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Larry Page: Deconstructing the sadness

Jason Snell | May 17, 2013
Jason Snell analyzes Google CEO Larry Page's speech at Wednesday's Google I/O keynote.

Did we really need another music subscription service when we've already got several players competing hard? Is the net result going to be a more competitive music-subscription service space, or one that becomes less competitive due to Google stomping the competition? Regardless, this is yet another case of a big company deciding it needs to use its weight to enter a new category.

Now, Larry, I'm not saying this is a zero-sum game. The entrance of Google (and, who knows, Apple too?) into the music-subscription market will probably grow that market. But it would be naïve in the extreme to suggest that Google isn't also trying to eat the lunch of the pioneers in that product category. There are lots of reasons for Google to launch a music service, but "building great things that don't exist" is not one of them. If you're going to suggest that humanity is being held back by tech companies playing zero-sum games and constantly reinventing the same set of wheels, you need to turn that mirror on yourself as well. What could Google have built instead of replicating Spotify? Or Facebook, with Google+? Or Amazon, with Google Play Books?

Google can be an innovative company, but it's also playing the same hard-knuckle game as everyone else. It's competing with Apple, with Microsoft, with Amazon, with Facebook. If Google was sitting under a cork tree, avoiding the fray and just building self-driving cars and the like, that would be an easier case to make. But Google's in the fray. Let's not pretend otherwise.

Page was also disappointed with competitors not wanting to interoperate with Google. He saved some specific complaints for Microsoft, which recently integrated Google Talk into

I've personally been quite saddened at the industry's behavior... You just take something as simple as instant messaging. We've kind of had an offer forever that we'll interoperate on instant messaging. I think just this week Microsoft took advantage of that by interoperating with us, but not doing the reverse. Which is really sad, right? And that's not the way to make progress. You need to actually have interoperation, not just people milking off one company for their own benefit

Why the crazy projects?
One area where Page seems justifiably proud is in Google's embrace of the crazy idea. Most specifically, in his "compatriot" Sergei Brin's Google X division, which is focused on "real atoms and not bits."

I think that possibilities for some of those things are incredibly great. If you look at technology applied to transportation, it hasn't really started yet. We haven't really done that. Automated cars are just one thing you could do. You could do many other things. So I think we're very excited about that area.


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