Convenience vs. Competition: What do You Think?

The Department of Justice is beginning an investigation of “big data” companies and their hold on your online activity. This is not intended to be a political rant, but we’d like to know your thoughts on convenience vs. competition.

Here’s the executive summary of the DOJ’s investigation:

  • DOJ is reviewing whether and how market-leading online platforms – Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and the rest of the usual suspects – have achieved market power and are engaging in practices that have reduced competition, stifled innovation, or otherwise harmed consumers.
  • The review will consider the widespread concerns about competition that consumers, businesses, and entrepreneurs have expressed about search, social media, and some retail services online.
  • The goal of the review is to assess the competitive conditions in the online marketplace in an objective and fair-minded manner and to ensure Americans have access to free markets in which companies compete on their merits to provide services that users want. 
  • If violations of law are identified, the DOJ will proceed appropriately to seek redress.

The investigation – or review – caught our attention because Amazon’s recent Prime Day blew projected numbers out of the water. Why not? When you want to buy a product, what do you usually do? You use Google to find the best price or fastest delivery, and you generally go to an Amazon website – where Amazon has your address and credit card info on file. Yes, it’s basically one click or just a few, and your shiny new object is on its way – sometimes with same-day delivery.

I admit, that’s how we sometimes shop for products and make our purchase decisions. I don’t know if the size of Google and Amazon limits my choices – or if they limit them significantly. I might never know if a local merchant has a better product, price or customer service because smaller businesses don’t have the numbers to show up in a Google search where I can easily see it. I don’t know if another search engine (not Bing, which is Microsoft) would give me better results because Google is ingrained in my mind. It’s even become a verb.

We recognize that technology and laws are complex fields, and we’ll all have different opinions about what makes a good law. But we’d like your thoughts on competition and convenience. If you would answer a few questions either by return email or by leaving comments for everyone to see, we can share what’s important to us:

  • Do you automatically use Google for product searches?
  • Would you use another search engine if it were readily available and gave the results you needed?
  • Do you go to websites only at the top of a Google search?
  • Do you click on the ads at the top of the search results?
  • Do you go to a product provider’s website directly before or after seeing Amazon results?
  • Do you really care that Google and Amazon are so big that they might be stifling competition and limiting your choices?

Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts.

Google’s Revolving World

In the ever-changing world of online services and applications, Google is going through another round of transitions. Here are some of the key changes that may affect your business and home computing:

  • Google Reader, which lets you pull in articles from just about any blog or news site, is being discontinued as of July 1. The company says that with more people accessing news from smartphones and tablets in bits and bites (pun intended) throughout the day and night, it’s no longer needed. You may already rely on social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, to keep up with news instead of devoting a larger block of time to reading more in-depth articles online. If you want a replacement for Google Reader, Feedly is seen as a good place to start. It works with the most popular browsers, except Internet Explorer, and has an app for mobile devices.
  • Google Postini, which provides email security and archiving services for use with their existing email servers, will be transitioned to the Google Apps platform. Google will manage the transition for its customers, and they will not have to replace existing email servers with Gmail. Google says it will notify customers 60 to 90 days ahead of the transition to let them know who is eligible and how it will be done. Postini customers can learn more from the Postini transition page.
  • Google Cloud Print lets you send your file securely to your printer over the web from any connected phone, tablet laptop or desktop. It’s a new app, and it has a lot of exciting possibilities. You can learn more from Google’s Cloud Print page and contact us with specific questions about setting it up and using it.
  • Google Quickoffice is coming to the web. Google recently purchased the app, which allows users to read and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents on the iPad, iPhone and Android without losing the document’s layout and other advanced features that Google Docs currently can’t handle. Google recently introduced Chrome Office Viewer for displaying Word, Excel and PowerPoint files in a browser. You will get Quickoffice as part of an automatic update. Likely to replace Google Docs, the new program will affect you if you use Dropbox. Google will not support it, and you’ll lose some functionality. Documents To Go may be an alternative to the new Quickoffice if you rely on Dropbox. We’re researching it, along with other possibilities, and we’ll let you know what we find.

Microsoft Office for iPhone

Microsoft last week released a version of Office for the iPhone. It’s available through iTunes or the device app store, but you must be an Office 365 subscriber to get it. The iPhone app has light (reduced capability) versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint and syncs with Microsoft’s SkyDrive online storage service. You should be able to pick up a document exactly where you left off on another computer tied to the same account, while comments they add to a Word or Excel file should appear when you open it up on another machine. You should be able to preserve charts, animation, comments and other key properties. That’s not always the case with programs offered by Google and other companies to work with Office files on mobile devices.

We have a copy on our phone, and here’s our initial review: It does not have the option to sync with Dropbox or Google Drive. You can only sync with SkyDrive, which means you need to choose your platforms wisely.

The app platform changes all the time, and new providers are always entering the market to bring you new products and services or to replace the apps you’ve liked and want to keep using. We’re ready to answer your questions and help you install and set up the systems and apps that will enable to be more productive at work and at home. Just call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us.

This article was published in Technology Update, the monthly newsletter from Sterling Rose LLC.