Should the Federal Government Bailout Google?

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008
The automobile industry is an essential part of our national economy in so many ways. The loss of the big three, as economists tell us, would have a devastating impact on our production economy.

But what about our information economy?

I'm just thinking here but as I went to Google for the umpteenth time today in support of my work, the thought occurred to me: "what would I do without Google?"  I realized that in many ways, Google has be come as indispensable to me as Windows my computer or the Internet.

I used to tease my late friend, Marc Orchant, that "Search is the new UI" but that may be a truer statement than I thought. If Google were to suddenly tumble, I wonder what the impact would be on our information economy?

I'm just thinking out loud [because it's more fun than studying or processing my email].

Discussion/Comments (10):

Should the Federal Government Bailout Google?

I'd say the Google is far more indispensable to me than Windows. I have alternatives to Windows.

If Google dies, it would be like the '80s...I hated that ;-)

Posted at 12/9/2008 7:56:28 PM by Dan Sickles

re: Should the Federal Government Bailout Google?

Agreed, Dan.

I did not intend to draw a comparison between Windows and Google but rather to illustrate how integral seach has become to my information management strategy.

I've changed the post to read: "Google has be come as indispensable to me as my computer or the Internet."


Posted at 12/9/2008 8:16:02 PM by Eric Mack

Should the Federal Government Bailout Google?

Given your feelings about Google...and what is going on in the stock what point do you decide to buy Google stock? Or doesn't your "faith in Google" go that far?

Posted at 12/9/2008 8:29:55 PM by Allan

re: Should the Federal Government Bailout Google?

Allan, I think you may have missed my point. I was not suggesting that Google is in trouble or needs a bailout, but asking if Google were to find itself in as bad a shape, as the auto industry, would they merit a bailout for the same reasons that are given for the auto bailout?

As far as investing, I do not own any Google stock, but think that search technologies will represent a substantial opportunity for the foreseeable future.

While wall street pundits look at the health of the financial economy, I'm looking at the health of the information and knowledge economy. I think this would be a fun discussion to contjnue...

Posted at 12/9/2008 8:33:06 PM by Eric Mack

Should the Federal Government Bailout Google?

I knew that you weren't suggesting that Google was in trouble.

My point was that the stock has fallen over 50% due to general market factors and the global economy. So is this an opportune buying time? I suspect that for the reasons you stated, that it has become indispensable to you, it is a good time to buy.

But if they were in trouble...would the government feel compelled to bail them out? If they were the dominant "American Search Company" and there was a strong global competitor (the Toyota of internet search) would Congress be concerned...or perhaps more to the point, should Congress be concerned. If Google went out of business, but you and all the other companies in the US still had the same capability…it was just provided by a non-US company…why should they care?

Does Google have the same type of impact on the US economy that a brick and mortar manufacturing company has? I suspect not…and this is due to the supply chain impact. The supply chain effects of the auto industry are huge. What are the supply chain effects of Google?. Google has no parts manufactures, they don't require companies to mine iron ore and turn it into steel, they don't have dealer networks. Most of what they do buy (servers, power supplies) are made overseas…so they have little effect on the US economy beyond the people that they directly employee (and of course their impact on productivity). So would the impact…and the concern…be as great? I think that you can make the argument that it would not, as long as you could get the same serves (and they are services…not products) elsewhere.

This is one of the arguments that economists make over the importance of a manufacturing base. There is a difference in service vs manufacturing industries.

Posted at 12/9/2008 9:13:01 PM by Allan

re: Should the Federal Government Bailout Google?

Good points, Allan. You've tipped the scales for me. It's now more fun for me to go back and study and process my email than to ponder the world's troubles. ;-)

Seriously, I see your point about the difference between manufacturing and service. I was having fun with the premise and title of my post. It is interesting to me, however, at how we take for granted the Internet and the impact that information consumption has on our ability to make informed decisions. That's why I'm so passionate about personal KM - taking responsibility for what we know. I got tired with people saying "what if we lose the big three?" that I thought to myself "what if I lost the Internet?" or "what if I lost the ability to find my recorded information?" (Especially once entrusted to external storage, perhaps even to [gasp] the cloud.

As far as investing, its probably worth taking a serious look at the search companies.

Posted at 12/9/2008 9:22:51 PM by Eric Mack

re: Should the Federal Government Bailout Google?

The auto issue is a hard one. I keep going to each side.

Thinking further about the implications for an information economy, consider this. What if it wasn't Google, but Sprint or AT&T - providers of the majority of our internet connectivity? That would be different. That would threaten to cripple our economy. ... Fun discussion.

Posted at 12/9/2008 9:49:50 PM by Eric Mack

Should the Federal Government Bailout Google?

You could sell Sprint or AT&T's infrastructure to anyone in the world if you are only interested in infrastructure and jobs. Heck they sold Chrysler to Daimler Benz. But what what about if you were concerned about security...would you want to sell these assets to the Chinese. I suspect that Congress (and the NSA) would not be fond of that idea.

Let's look at it from another perspective. What if it were Microsoft and you couldn't find a buyer. What would companies do with their office products? Could they do an immediate switch - or phase them out over 5 years. What if there was no one to do security patches. I suspect that Congress might feel compelled to step in "for the good of US industry."

So what is the difference between Microsoft and Google. At least one difference is that Microsoft provides a product and Google provides a service. Is it easier to replace a service than a product...I think the answer is yes. Yet lots of companies are headed toward a service model...does this represent a threat? It certainly means that the service providers need to be constantly evolving to say ahead of the competition. I don't think that they will be able to develop a product like XP...and expect it to have a shelf life of over 5 years.

Posted at 12/9/2008 10:11:01 PM by Allan

Should the Federal Government Bailout Google?

Are the various Microsoft operating systems that different from various versions of UNIX(which have been around much longer that XP has)?

Could not their various Office applications not be readily replaced with open source alternatives with little disruption?

Could not their collaborative applications be replaced with alternatives from other vendors?

I agree with Eric, I think that the US and the world would handle the total failure of Microsoft much better than the loss of Google or the Internet.

Posted at 12/9/2008 10:54:18 PM by Ian Randall

Should the Federal Government Bailout Google?

Isn't the real issue with the big three that they have bad management up top? Bad decisions on where to head, products, marketing? We don't buy their products because we don't like them, right? Google doesn't have the issue of consumers not liking their product. Their management is seemingly good. So I don't think the need for a bail out would even come up.

It would be a tough question though. But honestly, I see the consumers coming together to help out, because it is a resource they need. Much like Wikipedia garnering donations and meeting goals or Ron Paul. The consumer would decide.

Posted at 12/17/2008 2:00:38 PM by Daniel

Discussion for this entry is now closed.