The latest Cringely column sparked a number of interesting thoughts, the most provactive being "what if search and PageRank and AdSense are Google's corporate apex." For all of the hype that Google generates on a daily basis it's really sobering to think that selling advertising could well be the be-all-end-all for the company.
I don't think Google really gets the notion of user generated content, epitomized by blogs but certainly not limited to. Think about it for a second, they acquired Blogger and haven't done shit to integrate the service with any of their offerings, but ironically the big update they did announce is the ability to blog using their service from within Microsoft Word. Is email, IM, or the toolbar integrated with Blogger? No, but it sure is with MSN Spaces, and on top of that Microsoft built Filter and is actively building communities.
Does anyone really think that Google's IM is a mind blower? Hey I can TALK over the internet! Why can't I get feeds in Gmail? Because they haven't upgraded that service (or even taken it out of beta). Maps is great, but where's the service that let's anyone do a mashup or embed maps into their blog? Desktop Search just got an update, I can search Outlook messages, wow... and to be fair about this, some of the desktop search updates are pretty cool, like offline searching of gmail. Google news treats blogs as any other news source. Why hasn't Google embraced tagging in search, or even offered a search tab for blogs only, or a conversation tracker in Google News. Where's Google's answer to Flickr?
Google likes to play the Black Box game. What are they DOING in all those buildings with all those PhDs? I'm sure they are doing a lot that will change the world, but just as much that will never even be seen by the world.
A second very interesting thread in the column specifically deals with Apple and Microsoft.
Microsoft is woefully late with its next Windows upgrade, while Apple is far ahead with even the current version of OS X. Apple is moving to Intel processors and hackers have already shown that OS X can run fine on non-Apple hardware. But Apple doesn't want to give up its profitable hardware business to compete head-to-head with Microsoft. And remember, Apple totally dominates the portable music player market and will probably sell 25 million iPods or more this year.
What if Microsoft and Apple both realize that they have nothing to gain by going nuclear with each other? While continuing to be a threat to Microsoft, Apple may well understand that being profitable has a more desireable outcome than simply being bigger. This is not to suggest that Apple and Microsoft are colluding in any way, but perhaps it's reflective of a kind of detente that exists between two superpowers who are content to give up or take ground in skirmishes but unwilling to wage full scale war with one another.