Like it or not, patent litigation and other sorts of political pressure, not to mention regulatory action, are part of the business environment for technology companies. Agree or disagree about Microsoft’s prospects in the marketplace, it has been clear for some time that Microsoft will only be allowed to succeed so much more.
Now Google is starting to come under regulatory review, with as much pressure from competitors as possible, and that signals the brakes will start to be applied to Google as well. From this point forward, the company will only be allowed to succeed so much. It is not as though Google will be regulated out of business. That never happened to Microsoft.
But neither will Google be allowed to grow too much more influential, or vastly bigger. Instead, Google will have to start restraining itself, pondering the political reaction more and more as it discovers it has to comply with more audits, rules, oversight and government-supervised business practices that do not apply to its competitors. To get anything done, Google will have to “prepare” and “shape” public opinion, and that means it will not be able to move as fast as it has in the past.
Google will not likely operate in a business sphere as subject to regulatory constraints as do telecom entities, but it will find itself relying attorneys, lobbyists, and marketers as much as its software engineers in the future.
One can only speculate about how long it will be before Apple and Facebook start to encounter the same headwinds, but if those companies continue to gain market influence and power, they too will find themselves facing greater constraints on their freedoms as well. Up to a point, technology achievements and the ability to identify and serve a huge new need are enough for firms to prosper in the software or hardware business. Get too big and the game changes, with regulators imposing hurdles, if not clear limits. Get too powerful and actual limits (market share caps, for example) will be encountered.
Google has grown up. CEO Larry Page might be able to change the internal culture at Google. He will not be able to change the new stage of life Google now has encountered.
The big implication for service providers, who once might have nearly universally named “Google” as their biggest strategic challenge, is to change with the times. Google is not the key strategic danger.
Though there is no consensus about where the chief danger lies, aside from “cable operators,” as a tactical matter, some consensus about the next strategic danger will emerge, at some point. It just isn’t so clear what direction the threat will come from, at the moment.