Horace Dediu writing about Google’s public facing image and purpose.
The representation is one of a research laboratory succeeding against difficult problems. Very similar to a successful academic or industrial laboratory sustained by grants from a benevolent (but messy) organization. Google becomes the embodiment of “big science” and “the world’s laboratory” unfettered by politics and unsoiled by commercial interests.
But if Google has no commercial interest, if profit is beneath them as this article suggest, then how will Google meet it’s fiduciary responsibility?
The answer seems to be diversification, even the creation of a conglomerate. In other words, the answer seems to be that if enough great technology is developed or acquired, then a business model will appear (think about it as a probability problem) and the vulnerability of revenue sources is managed. Clever? Convenient? We’ll see.
Horace’s premise is that Google may be trying multiple and varied experiments and expecting, that given enough data and analysis of these experiments, one or several successful business models will emerge. Horace sees problems with this approach.
…The deeper problem is in us knowing their intentions. The absence of a purpose rooted in profit makes Google resistant to analysis. There might be a purpose, known only to the founders, but it’s one that is potentially naive, amoral or too abstract to be useful. Shareholders are aware of this and have agreed to entrust control to only three individuals. The purpose of the organization is in their hands alone and reflects their priorities. Bearing in mind that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, they must be brave indeed.
I don't agree with Horace here. I think Google's purpose is quite clear. Everything they have done since search -- Gmail, Calendar, Maps, Android OS, and more recently Google+ -- is geared toward data collection and data analytics
The trouble lies in that organization also having de-facto control over the online (and hence increasingly offline) lives of more than one billion people. Users, but not customers, of a company whose purpose is undefined.