now actively compete with Apple, Microsoft, Oracle, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, Yelp, Groupon, Color, Path — again, just to rattle off a few.
Obviously, it’s Google’s right to do what they think is best for the company. And certainly they have the money to take on all of these different projects. But the alienation of other companies — many of which were former allies — isn’t helping them. And if any of these Android lawsuits — bullshit or not — go through, or if they fail to eventually obtain the patents necessary to protect themselves, Google could find themselves in serious trouble. And if that happens, will anyone be around to lend them a hand?
At this point, I think there will be more companies waiting to kick them when they’re down.
Increasingly, this is the reality bubbling just under the surface: others in the space look at Google and see nothing worth liking. They see an enemy. As Plainview says to his own son at one point, “this makes you my… competitor.”