Editor’s note: Guest contributor Semil Shah is an entrepreneur interested in digital media, consumer internet, and social networks. He is based in Palo Alto and you can follow him on twitter @semilshah.
While the tech world is buzzing about the launch and implications of Google’s new social network, Google+, it’s worth noting that Google isn’t just in a war with Facebook, it’s at war with multiple companies across multiple industries. In fact, Google is fighting a multi-front war with a host of tech giants for control over some of the most valuable pieces of real estate in technology. Whether it’s social, mobile, browsing, local, enterprise, or even search, Google is being attacked from all angles. And make no mistake about it, they are fighting back and fighting back, hard. Entrepreneur-turned-venture capitalist Ben Horowitz laid the groundwork for this in his post Peacetime CEO / Wartime CEO, saying Larry Page “seems to have determined
that Google is moving into war and he clearly intends to be a wartime CEO. This will be a profound change for Google and the entire high-tech industry.” Horowitz is exactly right.
Before I investigate each battle front in the war, it’s important to highlight the fact that perhaps no other tech company right now could withstand such a multifaceted attack, let alone be able to retaliate efficiently. Sure, Apple might get pushed around by Facebook, so it integrated Twitter into iOS5, and sure, Amazon and Apple have their own tussles over digital media and payments, but at the end of the day, Google is in this unique and potentially highly vulnerable position that will test the company’s mettle and ability to not only reinvent itself, but also to perhaps strengthen its core. Let’s take a quick look into the GooglePlex, which may now resemble more of a military complex, plotting out strategies and tactics for this war. Google must battle on at least six fronts simultaneously.
The Browser Front: Users have a choice between Internet Explorer (Microsoft), Firefox (Mozilla), Safari (Apple), and Google’s offering, Chrome. The speculation is that Facebook is interested in a browser, too, since Mozilla co-founder Blake Ross is an employee, but that hasn’t happened yet. More recently, the social browser RockMelt has captured some peoples’ interests, and last week secured $30M in financing, adding Facebook board members Jim Breyer and Marc Andreessen to its board. Andreessen obviously knows a thing or two about browsers. Though most browsers enable users to power their search by Google as an option, Googe’s Chrome offering isn’t the lead browser by market share, and not even in second place.
The Mobile Front: Apple’s iOS took the mobile world by storm in 2007 with the first iPhone. Then Google’s Android operating system roared alongside it, turning into a freight train of downloads, as Bill Gurley said, only recently to be slowed by Apple’s release of a phone with Verizon. While Android may have more installs, they don’t have the developer community to build killer apps because the Android marketplace (both for hardware and firmware) is highly fragmented, whereas iOS is about symphonic convergence. All the along, there’s been ample speculation about whether Facebook was building its own mobile phone device, or as the company has publicly hinted, how it would integrate social layers into different mobile operating systems and platforms.