It always amazes me the image that corporations craft for themselves. Some companies fully embrace that image. For example, HP has a very strong reputation that is reinforced by everyone at the company, in the end forcing out a very highly successful CEO over a few thousand dollars in expense report inaccuracies. Impressive in the least that ethics trumped “shareholder value” at least at this company.
But some companies don’t really stand up to their reputations. Google I am afraid, is one of them. Google has a two part reputation: one is for innovation and the other is for ethics made famous by their “do no evil” mantra. But both, in recent days, have proven to show the king for what he really is: naked.
The first is more cut and dry, the great innovation machine of Google. But is the company really that innovative? First let us define innovation. When I say innovation I mean a highly successful new idea that influences the markets. I could argue that Google has had only one major innovations in its history; no more, no less. Remember, that is a single breakthrough from a company that encourages democracy of innovation to the tune of 20% of their paid time.
This innovation? It wasn’t AdWords itself as they got the idea from somewhere else but rather how to incorporate ads in such a way that people would actually click on them. Everything else the company did was buying or ripping off others’ ideas. Email, documents, web site creation, operating systems are all just bought products and/or rip-offs of other people’s ideas.
The second, Google’s “do no evil” approach to business, is quickly being proven a farce. This is exemplified by the behind-the-scenes ranglings with Verizon over net neutrality. Net neutrality, if you aren’t paying attention, is the belief that all companies should be treated equally when it comes to speed and bandwidth use of the network infrastructure. In other words a company like Microsoft or Google or Apple can’t use their market power to buy favoritism with carriers and other internet service providers. In other words, a company like Infinity Softworks can develop a web service and get the same treatment as Nike when it comes to access to customers.
Google, destroying the last vestiges of their reputation, threw net neutrality under the bus by trying to cut a back room deal with Verizon. Net neutrality, they agreed before being outed by the New York Times, is fine for DSL and cable companies but wouldn’t have to be upheld by cell phone carriers. Now Google has to be treated as hostile to net neutrality rules, breaking them away from the rest of the technology industry, siding with their most critical US partner Verizon.
I think it was more than net neutrality thrown under the bus this day.