Monthly Archives: June 2008

Signs of Incipient Decline at Google?

Those of us who have toiled for technology companies know that any given company’s decline begins before the symptoms are apparent to external observers, such as shareholders, market analysts, and journalists. Employees, especially mid- and senior-level managers, witness signs of decline and dysfunction before they become readily apparent to outsiders.

It’s possible, then, that any company, even those seemingly flying high, could be beginning to suffer the effects of an incipient organizational cancer, which will eventually spread, become pervasive, and bring the firm to ground. There’s a life cycle to any information-technology company, just as there’s a life cycle to any human being or to any organization that depends upon the cooperation and coordination of human beings for its success. That covers every hardware, software, on Internet-services firm on the planet today.

So, given that decline is possible in any company, it logically follows that decline is possible today at Google, currently the thriving juggernaut of the Internet scene.

Is it really happening, though? We just have anecdotes as evidence, including one conveyed today by Peter Kafka of Silicon Alley Insider. Kafka quotes an anonymous “Valley bigwig,” who says the following:

“Google’s a complete f–ing mess on the inside. A total f–ing trainwreck. They don’t talk to each other. They fight constantly. A lot is being pissed away. In three or four years you’ll be looking back at this company and wondering what happened.”

This could be coming from an embittered former executive, or from a competitor, or from a current or former Google partner. Without quote attribution, it’s impossible to know. It might mean nothing, or it could be the sign of manifest difficulty at the industry giant.

One fact is undeniable: All companies decline eventually, even the giants.

Forget a Spinoff: Motorola Should Sell Its Handset Business

Watching Motorola’s handset business disintegrate is difficult even for those of us who don’t have a tangible stake in the company.

While some optimists retain hope for a comeback in 2009, I don’t see it. The same bunch of reputed leaders that has steered Motorola’s handset ship into the mangroves cannot be expected to suddenly acquire navigational prowess and strategic brilliance. That would be asking for a reversal of established form, and that rarely happens in the absence of a miracle.

Nobody likes where Motorola’s handset group is heading for the remainder of 2008, and plans for a spinoff seem misguided. Motorola should just sell the handset unit to somebody that has a real plan for reviving it. That won’t be easy for anybody, not with low-cost Asian handset vendors relentlessly gutting margins at the low end while Apple and RIM redraw the boundaries of the smartphone market up above.

Microsoft Will Refrain from Internet Buying Frenzy

Microsoft shareholders will be relieved to learn that CEO Steve Ballmer hasn’t lost his mind yet. Despite rumors to the contrary, Microsoft has no intention of staggering through the Valley and other ports of call on a profligate Internet buying binge.

So, no, you wont’ see a Microsoft acquisition of Facebook; nor will you see Microsoft make a determined run at recently refinanced LinkedIn.

Ballmer explained to the Financial Times that the aborted bid for Yahoo was “about the ad platform,” not “about just any one of the applications.” Said Ballmer: “The most important application for the foreseeable future . . . is search.”

And search, as any observer of Google knows, derives its value by serving as a proven platform for advertisements. Social networking? Not so much — at least, not yet.