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<i>Fortune</i>'s Stanley Bing

Fortune's Stanley Bing

Posted: August 28, 2009 01:34 PM

Goog The Underdog?


The massive machinery of the tech business is mobilizing against a common adversary. That's right, in spite of all it's done to transform our world and define free, open digital space, nobody in the business seems to like the Goog (GOOG). In fact, the operators of the Death Star in Redmond (MSFT) have reportedly taken the point on a new "screw Google" strategy that they are rolling out in Washington.

It's always amazing to me how the most rapacious monopolistic capitalists -- opponents of even the most rational regulation that might affect their revenue picture -- hump it to Washington for highly targeted relief when they think a certain form of regulatory action would hurt their adversaries. The bottom line here seems to be that nobody is against ALL regulation. They're just against the unfair government intervention that has something to do with THEM.

I've heard it in confabs, gatherings and business meetings, and you read about it in the reports of those sagacious analysts who have done us so little good over the years, particularly recently. Goog has jumped the shark. Goog is going to invade your backyard and drain your above-ground pool. Goog this. Goog that. Boo!

Now here comes Microsoft to lead a band of other fiercely independent competitors who are seeking to make Washington do what they can't -- squash the Goog before, like a wild beast acquired as a baby, it grows to adult size and eats every living thing in sight. Dailyfinance.com reports that "one source familiar with the meetings says, 'Law Media Group has several people who work full-time on Google-bashing. Everybody knows Microsoft is trying to throw roadblocks at Google and knock them off their game. Microsoft is trying to harm Google in the regulatory, legal, and litigation arenas because they're having problems with Google in the competitive marketplace.'"

No question that the Goog has pushed the envelope and continues to do so. Scanning books before they asked for permission to do so, for instance. Or doing creepy things with your Gmail. Like, a few months ago I wrote a friend of mine on my Gmail account, beginning the note with my usual inane salutation: "Dude!" As I continued to type my message, I noticed that a number of ads were scrolling down the right-hand side of my screen. "Wax your surfboard!" one of them said. "Surfing vacations!" said another. That gave me the hiccups for a minute. They tell me that whole process is automated and they're NOT reading my mail. And of course I believe them.

At the same time, you've got to wonder about the whole strategy of the anti-Googlers. First, because in my view Google is smart. Second, because if you bring down the biggest, snazziest ship in the armada the rest of your fleet may be sucked into the downdraft. Third, perhaps most importantly, has Washington, once engaged, ever produced a little bit of regulation? And would we all truly benefit from the closing of that frontier?

Follow Stanley Bing on Twitter at twitter.com/thebingblog