Back in 2007, when Google was suddenly interested in the 700 MHz auction and everyone was speculating whether or not Google planned to enter the wireless business (and if so how badly it would fail), I wrote this piece about Google’s behavior.
“Unless you own a cat, or have a bizarre interest in parasite-induced behavioral changes, odds are good you never heard of a critter called toxoplasma gondii (or “T. Gondii” to its friends). This little protozoa lives a complex lifestyle. In its immature phase, it can live in any mammal. But to reach the mature stage and reproduce, it must get into a cat. It does this by the expedient of reversing the usual aversion mice have to cats. A mouse infected by T. Gondii will find the odor of cat a powerful attraction and, on spotting a cat, will rush out to challenge the cat instead of hiding. As a result, the cat eats the mouse and the T. Gondii gets on with its reproductive business.
“I find myself regarding this as a very apt analogy for Google and its interest in wireless. Google has no real interest in becoming a network provider. Sure, it has dabbled a bit in broadband over power lines (BPL) and muniwireless, but nothing major. But this summer, Google got told in no uncertain terms that if it wanted access to the wireless world, the only way to get it was to win licenses and set up its own network.
“Google, of course, still doesn’t want to have to build a network. So it has adopted the strategy of our friend T. Gondii. Modify the behavior of someone else to make your life easier. I don’t regard this as “bad” or “freeloading” or “evil” anymore than I regard T. Gondii as evil. A protozoa (or a profit maximizing firm) has to do what a protozoa (or profit maximizing firm) has to do.”
And didn’t Google do just that? Without owning a network, Google is now happily embedded within the mobile world. And all the mobile companies, that swore in 2007 they would fight to the death to keep their platforms closed and that disruptive Google out, out OUT! plan a good portion of their lifecycle around Google’s Android operating system and Google mobile applications. Even its arch-rival Apple discovered it couldn’t displace Google Maps and get Google entirely off the platform.
Some years back, when Google announced their plans for a fiber network, I predicted that Google had similar intentions. Google did not intend to become a major network operator, if it could help it. But it needed to do something to get the landline mice, particularly cable, to start servicing us consumer cats better so that T. GOOG could get into our guts and alter our behavior better. Three years later, with recent announcements of Google expanding to Austin and Provo, I think it’s time to check in on how our favorite behavior-altering parasite is doing.
More below . . . .