Google, Android and diffuse business models

I read an interesting article in The Guardian about Google, Android and Amazon. It was a long article and I might not get every detail, but it makes me think about how business are built. There is something strange with companies that build their profit on services that they don’t charge for. I think everyone who starts to wonder about how Google gets their money starts out as being a bit amazed over the fact that Google offers free internet searching and then they understand that it is the advertisers that pay. And because there are so many advertisers that pay, Google gets their profit.
But, if you ask my small company, Stenströms, about paying for ad-links, our advise is most often: don’t pay! First check what happens when you search for the product or the place you sell, if you are on top of the searches – don’t bother to pay. People avoid paid links. So, there got to be a lot of companies that think like we do. Also, paying for links lower your credibility. A “true” search result based on content and activity is always worth more. Which means we are recommending companies to use the benefits of Google, but not pay for it.
And that always gives me the feeling of that something must be wrong in Google’s way to do business – but then again, who am I to speak? Our duo-company is smaller than small compared to Google, but even so, I can’t get rid of that feeling.
Then, if I turn it around, what does Google have to do in order to get as much money as possible to pay for their “free” services? Well, they need to get better and better on collecting data from their users. The users pay with their search patterns. I don’t think that a lot of people really think about that. Good or bad? When does it pass the limit?
It gives you a kind of creepy feeling.
Compare with Amazon. Their business model make sense. They are selling books and are constantly expanding their services to get better. People pay for the books. They don’t need to know “everything” about people’s search patterns – not like Google – and when they collect data it’s more easy to understand why they do it. They want to sell more books. Fine.
But Google always has something diffuse about their business model. What are they doing with all the information they collect? How far will they go? How do they make use of all their “free” stuff like G-mail, Google+ and documents? We don’t really know, we can only guess. And we don’t know how they will develop. Because they are not ”selling books”.
Now Android, open source, is another example of Google offering “free services” again. “Free” is suspicious. Amazon is in it’s big way using Android like Stenströms in a micro-small way is using Google: only picking out the good parts and using it for free, because it’s possible.
And I still think there must be something wrong in Google’s way to do business. It’s not crystal clear how they make their money. They are not consistent. There always seem to be a missing piece. Where is the limit for ”free”? Android is also part of the messy pc-world-thinking where everyone can choose their own way, which results in a lot of different UI:s on tablets, more bugs, more problems and some kind of organic structure that no one can control. 
A lot of people criticize Apple for the locked up eco-system and maybe they also make jokes about how secret everything is at Apple – but, it’s a lot easier to understand what Apple is, how Apple makes money. In that regard Apple is more transparent and so is Amazon. No one can get suspicious about how Apple and Amazon make their money because it’s obvious. And when you think like that Google’s and Android’s talk about open and free seems to be more of a smokescreen to cover up their true goals OR to cover the fact that they might not know what they are doing…
The same goes for Facebook, though their way of using the information is a bit more transparent than Google. I think more people understand how Facebook get their money.
Internet is a global infrastructure. What are search engines in that perspective? How can we trust the search results we get? For example, when I was in Finland the search results differed a lot from the ones I get in Sweden. How much does Google adjust my searches after what they believe I am looking for? Censor? Or just practical filters that help me? Google is working on many levels, making money here and there but always in a kind of sneaky, camouflaged way. Maybe it’s time for a neutral search engine that the users pay for?
The more I think about it I feel that Google (including Android) is about to destroy themselves. They have too many holes and missing pieces, to much space for chaos and not enough control mechanism. They are losing their gloria. My prediction is that they will have to rebuild their business from scratch and create a consistent idea that is simple enough for common people to understand. No sneaky business. No organic, free and wild structure. Just a simple idea that makes sense and doesn’t make people feel that they are fooled.
Simplicity. Beauty. Logic. A common advice to people that starts a new business is to create a business idea that is easy to explain. I believe there is a lot of truth in that.
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