"I was frightened...I was excited."
- Bono (on the vibe in England + Dublin in the '70s)
We are at the end of a cycle, and approaching the beginning of a new one.
It's post-global, post-digital, and post-commoditization.
The new cycle is about making the inefficient more efficient, and creating differentiation where commodization exists.
That we can stare at the rot that consumes so many industries, and simultaneously cheer a record stock market and wonder, "What replaces all of those jobs?" is BOTH terrifying and exciting (READ: 'The Jobs Engine' for thoughts on this topic).
Keep these dual truths in mind in reading this assessment of today's keynote. (Btw, a good capture of the transcript from the keynote is HERE.)
Six key truths stuck in my craw:
- The Single Biggest 'Tell' of the Keynote: To date, there has been exactly one company that could stop the world when they held an event, and that company is Apple. While Jeff Bezos and Amazon has been pretty close in this regard, when it comes to Google, these events have been easy for the non-Google acolyte to skip. That has now changed, based upon the sheer number of NEW folks who followed the keynote today -- including a significant legion of Apple devotees...myself included.
- Google is Stealing Apple's PR Mojo: One of the more interesting questions I take from the above is this. If you are Apple, how much do you care that Google is stealing your PR Mojo? What is that worth? Google is grabbing key PR inspiring narratives, be they Glass as the potential game-changing device, Android adoption numbers, self-driving cars, Google fiber, etc. It's translating into an inflated Google stock price, a deflated Apple stock price, and a fundamental shift in the number of stories being written about Google (relative to Apple). In terms of real business, these things are optics, but in the equation of 'perception has a way of becoming reality,' it's also not just pure noise to be ignored. Illustrative of this point is the fact that on StockTwits, the one-month change in message volume for Google is up 55%. For Apple, it's down 25%. It's a not-too-subtle reminder that the battle for all things post-pc is being played on a multi-dimensional chess board, and PR touches the perception domain. A side thought: Google's next thrust on the PR war front should be doing Brand Advertising around Google Maps, as it's illustrative of how Google thinks about and executes services that are great at web, great at mobile, deliver truly native experiences in either environment, and an exercise in composited logic, big data, the cloud, and great workflows. Plus it's the app everyone uses, and the best single example of what Apple does NOT do well. Food for thought.
- Developer Mindshare: A primary focus of the keynote was on increasing the love and attention that Google is able to secure from software developers. While there was nothing earth shattering announced (although plenty of holes filled, to be sure), it is reflective of Google grokking the seminal truth that developers make or break a platform play. As one twitter commenter noted, "Google is basically shipping everything iOS devs have been asking for since the beginning." That stated, the event was also completely devoid of developer demos (save for Google's own demos), making this feel a bit like Google's passion is reserved for Google services alone. This truth is perhaps why Google really doesn't care what Amazon or Facebook is doing with Android. Nonetheless, it raises the question of how Apple will respond at WWDC? Same question when Amazon announces whatever they are up to next with Kindle Fire.
- Get in My Belly: On twitter, I quipped, "Should we be concerned that Google's new slogan is, 'Come on, get in my belly!' or that this is the new spokesman?" I am only being slightly tongue-in-cheek, for the simple truth is that for all the platitudes about Google being so open, sometimes it seems that open is just another way of saying, 'onboarding.' After all, Google's openness is generally focused on the areas that they want to compete with and commoditize, whereas where they want to differentiate remains proprietary and protected. Where is the open sourcing of Google Search, Maps or AdWords, anyway? One observation here is that it feels like the big potential loser of all of these initiatives in Music, Play, Maps, Offers, Photos, and Conversations is...wait for it...Facebook! Why? Simply put, Google is getting better at the things Facebook does well quicker than Facebook is getting good at the things that Google does well. Similarly, for Google, social is just one job that you'll hire G+ for, whereas for Facebook, it's job one. Hence, the more Facebook feels compelled to fill your feed with suggested content (ads) or flood it with unrequested crap every time you 'like' something, the worse that Facebook's user experience becomes. Netting it out: Google is getting better at context, design, and compositing of user experience quicker than Facebook is figuring out discovery, dollars, and search. In the big picture, the bottom line is that if your product CAN be enhanced via an algorithm, Google will complete with you eventually. Daring Fireball's John Gruber deliciously picks apart this reality in assessing Larry Page's comment on the 'negativity' of everyone focusing on who Google is competing with.
- A Unified Theory of Google: While there is a tendency to look at G+ as Google's lame attempt to compete with Facebook, I tend to view it differently. My take is that G+ is ground zero in Google's end-game to figure out: A) How its various services composite together; B) What those integration points look like on the inbound, outbound and metadata side; C) What the user wants to DO within those service containers; and D) How such services run natively in different user environments (iOS, Android, Chrome, Web, or Glass). Similarly, efforts like Play, Offers and Music are best seen as the company finally being ready to make a frontal assault on a billing relationship with consumers (ala Apple and Amazon). It's logical, and it speaks to the company's unlimited ambition, but for Google partners, it should be a clear reminder that the company aims to consume all. Having recently written my assessment of the prospects for Google Glass, it's also worth noting the symmetry between what I heard today and what I saw baked into the Glass user experience. Specifically, I am referring to three things. One, the company's growing arsenal of Knowledge Graphs on the backend. Two, how such graphs feed user Experiences in the form of Answering queries with richer context; Conversing with users via natural language (it's like Siri, but it's useful and it works really well); and Anticipating intent. Three, the use of a dynamic cards model in Google Now for things like reminders, public transit, music, TV, movies, books and recommendations. Everything with Google at this point is about context, meaning and flow.
- Larry Page is Intense: Google CEO Larry Page closed out the keynote with a meandering sermon that encompassed a vision that was simultaneously frightening and exciting. The man is destined to either win a Nobel Peace Prize, or end up as the 'villain' in a future James Bond film -- maybe both in the same year. While it was a bit too Atlas Shrugged for my taste (it took on 'Who is John Galt?' proportions), I liked the spirit of what amounts to: A) Sensors, Sensors Everywhere; B) Want to run away and join my country? C) Optimism over Negativity and D) A killer quote: "I encourage more companies to do things that are outside their comfort zone. It gives you more scalability." Larry Page rocks, in a mondo, mega-billionaire sort of way, and I mean that as the highest compliment, I think.
- Google Glass will soon be invisible – and the new normal (GigaOM)
- The Jobs Engine: On Indivisibility and Integrated Systems (GigaOM)
- Mobile Native Publishing: The Rise of Dynamic Content Services (O'Reilly)