Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Google garden

I bought a book via Google's Android Market the other night. It was not what I'd originally intended to do.

I wasn't tired but I was in pain; I'd picked up my five-year old the wrong way (they just keep growing!) and hurt my back. So I figured I'd just read a novel since I couldn't concentrate, but I didn't have any that I hadn't read. Hmm, ok, eBooks are generally outrageously priced but if I bought one I could read it right now.

First, I looked for interesting books in the Kobo application that came preinstalled on my Android phone. I couldn't find anything I wanted to read there, so I went to the Android store to get the Kindle reader, to see if there was anything from Amazon I was interested in. But of course once in the Android Market application there was this Books tab... so naturally I looked there. I found a book that I was interested in and bought it. Never got to the Kindle app.

Now, I bought it on my phone, but I was sitting in front of my laptop as I was doing it. I wasn't buying it on my phone because I wanted to read it on my phone at that particular moment, but rather just because I did want to be able to read it on my phone later if I needed to. So to figure out how to read this book I just bought, I typed in a quick query on my laptop, and up comes the Google books site and since I'm logged in, there's my book. So I never did read it on my phone.

I find this impulse buy sequence interesting because:

  1. When I started I had no thought of buying the book from the Android Market (I'd forgotten that Google was selling books), and
  2. when I switched to my laptop I had no intention of reading the book on my laptop (I didn't know it was possible).
I've long thought that the ubiquity of Google allows them to enter markets where the barrier to entry is high. To me this is an example of that, both in that Google controls the Android Market and therefore can feature whatever they want there, and in that since I use other Google services and was therefore logged in, finding my book on my laptop was a matter of seconds despite the fact that I didn't even know I could do that. I managed to accidentally discover both Google services in minutes in the path of least resistance. While I wasn't even thinking about buying from Google in the beginning, in the end I'm happy I did because I now know that I can read the books I buy there in any browser just by logging into my Google account. I can be at another location without my own computer and still be able to do so.

I believe this ubiquity could allow Google to succeed with Google+ despite the daunting head-start that Facebook has: people will end up in Google+ by accident, and some will start to use it despite not having originally intended to do so. This plus the network effect could grow Google+ to critical mass if Google sticks it out.

Some people argue that Google's just trying to build a Walled Garden like Apple. I don't agree. Certainly they have a big garden, and that contributed to the fact that in the end I bought from Google rather than Kobo or Amazon, but I don't see the walls. I don't have to have Google hardware to read the book, I don't even have to have Android, the only thing I need is to have is a web browser.

With respect to Google+ versus Facebook, well, I trust Google to be more secure and certainly hope that they'll be less random.

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