Google Could Learn a Thing or Two from EMC
One of the interesting (though increasingly tedious) parts about being a long-term technology analyst is seeing the same mistakes made over and over again. A young upstart company that is doing very well looks at a more mature firm and figures they can do it better without first understanding what it is that made the older firm successful.
In the current case it is Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), which I'm increasingly seeing as a company that has set its mind on spectacular failure. The area in question: EMC (NYSE: EMC) and the concept of cloud computing, and whether it should be public or private. The irony is that Google is probably the most private company in technology at the moment the firm once threatened to blacklist CNET for using Google's own search engine to collect information on its CEO.
The reality appears to be that Google itself wouldn't use a public cloud service unless it was from Google, which kind of makes it a private cloud for them, doesn't it? In the enterprise space we have a term called Walking the Talk. I'm convinced that at Google the terms Walk and Talk haven't even met, let alone had any relationship with one another.
This gives me long moments where I wonder if Google even has a mirror. They are emerging as the technology equivalent of Anakin Skywalker who starts out with the concept of fighting an evil Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and appears to be ending up as some kind of super Darth Vader.
But let's focus on why this trend repeats, looking at some of Google's mistakes. Ill close with observations from EMC World this week.
Young Companies Don't Get the Enterprise
My first observation of this trend was a young Microsoft trying to move against the then enterprise king IBM (NYSE: IBM). IBM had been critically wounded by a series of mistakes and certainly was vulnerable. Microsoft successfully snatched defeat out of the mouth of victory with a little event called "Scalability Day," which turned out to be a clearly stupid thing to have done. They had been building credibility in the enterprise slowly and a lot of CIOs saw them as the company they could trust.
However, Windows NT, their enterprise platform, wasn't yet ready to do what sales and marketing needed and yet they still held this event which seriously damaged their credibility.
The next time was with Netscape and their enterprise push. In Netscape's case, they had purchased a number of promising technologies and decided to make a run at the backend with Web and application servers and an e-mail system. Long before this solution was ready, they went out to enterprises that were using their browser and likely believed they were the next Microsoft and pretended what they had was mature.
It not only wasn't ready, but they had a tendency to brag about their stock price in sales presentations, which not only lost them the deals but largely banned them from those enterprises (I did win $100 from their CEO, who didn't believe this was happening). The one corporate win I followed was a massive disaster and most of the IT staff I knew who worked on it ended up leaving the poor firm that decided to choose it.
The Cause of Enterprise Stupidity
What causes this stupidity is a combination of things. First, the enterprise market is very attractive. It holds the promise of mega deals where a few scores can equal a massive number of seats and revenue. This is a huge golden carrot that looks just out of reach.
Second, enterprise sales are deceptively difficult and are generally made from a deep foundation of trust, through a lengthy sales process, and negotiations that require specialists. Successful companies don't drop in, pitch a product, and drop out. They build and nurture a relationship, and young companies just don't know how to do that. This relationship is founded on trust, and young companies often can't even spell that.
So the process is: build a deep relationship, protect the buyer, and deliver at least what you promised (ideally more). This is why EMC, for instance, has quality control reporting to the CEO so that they can assure that promises are kept and buyers are protected.