Act 2: Buyer’s Remorse

Yesterday I wrote about the Techmeme blogger reaction to Google Sites, basically critical of it because it’s a pattern that is all too familiar: Google comes out with something new or updated and says it’s x or y and A-list blogger first reaction is to throw the company up on their shoulders and take a victory lap. There is little critical analysis.

I have been spending a lot of time in Sharepoint and when I read the various blog posts calling Sites a Sharepoint killer, it was evident to me that most of these commenters had never even seen Sharepoint, much less actually have used it. Sharepoint isn’t a wiki (which is basically what Sites is), so to compare Sites to Sharepoint on the basis of Sites superior wiki-ness begins with a false premise.

Even if Sites were competitively superior to Sharepoint on the basis of product features, that alone would not be enough.

Google’s competitive weakness with regard to Microsoft in SMB and enterprise accounts is partly due to the fact that their apps are lightweight when compared, but is more due to the account control that Microsoft holds as a key asset. Sharepoint is sold into SMB and enterprise accounts as a bundle, an up-sell to existing account, or offered as an incentive to get something else. Google simply doesn’t have the ground operation that Microsoft has, nor quite frankly the resources to build it.

What I mean by this last statement is that Google is starting to come under increased scrutiny with regard to expansion plans. As their search advertising business levels off the level of scrutiny they face will only grow, which means that spending a few billion dollars to build out a true enterprise sales and channel organization, or acquire one, which is likely to take years before returns are seen, is something they are not well positioned to do right now.

In my opinion, their original assumption was that they could flank Microsoft with the Google search appliance straight into IT and end users adopting applications as a guerilla insurgency within the enterprise. That simply hasn’t happened and probably won’t. Search appliance is doing well but those IT groups have little say in what business applications are adopted, and users as well as business decision makers have little incentive to risk going with Google when Microsoft is proven and already there.

Furthermore, the total cost of an application represents a package of associated items, the least of which is the license, so going with Google apps still means you incur support, training, and administration costs. If Google wants to really beat Microsoft in the enterprise then they are going to have to execute a full frontal assault, something they are ill-prepared to do.

I started out this post writing about the lack of critical analysis in the blogosphere, but an interesting thing tends to happen as the day goes on with announcements like this. Below is a snapshot of Techmeme later in the day when a number of bloggers started showing up with a “hold on cowboy” message that does reflect a more sober look at what Google is doing.

Maybe instead of criticizing the lack of critical analysis, I should modify that to suggest it’s a lack of immediate critical analysis that I find troubling. The problem with the blogosphere, like media, is that there is a race to be first rather than to be the most complete. TechCrunch has built a nice franchise on scoops and breaking news, and as a consequence everyone rushes to be a part of that early group.

What does all this mean? Probably not much on balance as my observation isn’t unique or earth shaking, it’s more a reflection on the traditional dynamics of media and PR, as well as human desire for recognition which is played out in the blogosphere with trackbacks and links. One thing that would be pretty cool to see is a trendline that tracks sentiment on particular issue or product launch over time to see if there is any repeating pattern.

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