[This serious article is an attempt by your favorite satirist to turn into a Technological Evangelist. If you hate serious gyan, I would suggest you come back on Monday to read the next post. If you don`t care…go on.]
When you first come to the Internet you come for porn. At least that is what most of my friends say. And I believe them. Google starts out as the search engine helping them find porn. After a while Google and not porn becomes an addiction.
The other day, a friend of mine was searching for information on Samsung D600 …and Google was the first to come to mind. That is normal, you might say. Read on.
She found out that there were seven online shopping malls selling the model. Easy math and she found out the cheapest option…and bought it. It was a customer win. In a real World situation, she wouldn`t have visited seven shops.
The World is getting better for the ‘customer` and that means us…because even as I type, Google is experimenting with free wireless Internet service in San Fransisco. Google will make the money via advertisements but the service will be free. Another customer win.
If the business model works fine, hypothetically Google will be able to provide free wireless Internet access to people all over the World. What does that mean for today`s broadband providers like Sify, Airtel, Tata Indicom, BSNL etc? Do they lose business and wind up? Perhaps.
With Internet access being as important as access to information (that`s what Google CEO Eric Schmidt feels), business sense will ensure that all are connected to the Internet in the next 10-20 years at the maximum. Wishful thinking? Do a trace-route of how far we have traveled in the last seven years and you would realize that the deadline is within reach.
Those connected to the Net will check the cheapest option …and if it were true…won`t go to any Sony showroom or LifeStyle or Spencers or Hi-Style. Why would I waste my time and pay higher when I get it for a cheaper price and from within my house.
Some critics believe people go shopping for the ‘experience`. It is true. But true only till the time you give them alternatives that are equally good if not better. Today, the purchasing power of an average individual (here we are talking of India) is relatively higher than what it was 10 years ago. But the time an average individual has for himself/herself has also shrunk. Options like Google will be seen as time saving devices and embraced. Are we hinting that Google is directly competing with the shopping malls? Perhaps.
Isn`t Google supposed to be international? Isn`t it more apt for global products like a GM car or an Omega watch? What about local products? How do I buy milk if I don`t visit the store? Answers are easy. Have you noticed that in the last 2-3 years the newspapers have turned local? Some did the shift even earlier. The Hindu has supplements like Metroplus, which cater to the local market. Similarly, each newspaper has its own local supplement. This is a trend aped from the US, where local newspapers sell more than the ones like ‘The New York Times` or ‘Washington Post`.
Google has gone local to an extent. If you sit in India and type in www.google.com…you will get www.google.co.in…and the keyword advertisements will be more localised. For example, if you visit www.google.co.in and type in the keyword “Ford” you are more likely to get “Ford Ikon” or a “Ford Fiesta” as a Sponsored Link, than “Ford 150F” – a popular pick-up truck in US. Unfortunately, this doesn`t happen today because Ford India is not a customer of Google keyword advertisements. Ironically, when you search for “Ford” in Google, while sitting in India, Tata Motors` Web site gets displayed as a Sponsored Link.
With better sense prevailing and obviously with time, anybody who is interested in taking his/her business forward will advertise in Google. This surge – crowd psychology – will feed itself and eventually we will get good localized content as well. With time, Google will be able to identify which city you are sitting in and throw you results related to the city. In our example, maybe the Sponsored Link of a Ford Dealer in Chennai.
One might question the logic behind local advertisers going in for Google, when the traditional media – the newspaper & TV channels – are available. Today, travel between two locations is quicker, easier and cheaper. With time, businesses will learn that population living in their areas is not their only customer. They will learn that a huge floating population, which is active on the Internet, is also their potential customer.
If Google Print, an initiative where Google plans to scan all the books ever published and put them on the Web, takes off it might be the beginning of the end of libraries. Why would anyone travel a distance, sit down quietly in a wooden chair for hours on end to read a book when one can do so comfortably at home? If you are a die-hard library fan and think a book has the added advantage of being portable, think Laptops and Tablet PCs and free wireless Internet access. For all you know, you might even go for the Microsoft Reading Software read out the book for you as you plug in your earphones and close your eyes. End of the Library culture? Perhaps.
Newspapers are in for trouble too. If you get free Internet access, and can read all the news on the Web, with the option to rave and rant whenever required, and see your “Letters To The Editor” appear two minutes after you dispatched the mail, why would you want to buy a newspaper? News minus those huge print advertisements – quite an appealing option. Google might even come up with ‘Google Engagements`, which will tell you where what is happening; ‘Google Obituary` could alert you if somebody you knew passed away, and ‘Google TV Listings` will update you with television timings. What else would you need your newspaper for? To add to the woes, traditional companies advertising in newspapers are now moving to the Internet. End of newspapers? Perhaps.
Last heard Google is working on ‘Google Real Estate`. End of brokers who always knew where a newly constructed house was up for grabs and how much it costs etc? Perhaps.
What about Gmail? Have the innovations ended? No way. With the onset of Tablet PC (in another 4-5 years all the features in a Tablet PC would be available on Desktops, that is if Desktops are still in vogue) all of us will write mails and not type. Thus incorporating into emails, the only feature we have been missing – personalization. End of Post offices? Perhaps.
Which side do you want to be – winning or losing?
[I guess I should give due credit to the inbox innovation which made me write this article. Read about the ‘Gmail Web Clips’ on Google’s Blog…Here]