Google would have you believe that it's an honest company with pure intentions. Their 'Don't Be Evil' mantra, supposedly means they're a different kind of corporation. This different kind of corporation, while turning a profit, does so by creating products and services that make our lives better. Recently, Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, was interviewed by Charlie Rose who posed the question 'How does Google see the future?'. Schmidt's response gives insight into how Google sees itself dominating how we access information: 'One way to think about this is, we're trying to make people better people, literally give them better ideas—augmenting their experience. Think of it as augmented humanity.' Augmented humanity? Really? That sounds great, but as it turns out, Google isn't going to augment just the good parts of humanity like creativity, integrity, co-operation, ingenuity (I could go on) - Google is also hard at work augmenting some of the uglier aspects of humanity too.
Take duplicity for an example. The iPhone was being developed while Eric Schmidt sat on Apple's board of directors. It's a clear conflict of interest because at the same time, Google had purchased Android, a startup company producing a mobile phone OS, in 2005. As development kicked into high gear at Apple, leading to the release of the iPhone in 2007, Google was secretly developing an OS that would compete with the iPhone directly. Someone in Schmidt's position would either resign at that point or rescue himself from anything related to the iPhone being discussed. However as iOS has become the biggest going concern at Apple, being rescued meant not being involved at all.
I wonder how long it took for Apple to realize what was going on at Google –how much intel did Google gain through Schmidt's conflict of interest? I can't say whether or not trade secrets at Apple were used by Google in developing Android. But I suspect they have, because I think duplicity is at the heart of Google's business model. The conflict with Schmidt on Apple's board isn't the only example of how Google's business practices, while not evil are immoral. Eric Schmidt was the development team leader of Java at Sun, before he worked for Google. To say that Schmidt had an intimate knowledge of Java would be an understatement and that knowledge came with him when he left Sun for Google. Here's where it gets ugly. Android - the software that Google purchased is built on Java and as such would need to be licensed by Sun. Sun would stand to gain a lot from Google licensing Java for Android. But that's not what happened. Instead, Google rewrote aspects of Java to tweak it just enough to avoid licensing. At the same time, software written for Android became incompatible with Sun's Java platform, further fragmenting Java as a Standard. That's the same thing that Sun successfully sued Microsoft for in the '90s.
Let's get this straight. The guy who lead development of Java at Sun, now works for Google. Under Google he oversaw the modification of Android OS just enough to avoid Java licensing. He also sat on Apple's board of directors while Google secretly developed a competing product. If 'Don't Be Evil' doesn't include stealing, lying and breach of trust, Google might want to start defining what they mean by Evil. Oracle just sued Google for infringing on a host of patents they now own as part of their acquisition of Sun. As of Oct 1st, Microsoft has sued Motorola for using Android, which breaches patents Microsoft owns. In Oracle's case, they're claiming that Android directly infringes on Sun patents and is a blatant copy of Java. Oracle is not only seeking damages, they're asking the court to force Google to hand over the source code for Android so it can be destroyed. Currently, Apple is suing HTC for producing a phone using Android which infringes on its patents.
Despite its intentions starting out, Google is behaving like the kind of corporation they tell people they're not. Google may have bitten off a bit more than they can chew in terms of Eric Schmidt. It's possible that this man and his direction has led Google not just to success in search, advertising and web apps, but into a world of espionage and double crossing. If Google has to face lawsuits from Microsoft and Oracle, while Apple sues the manufacturers of Android phones, Android may have a bleak future. Not only could Google face serious legal battles, developers may think twice about developing for Android. As mobile developers ourselves, we sure are.
Google's reality has been so augmented that it's mantra 'Don't Be Evil' has become lip service.
Charlie Rose Interview with Eric Schmidt: http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/10_40/b4197039435964.htm