Power corrupts: Google becoming the old Microsoft

There’s an interesting story on Business Insider about how Google is trying to force its partners to include more Google made apps on their Android phones.

Google is requiring one of its partners to increase the number of Google-made apps from nine in 2011 to 20 in 2014.  This year’s agreement also required that there must be a Google search widget on the default home screen of the phone along with an icon for the Google Play store and a Google icon that houses 13 apps included “Google Chrome, Google Maps, Google Drive, YouTube, and Gmail among others.

As you might have guessed, I have mixed feelings about this.

The upside is that the more Google-y the experience, the better (right now). Google apps like Maps and Chrome are better than their alternatives. Others like Google Play and Youtube have no alternatives.

The downside is that Google is acting like a monopolist — with shades of Microsoft.

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Microsoft too made better products once upon a time: Excel was superior to Lotus 1-2-3, Internet Explorer was better than Netscape, even Windows was superior in some ways to Macintosh. But then Microsoft went through a phase that seemed more focused on defending monopolies than making great products, and became stagnant in the process.

Will history repeat itself with Google? 85% of smartphones shipped in the previous quarter were Android; not far off from Microsoft’s 90% share in PCs.

Right now, Google is promoting better products. But what if they push bad ones in an effort to build and defend monopolies? What if it forced its OEM partners to promote an inferior service like say…Google Plus in a misguided attempt to supplant Facebook?

I’d feel more comfortable if Google was constrained by competition. As much as I am a fan of Google’s products and services, I hope Apple and Microsoft remain viable alternatives in mobile.

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