Is Google taking over the online universe? As anyone who takes time to review the laundry list of new service integrations and innovations that came out of the 2013 Google I/O developers conference in San Francisco last month would likely surmise, this question is starting to move from the whimsical to the serious. From talking search engines to autonomous cars, smartphone gaming interfaces and quantum computers, the breadth and depth of Google's involvement in every aspect of technology is stunning; as far as I can tell, it is also unprecedented. In a recent post, I counted nearly 200 products and services within the Google universe, many of which significantly impact our daily lives (You Tube, for example, is merely one such product). Moreover, the company is doing its level best to integrate all of these products and services into a seamless web - an alternative tech universe, if you will.
However, the slightly less-than-subtle way Google goes about integrating all of its products and services can't help but call into question the search giant's true motivation. Google seems to have a predictable, almost formulaic, response to each new service integration: user experience. As a case in point, check out Google+ product manager Seth Sternberg's comments regarding the recent move to G+ app integration:
"A user has a common identity throughout Google and a common way to share things and interact with friends. ... Now we're making it easy to discover what other people are doing around the Internet when they're doing a search on Google."
I don't know, call me unfair, call me a skeptic, but whenever I hear a Google spokesperson trundle out the user experience argument to justify a new integration, I can't help but feel like I'm being conned, much like the Galactic Senate on Star Wars, where Senator Palpatine (aka "The Emperor") used soothing words and a friendly guise to mask his true intentions. In some ways, I wish they would just come out and say, "in fact, we're integrating this service because we want everyone to use Google for everything."
At least then it would feel more honest.
Watching the original Star Wars trilogy with my son this weekend, I couldn't help but imagine a not-so-distant, probably dystopian, tech future in which Google truly becomes the Tech Empire to rule them all (excuse the mixed LOTR metaphor). As my mind continued to wander down this path, I speculated on what such a real-world redux of the sci-fi epic would look like, even dreaming up a likely cast of characters.
Here's what I came up with.
Tech Wars, Cast of Characters:
Larry Page (Google CEO): The Emperor - Silky, soft spoken, calculating, the Google CEO holds himself much like the erstwhile Senator Palpatine. But don't be fooled- behind his disarming demeanor lies a strategic mastermind.
Sergei Brin: Darth Vader - He was once a great tech Jedi, but with Google Glass on him seemingly 24/7, he's more machine now than man. As the principle executor of the Tech Empire's greatest ambitions, you certainly don't want to cross him in a dark internet cafe (unless there is no internet connection).
Google Glass: The Death Star - Much like the moon-sized, planet-fragging, uber death ray, Google Glass may seem innocuous enough in its inception. However, as world's first major attempt at a smart, integrated wearable device, it's destined to have a more profound impact on the tech universe than people can possibly imagine.
Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook): Luke SkyWalker- Young, eager, dreamy, perhaps a little bit hapless; you want to pull for Zuck, but does he have enough in the tank to last 15 rounds against Brin or Page?
Marissa Mayer (Yahoo): Princess Leia - Tough, smart, plucky, the heir apparent to an ancient (tech) throne. She's got chops, but can she unite this rag-tag group of tech rebels against the burgeoning Tech Empire?
Tim Cook (Apple): C3PO - Knowledgeable, dependable, a bit robotic. A useful sidekick, Cook's got an encyclopedic knowledge of Apple products and tech industry specifications, but when the sparks start to fly, he just seems to get in the way.
Steve Ballmer (Microsoft): Chewbacca - Loveable, maybe even huggable; a jack of all trades and a great supporting character, he's just not really in the position to take a serious swipe at the Emperor and his minions.
Jeff Bezos (Amazon): Han Solo - Like everyone's favorite galactic-smuggler-turned-general, Bezos has smarts and swagger. When the battle gets hot, there's nobody you'd rather have at you're side. But as Google sets its eyes on the realm of eCommerce, many wonder if he has what it takes to fend off the power of the dark side of the force.
There you have it - my tech musings, hopefully coming soon to a web portal near you.