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Is Being In the Mobile Biz License to Ignore the Internet?

By - July 28, 2009

sadmac.gif…and by the Internet, I mean the *values* of the Internet, in particular, the values of a platform. When you build a platform that leverages the Internet, it strikes me you should act like a player in that space – IE, not acting like a monopolist, a bully, or in your own self interest at the expense of those who use your platform – like your customers and developers.

Such seems the case with Apple’s refusal to allow two Google apps into the iPhone App Store. Yesterday’s ban – on Google Voice – is easy to understand – at least if you are venal and driven by the same corporate interests as your partner, AT&T. Voice bypasses AT&T’s networks and means less cabbage in AT&T’s pockets.

But Apple also banned Latitude, a mapping application. Why? Might it be because Apple has designs on that category? Or does AT&T?

In any case, if Apple wanted to give Android a boost, it sure as hell has done it. Actions like this are totally contrary to the spirit of the Web, and I hope Apple loses, big time, for taking them. At the very least, it feels like it’s time for Eric Schmidt to leave Apple’s board.

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Good Move, RIM: Warns Users of Spyware

By - July 22, 2009

RIM.gifJust saw this story in my feedreader, and thought it worth a mention:   

An update downloaded by BlackBerry users of a Middle Eastern wireless provider contained spyware that secretly read and stored text messages and e-mails, Research In Motion confirmed. Etisalat, a cellular service company based in the United Arab Emirates, released a firmware upgrade to BlackBerry subscribers on July 8 telling them its installation would improve the device’s performance and was required for continued service.

BlackBerry maker, Waterloo, Ont.-based Research In Motion, said in a statement that it “did not develop this software application and RIM was not involved in any way in the testing, promotion or distribution of this software application.” Etisalat originally issued a press release that referred to the software as an official BlackBerry upgrade…..RIM has since issued its own utility allowing users to uninstall the application.

I think any time a major tech brand takes the high road when it comes to potential government spying, the entire Internet gets better. While no one will confirm this, I am sure, it’s likely that the update was included at the behest of a government agency of some kind. Kudos to RIM for doing the right thing, it reminds me of what Google did back in 2006, exposing the DOJ demands on search data.

Profile of Google Lobbyist…

By - June 29, 2009

…in the NYT today.

Google has begun this public-relations offensive because it is in the midst of a treacherous rite of passage for powerful technology companies — regulators are intensely scrutinizing its every move, as they once did with AT&T, I.B.M., Intel and Microsoft. Some analysts say that government opposition, here or in Europe, could pose the biggest threat to Google’s continued success.

Microsoft Goes After Click Fraudsters

By - June 15, 2009

It’s been a while since I’ve seen click fraud in the news, but this Times story caught my eye, in particular because it was Microsoft. Google usually gets all the headlines around this issue, but it’s interesting to see Microsoft leading the charge in this arena. The story is worth reading, it sheds some light on the darker underpinnings of the search economy. From it:

Microsoft’s theory is that Mr. Lam was running or working for low-ranking sites that took potential client information for auto insurers. The complaint said that he directed traffic to competitors’ Web sites so they would pay for those clicks and exhaust their advertising budgets quickly, which let the lower-ranking sites that he sponsored move up in the paid-search results.

When people clicked through to his site, it asked them to supply contact information, which he then resold to auto insurance companies, according to Microsoft’s complaint, which estimated his profit at $250,000. In the complaint, it also said it had to credit back $1.5 million to advertisers because of the Lams’ alleged fake clicks. Microsoft is seeking $750,000 in damages from the defendants.

Although small advertisers have sued search firms, complaining the firms did not do enough to prevent fraudulent clicks, this is among the first cases where a search provider has gone after a suspected perpetrator.

Google Makes Changes to Trademark Policy, Revenues Will Be Up…

By - May 15, 2009

…and so will legal challenges, many of which are already underway.

Google’s blog post is here.

Details: Google will now allow advertisers to bid on trademark terms, even if they don’t own the trademark, so, for example, a local hardware store can bid on “Buy Makita Saws here” or Best Buy could bid on “Best Prices for Sony Plasmas”.

Also, Google has opened up bidding on trademarked terms – so that competitors can bid on their rival’s terms. It has been allowed in just four countries – US, UK, Canada, Ireland – but now will be allowed in 190.

Both moves mean more revenue for Google. Of course, the company says it’s doing this “in an effort to improve ad quality and user experience.” Which in fact, is true.

But…it also can be read as a sign that the company is doing what all large companies do: fine tuning its profit machine to yield more revenue.

One analyst, Ben Schacter at Broadpoint, put it this way in an email flash note sent out to press and clients:

The bottom line is that these two changes will be positive revenue drivers when allowed and into 3Q and beyond, however, we believe trademark holders will undoubtedly, and loudly, raise legal challenges.

Yow. This Is What Happens When You Are Big. And…

By - May 04, 2009

…seen as arrogant. Regardless of whether that charge is true, or sticks, or is fair, this is what will end up in our national “paper of record.”

The Federal Trade Commission has begun an inquiry into whether the close ties between the boards of two of technology’s most prominent companies, Apple and Google, amount to a violation of antitrust laws, according to several people briefed on the inquiry.

At the end of my book, and the beginning of a new phase of this site, I suggested that Google’s largest issue will be its “failure to fail.” I also compared, and continue to compare, the company to Microsoft in the late 90s, when it struggled with anti-trust investigations that ultimately proved hobbling, if not in profits, at least in its quest to be the most innovative and fastest growing company in the technology sector.

If any lesson is to be drawn, perhaps prematurely, from all this, it’s that no company – or two companies – can lead a culture for longer than half a generation. After that, the culture starts to distrust the companies’ motives, regardless of whether they are pure or well intentioned.

Oh No – It's the DOJ!

By - April 29, 2009

Google cannot like the parallels (with Microsoft, in the late 90s). The DOJ has opened an inquiry into its book deal (one I have not, to be honest, entirely grokked. In fact, neither has my agent or my publisher, which is rather interesting….). From the NYT:

The inquiry does not necessarily mean that the department will oppose the settlement, which is subject to a court review. But it suggests that some of the concerns raised by critics, who say the settlement would unfairly give Google an exclusive license to profit from millions of books, have resonated with the Justice Department.

Google Selling History as Behavior, But I Like The Controls

By - March 11, 2009

This is very interesting (from the NYT):

Google will begin showing ads on Wednesday to people based on their previous online activities in a form of advertising known as behavioral targeting, which has been embraced by most of its competitors but has drawn criticism from privacy advocates and some members of Congress.

Perhaps to forestall objections to its approach, Google said it planned to offer new ways for users to protect their privacy. Most notably, Google will be the first major company to give users the ability to see and edit the information that it has compiled about their interests for the purposes of behavioral targeting.

I’ve been writing about this for years. See my post on a “Data Bill of Rights.”

Way to go, Google.

Google post on this here. And the policy post is here.

Google, The Anti-Trust Case

By - March 03, 2009

A considered guest post on TC has kicked up a conversation around whether Google is a monopolist, and whether the DOJ will take action. This of course is one thing that must keep top folks at Google awake at night – it’s OK to be a monopoly, it’s not OK to leverage that monopoly to the detriment of the ecosystem you control.

There is clearly and argument to be made that Google already has a monopoly, the author makes that case and concludes:

I believe the Department of Justice will be able to establish monopoly power and the abuse of that power.

As covered earlier, at least one established prior monopolist has strong opinions on this issue – Microsoft.