Saturday, May 17, 2014

Germany and Google

This morning, it's mostly page one news in Germany....a fair number of comments by the German government yesterday.....that Google is too big and unfair, thus not allowing real competition within Germany, and should be carved up into smaller companies.  They don't really note how this would happen, other than ordering Google to do so, and they would comply....kinda like the Borg telling Picard to comply and be consumed, but Picard would just grin and decline.

If you notice.....they aren't talking about Yahoo being in this category....mostly because Yahoo has not really improved much over the past ten years.  To be honest, I doubt if half of the German internet user crowd has ever used Yahoo.

If you also notice.....they didn't discuss EBay or Amazon either.  Amazon doesn't really sell anything, except other folk's services or products, so German companies are happy that Amazon works as successfully as it does and they wouldn't ever want Amazon broke in half.

So, this brings me to a history lesson.  In the mid-90's, Bill Gates came to Germany and did a big tour....speaking at various dinners and public forums.  What Bill said....was that Germany wasn't prepared for the approaching IT growth period....mainly because it's education system wasn't producing computer engineers or software designers.  The German school system came out with guns ablazing and said Bill didn't grasp the traditional German method of education, and that he was simply talking of commerce requirements.....NOT educational requirements.  Roughly twelve months after Bill left, I noted in the German news that various German IT companies were now asking for green-cards, and asking to bring thousands of non-Germans into the country to do IT work....mostly because they didn't have the number of IT specialists around to handle the workload.

The German office handling the green-cards turned to the education mafia (the university controllers) and asked what happening here, but there wasn't a very clear answer.  It's been around fifteen years since Bill Gates left, and I can note two obvious things.  First, the German university system did ramp up several programs around the country.  Second, a fair number of German students realizing the limits here.....packed up and went to the US for higher education and IT-related classes.

Germany isn't exactly the place where you want to stand during a build-up trend involving technology.

In the mid-90's when internet arrived.....in the whole of Kaiserslautern, I came to discover there was only one provider in existence.....an American guy operating his own personal 'net'.  Nationally, there was AOL....amusingly enough existing in Germany.  The American guy (operating out of Landstuhl) had a good price and noted reputation....so I signed up with him for a 56k speed deal.  From the base, I'd take a guess that around 2,000 people were signed up via his service, and from other Army related posts....probably another 10,000.

Around twelve months later....Telekom finally came out with their offering.  Price-wise, they weren't that competitive.   A year would pass from that initial offering and I got a updated pricing list....Telekom was now almost the same price.  So I went over to the Landstuhl office and engaged in some questions.

What I found at Telekom's office.....was some salespeople who really didn't know anymore than what their sales pamphlet covered (ten topics, ten answers).....and I asked the lady if she had internet in her house.  No, she didn't.....she didn't see a need for it.  An odd answer, but it really says a lot about new trends and how Germans don't grasp onto them.

I would sign up with Telekom and be mostly happy.  Roughly three years go by and I'm ready for this new thing called DSL.  The Telekom folks?  They weren't that helpful.....the pricing wasn't agreeable....and I ended with a deal with OnePlusOne (note: I've been with them for well over ten years now).

When you talk about Germans and technology.....you get into a subject where there is no real happy conclusion to the discussion.  In my village, there's a computer shop run by one guy.  He can't really beat the discount prices from Media Mart or Saturn, and he knows that.  What he offers and his client base is consumed by....is service.  He sells them the computer or laptop, sets it up, arranges the router with the password, and shows them the simple steps of logging on and cruising.  In a village of 400 homes/apartments....he's got more than enough business for 5.5 days a week that he's open.  They need him....because this technology stuff is too complicated.

This argument now with Google?  There are a couple of pieces to the discussion.  Privacy with cruising got into the subject matter.  If Oma looks mostly at cruise info, TV movie recommendations, cooking suggestions, and special deals on shopping.....Oma doesn't want anyone to know her cruising habits or what 'cookies' she has on her laptop.

Down the street is Schmidt, who cruises mostly bondage sites, soccer scores, chats with Thai ladyboys, and trying to buy cheaper prescription drugs via the Netherlands.  Schmidt doesn't want anyone getting into his preferences or habits.....like Google.

Google might grin over this whole argument and start to discuss how habits are different from country to country.....noting that ten percent of German searchers will look for bondage sites while only two percent of German searchers will look for the same site.  It might get Germans upset, or make them all happy to know that they are more into some lusty practice than the French.

Breaking Google up?  Because of the trends and growth....whatever you create....will double in one year alone, and triple over the second year.  Maybe the old philosophy of breaking up companies for competition purposes worked, but in this case....I'd have strong doubts.

So, what would I do, as Google?  I'd have two scenarios.  First, I'd do everyone in Germany a favor and turn off Google.de for an entire weekend.  If you got to Google.com and searched for something German.....it'd just put up "0" finds.  No German business sites, no German newspaper sites, nothing.  After a weekend of this.....people would ask questions about the logic of dumping onto Google.

My second scenario?  Reinvent Google.de, and give another name....totally German in character (maybe Gutoogle.de) after that Gutenberg character out of Mainz.  Have a little Mozart tune play each time a search is complete and delivered back to the user....making them feel that it was one-hundred percent German in character.   Yeah, I know....it's all fake because it's really Google behind the mask, but that's what Germans are begging for....fake Google and a German label.

Finally, my general observation of German culture and technology growth.  If you had a fantastic idea over some IT software deal.....the last place that I'd show up to push it across to society....is Germany.  Not to slam Germans, but they tend to ask questions over privacy, logical use, cost, and where the trend is going.  They want to think long and hard over the impact and usage.  This isn't the culture that buys IT-toys on a whim.  So Google has engaged, found some happy German users, and then discovered the typical German mentality....it's not German-developed, so there's got to be an issue here.

Should I bring up Facebook?  No....it's best to let them continue drifting within the same topic area.  Same problems, and they are likely number two on the break-up scheme.

Nifty how no one ever suggested Coke and Pepsi break up....because of competition issues.  Or McDonalds.  Or German state-run TV.

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