29th August 2012: the date Google becomes "aware"
Another day, another industry in trouble, all because the company that promises to "do no evil" has entered its market.
The latest victims that are likely to fall foul of the search giant are the dedicated GPS makers. TomTom and Garmin both saw big drops in share prices on Wednesday (no doubt for TomTom on the back of poor Q3 results as well), however when someone with the cash of Google steps on your turf offering a product for free when you charge a premium, with no need to turn a profit in that division, surely its time to start panicking.
Google's presence in our lives is more prevalent that ever. Destroyer of industries, has Google become Skynet?
In the present
While companies like Alta Vista and Yahoo believed that search was just the start of a bigger media portal to entrap internet users, Google's clean "just search" mantra allowed it to steal the market, completely. Google is now the biggest search engine on the block and uses the cash it gets from placing ads next to those results to leapfrog into other sectors as well as fund the majority of its ventures.
Why charge when you can give it away? Google's Gmail and subsequent Google Apps is slowly taking over the email space. Its free product here has signaled the death knell to email hosting companies across the world. In the Nineties, companies charged $1 for an email address, then they charged for storage. Now if you're paying for either you're considered behind the curve.
Google bought its way into the online video market after its attempts with Google Video failed to gain traction against YouTube. A prime example of the need to control the space rather than actually making a profit, Google paid a $1 billion premium to claim the site as its own. In October it signed a landmark deal with Channel 4 in the UK to start screening on-demand TV shows. If the idea catches on and other TV stations sign up, could this signal the end of traditional television broadcasting?
Storing and selling photos
While Picasa doesn't have the clout of Flickr, it still allows you to manage your photos online. Add in the ability to sell those images, combine it with Google Images and you've got a competitor to services like Corbis, Getty and iStockPhoto. Google could theoretically then move to supply newspapers and magazines with the images it scours from its users and the Web - rewarding those users individually for their contributions.
Getting from A to B
It's already killed the online mapping industry (Multimap, Streetmap, et al) and now it's after the GPS sector with the launch of Google Maps Navigation. The new software app will be available on its mobile phone platform Android 2.0, and is likely to completely turn the GPS market on its head. Constantly up to date maps, live traffic, points of interest pulled from its search database and the usual Google price (free) means TomTom, Garmin, Navman, et al, are going to struggle to justify the premium price.
Google's news service, be it via the Google News pages or Google Reader product, has had two effects. It has allowed many websites to gain exposure to a host of new readers, but it's also caused concern with old school media barons, like Rupert Murdoch, for destroying their readership and making people promiscuous readers. No longer does the Old Media have the power over the newsstand that they once had. With the flick of a switch Google has the power to stop the traffic dead, or allow it to flow.
Google has digitised hundreds of thousands of books already and now the company is launching its own eBook store to challenge the booksellers of this world, like Barnes & Noble. Why would you pay for a book if you could get a digital copy for free on the proviso that you had to look at a couple of ads every 20 pages?
Buying physical music
Who needs to go into a HMV or Best Buy to buy your CD when you'll be able to search for the music and buy at the click of a button instead? iTunes might have empowered us to embrace digital music downloads, but the world moves fast. Why offer a dedicated piece of software you've got to open when clicking directly at the moment you search for it would be a more gratifying experience? The idea of buying a CD on the high street and then taking it home will be dead in 5 years.
Microsoft has already seen its Office market affected by the launch of Google Docs, Google's cloud based office suite. Those needing to write a letter to the bank manager no longer need to buy expensive software. They can just point their browser in the right direction, create a document and then promptly offer to share it with the bank manager instead. If he's your Google contact, anyway.
Making a call
Google Voice is Google's Skype, except that it's not content with you just chatting in a desktop client. It wants your voice calls and voice mail as well. While only available in the US at the moment, the system allows you to port your voicemail from the operators to their service. Add that to the ability to make free national calls and international calls for as little as 2 cents a minute and it's likely to be a blow to phone companies who are already suffering from mobile operators stealing their customers. When was the last time you made a call from your landline?
Once upon a time PR agencies used to hire tracking companies to monitor how they performed in the media. Google alerts and RSS feeds soon put an end to that. With the introduction of Twitter into the search stream, companies will soon be able to monitor the coverage they get even as they are making the announcement.
Making an appointment
When was the last time you wrote on or in a paper calendar? Aside from offerings with cute pictures of cats and puppies, naked firemen, or your favourite pop star, the paper calendar has been relegated to the cheap Christmas gift. Google's shareable electronic calendar means greater connectivity for all, but it's another industry on its way out thanks to the Goog.
The decline of the magazine industry isn't entirely Google's to claim, but the power of products like Blogger that empowered a generation to write their own content has helped to slowly eat away at the power of the media. Now you don't have to wait a month to get the latest news and opinion - you can create it on your phone and let the world know there and then.
Remember when you used to get the share prices in the newspaper and that those pages dominated the business section? The prices are still there in some pages, but the news is out of date before you can even find what you are looking for. How long before that data is gone completely?
How do you spell...
Dictionaries are the lifeblood of our language, as are translators. Both of which are likely to be ditched, and out of work. Google's "Did you mean...?" search means you can guess at the word you don't know, while its translate service, while still rough around the edges, saves the need for you to learn another language. You speak English right?
Mobile operating systems
It's already taken Motorola's internal OS and it could soon take Symbian - the Open Source OS. That's right, Google's Android mobile phone operating system is, and will most likely over time destroy Nokia's OS. Android 2.0, due out on 6 November in the US, is light years ahead of anything coming out of other manufacturers (except perhaps Apple) at the moment. Will handset manufacturers have to embrace Google to succeed?
Desktop operating systems
Not content with the mobile space, Google is planning a desktop OS that will eradicate the need to pay for an operating system. Apple has already seen the price it charges for its OS cut down to $25, but how long will it be before the company has to give it away to entice consumers to stay with it rather than move to the Chrome OS? When consumers do flock to the new OS, Microsoft will have lost its foothold on the boot-up. It might control 90% of the market now, but what about in 10 years time?
Surfing the web
The company that exists only on the Web needs to make sure it has a route to entry and that's Chrome. Currently only taking around 6% of the browser market, it's one of the only areas in Google portfolio that is not about to destroy an industry, but Chome has won praise for its speed, functionality, and how it just gets out of the way of your web browsing experience.
MSN, Yahoo, iChat - you remember those don't you? Google has two products here that are hoping to destroy all others in their path. Google Talk is a straight up IM client, but the company's Google Wave product is something different. In the future, the chance to grab a meeting room and a company paid-for Danish will disappear thanks to the ability to follow the conversation online as it happens. Heck, why would you even need an office?
Taking a pill
Google Health is likely to swarm in and within a couple of years dominate the medical industry. Once it has enough data, imagine what it could tell you about pandemics, medicine and more importantly how that data could be sold and monetised. Google insurance anyone?
Saving you energy
Google PowerMeter smart metering system has launched in the US and will soon be arriving in the UK. It should allow users to monitor their power consumption and bring down electricity prices while saving the planet. In turn, that will cause chaos in the industry as the market is forced to offer lower and lower prices.
Posting a comment to a blog
Earlier in the year Google bought ReCaptcha, the way that virtually all comment systems on the internet clarify that you are a human rather than a robot trying to spam. What they plan to use this for isn't yet clear, but it wouldn't be hard to use the system to see who comments on what and whether they are a threat to the system. Google Wave could also hook into blog comment systems, providing real-time comments on articles.
The daily commute and the office
Using all of the above you won't need to venture into the office to work in the same building as your work mates. You can already see it happening now. I write this based in New York, before it goes to the rest of the team to read dotted around the UK and the world. Even better, some of the people who've read this before it's gone live I've never even met in person.
With Google in virtually every facet or your data life, there are still plenty of areas Google can go.
Google has yet to tap up the education sector as well as it could. What about exam marking services, school report card systems so it can track your details from an early age and then Alumni services. It's a market ripe for the picking.
Google isn't, yet, fussed about hardware, but with a move into navigation, it could easily start offering music, radio and other information services like weather into the car. Or perhaps it'll access the car through its mobile OS. Either could prove fruitful.
Writing a note
Goodbye Mont Blanc, goodbye Biro. The more people that use Google Voice and its voice control offerings on Android the better - Google's computers will get more of an understanding of what we say and how we say it. Do you really think you'll be writing with a pen in 20 years time?
We've already seen that Google's YouTube is stealing TV hours, but what if it launched a free EPG service that offered more social interaction with your TV as well as web access as standard? Goodbye EPG software makers. Android for the TV it is then.
When will Skynet, we mean Google, become aware?
Think about all the above examples and now think about all the data. Google is very quickly amassing a massive amount of data on its users, everything from what you read, what you email, what you search for, what you listen to, what you watch, where you go, who you call, what messages you've left for them, what pictures you store, what pills you are taking and even what you can't spell. Add that to the possibility of school records, job history, and for the first time in history a single company will be able to build a digital profile of you better than one that you probably could, given the same tools.
The question is, is that okay? For many it's not an issue. Google empowers its users to mine for data better than any other company on the planet, but when it becomes aware, what happens then?