Google went from startup to behemoth in record time. But there are increasing signs that Google has become just another fat, happy, and even arrogant company, no longer the lean, industry-changing giant of the past. And that spells good news for Microsoft.
There are numerous signs that Google has lost its mojo. Let's start with the way it treats its employees. Google has prided itself on the many perks it offers those who work for it. The pact has always been clear: Google will treat you like a king, if you in turn work long, hard hours. That free food, after all, is fuel for those willing to work harder and longer hours.
An eye-opening article in the New York Times, though, shows those days are gone. In it, Joe Nocera details how Google has decided to nearly double the cost of day care for its employees, who have complained bitterly about the change.
The story reveals a surprisingly high level of arrogance. It claims the following happened at a company meeting:
In June, the Google co-founder Sergey Brin said he had no sympathy for the parents, and that he was tired of "Googlers" who felt entitled to perks like "bottled water and M&Ms."
A Google spokesman denies that it ever happened, of course.
This is far from an isolated instance. There are many other similar signs as well, notably numerous Google employees heading for the exits, with unpleasant tales to tell. Most telling of all is Sergey Solyanik, who recently left Google for, of all places, Microsoft, where he had previously worked. In his blog, here's one thing he notes about the atmosphere at Google:
There are plenty of silly politics, underperformance, inefficiencies and ineffectiveness, and things that are plain stupid.
Instead of focusing on them, though, he talks about the actual engineering work and the underlying business plan, and he's not impressed:
I was using Google software - a lot of it - in the last year, and slick as it is, there's just too much of it that is regularly broken. It seems like every week 10 per cent of all the features are broken in one or the other browser. And it's a different 10 per cent every week - the old bugs are getting fixed, the new ones introduced. This across Blogger, Gmail, Google Docs, Maps, and more.
Ultimately, he believes, Google business practices are not sustainable, because the focus is on engineering and the "coolness" factor, rather than on services that people will actually find useful:
The culture at Google values "coolness" tremendously, and the quality of service not as much.
There are plenty of other Googlers who have left as well. There's the blogger who calls himself the Digital Hobbit, who said that he left Google in large part because the company had simply gotten too big.