By John Timmer | Published: February 22, 2008 – 12:30PM CT
The Associated Press is quoting Google founder Sergey Brin as calling the potential for such a acquisition “unnerving.” Again, the focus of these unsettled nerves appears to be competition. “When you start to have companies that control the operating system, control the browsers,” Brin said, “they really tie up the top Web sites, and can be used to manipulate stuff in various ways.”
These fears contrast sharply with the views of many technology analysts, who have given the potential acquisition decidedly mixed reviews. Although the combined companies draw huge numbers of Internet users through their existing portals, the merger would force them to integrate very different technology and corporate cultures before they could start pushing new approaches onto the market. As such, many have suggested that it may be several years before the combined company could begin to release new technology and possibly impose its will on the market.
So, why should Google be nervous? The company has always relied on open standards for its growth; as long as its technology is accessible to everyone with an Internet connection, it has been able to outperform most of its competitors. Microsoft’s monopoly on the desktop is about the only thing that could direct users away from the open standards that Google relies on. This monopoly position is unlikely to change in the next few years, and Microsoft might emerge with a whole suite of Yahoo services to send its users to.
Looking forward a few years is also nothing new for Google, as the company has shown a penchant for long-term planning. It has often developed or bought technology with no clear market traction, which suggests it may simply value having the option of developing them further if the market moves in that direction. The proliferation of mobile internet devices will open up lots of new space for portals and services, and the combination of Microsoft’s popular smartphone OS and Yahoo’s Web platform would give the combined company a potent weapon to use against Google’s still-nascent Android platform.
If Google really is unnerved, it’s not because it’s worried about search or portals. Instead, the search giant’s concerns are likely to be a mix of the old and the new. The old being Microsoft using its desktop dominance to direct its users towards Yahoo services. The new being that the chaos of the merger might be creative enough to produce a technology that Google isn’t prepared for.