Thursday, April 9, 2009

Reading "Google Planet", the new book by WSJ tech writer Randall Stross finally, I wondered why it took me so long. It is a gloriously detailed book, a deep investigative look at the businesses Google has bought and the way they've all grown up together.

In retrospect, I was arrogant, in a quaint way. I was a bit resistant to reading it. I thought I understood Google because I use the company product a lot. It's everywhere, and it's free.

What else could there be to know? A lot, it turns out.

What's not to like? Fortunately, whereas I used to like Google, now I love it. What a fine, strong company to blaze a shining path into the future, to invest in.

I thought I knew enough, but there is lots more to know, plenty to fill a book. Mr. Stross has certainly dug enough dirt to make a garden of Google! It's very entertaining and funny, not technical, or overly so.

The human side of the brutally competitive computer business makes interesting reading. Details provide a useful historic record. They illustrate the founding of a business that has rocketed up the business ladder, in record time. It's been able to seize challenges and opportunities in its path, and turn them magically into gold.

Google has been able to swallow some smaller businesses pac-man style to reach its ambitious mission of "organizing the knowledge of the world" as the ancient city of Alexandria did in the past. Its immensely profitable ads have funded, created, revolutionized and improved many businesses. Google Maps, Google Earth, Google Images, Google Video all started as smaller businesses and were bought by Google, and enhanced their own efforts to expand.

Stross doesn't shy away from controversy, explaining different angles of Google's trouble with video search. He also remarks on the progression and ascendance of different computer companies from IBM to DEC to Microsoft to Google, and how hard Microsoft is now trying to regain it former lead.

Really recommend reading this book. I am sure that many parts of it will be amended and added onto, but it is an important book that should enhance an historical record of the company in a positive way.

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