Google distracting from the real prize

By Peter Nowak, CBCNews.ca

The tech media - mainstream and bloggers alike - are understandably a-twitter over Microsoft's $45-billion US move on Yahoo, not to mention Google's response to it. This is like our very own Britney Spears meltdown: An event to be covered in thorough, excruciatingly painful detail, with every aspect analyzed and re-analyzed until everyone is sick of hearing about it. If only Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer had a little sister that was pregnant outside of wedlock.

I have to admit to being a fan of Robert Scoble's theory. Scoble, as you may or may not know, rose to prominence as a blogger while working for Microsoft, so he knows a thing or two about the company. On this topic, Scoble argues that Google's damning of Microsoft's attempt to take over Yahoo - which would be bad for the internet because Microsoft is evil and all about monopolies, etc. - is an attempt by the search company to distract people from the real prize, which is wireless.

Although a Microsoft-Yahoo merger could potentially create an e-mail and instant messaging monopoly, there's no money in those businesses, Scoble says. The more Google can slow down the merger by getting a whole lot of regulatory attention to it, the more it will have the mobile internet market to itself.

Scoble may be wrong on there not being any money in e-mail or messaging - after all, every Gmail user sees tons of ad links - but he is right about wireless. It's a point we made as well in our cellphone series in November - the wired internet is so 2000 and the wireless internet revolution is on the verge of happening. Not only is Google working to make it happen, it is also trying hard to position itself to be the best company to take advantage of it. Why else would the company bid billions of dollars to buy spectrum in the U.S. auction that is currently underway?

By the way - there are a lot of negative Nellys out there who say Google is only bidding on those airwaves in order to force a number of open-access rules on existing cellphone providers and that the company has no intent of being the winner, which would require it to actually build a mobile network. That would cost additional billions and take years, they say. It's worth noting that many of the people making such predictions are financial types who focus on short-term investments while Google's stated business plan is to focus on the long-term. The smart money is on Google to do exactly the opposite of what the smart money would do.