Google Evolves

Gary Hamel has recently penned some thoughtful observations about what practices of Google have led to its success.  An excerpt from that analysis appears below.  (Hamel earlier wrote a popular book in which he makes extensive use of Schumpeter’s process of creative destruction.)

Only time will tell whether Google has succeeded in building an evolutionary advantage.  But consider:  Since it’s founding, it has repeatedly morphed its business model.  Google 1.0 was a search engine that crawled the Web but generated little revenue; which led to Google 2.0, a company that sold its search capacity to AOL/Netscape, Yahoo and other major portals; which gave way to Google 3.0, an Internet contrarian that rejected banner ads and instead sold simple text ads linked to search results; which spawned Google 4.0, an increasingly global entity that found a way to insert relevant ads into any and all Web content, dramatically enlarging the online ad business; which mutated into Google 5.0, an innovation factory that produces a torrent of new Web-based services, including Gmail, Google Desktop, and Google Base.  More than likely, 6.0 is around the corner.

Of course Google may ultimately fall victim to hubris and imperial overstretch as it takes on Microsoft, Yahoo, eBay, the occasional telecom giant and pretty much everyone else in cyberspace.  Or like Microsoft, it may simply become like every other big company as it grows.  But that’s not the way I’d bet.  Google seems to have grasped the new century’s most important business lesson:  The capacity to evolve is the most important advantage of all.

 

For the full commentary, see:

Hamel, Gary.  "Management à la Google."  The Wall Street Journal  (Weds., April 26, 2006):  A16.

 

 

 

And here is the information on Hamel’s most recent book:

 

Hamel, Gary. Leading the Revolution: How to Thrive in Turbulent Times by Making Innovation a Way of Life. Revised & Updated ed.  Harvard Business School Press, 2002.

 

 Source of image: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000EPFVBE/sr=8-1/qid=1146333251/ref=pd_bbs_1/104-5668094-9083929?%5Fencoding=UTF8

Europe’s Antitrust Policies Based on “Pathological Revulsion” to Creative Destruction

One of the EU’s findings is that Microsoft uses its desktop dominance to capture the market for Web server software, and now the EU further charges Microsoft with failing to honor its ruling.  So Microsoft’s takeover of serverware proceeds apace?  Er, Brussels we have a problem.

At last count,  Apache-Linux had 62% of the market, Windows 25%,  with various others capturing smaller slices.  True, Microsoft saw a nearly five-point increase in market share last quarter thanks to GoDaddy.com shifting its 3.5 million hosted sites from Linux to Windows.  Maybe the EU should subpoena GoDaddy on grounds that for Microsoft to compete successfully for a customer is illegal.

The other pillar of Europe’s case is Microsoft’s alleged ability to foreclose the market to rival media-playing software.  This week, EU lawyers are trying to swat down the inconvenient fact that, since their ruling, Apple’s iTunes and Macromedia’s Flash Player have carved out big niches for themselves.  The Apple example is worth inspecting up close.  It demonstrates that people don’t buy computers to run software, but to consume information and entertainment "content."  Apple gave them the music they wanted, and its software easily found a home on their computers.

Yet the EU simply rejects the example as irrelevant because it doesn’t fit its mental category about what constitutes a "media player."  More than stupid — this suggests a pathological revulsion against the kind of disorder in which an Apple can come along and upend all the procrustean assumptions of the EU’s drearily youthful staff of economists and lawyers.  We’re not kidding when we say there’s a connection between the Microsoft case and the European 20-somethings who riot in the streets because they’d rather have no job than take a job from which they might fail and be fired.

 

For the full commentary, see: 

HOLMAN W. JENKINS, JR.  "BUSINESS WORLD; The Land (and Antitrust Case) That Time Forgot."  The Wall Street Journal  (Weds., April 26, 2006):  A17.

An Osama-Sudafed Link?

The drug cops want everyone to share their mission.  They think that doctors and pharmacists should catch patients who abuse painkillers — and that if the doctors or pharmacists aren’t good enough detectives, they should go to jail for their naïveté.

This month, pharmacists across the country are being forced to lock up another menace to society: cold medicine.  Allergy and cold remedies containing pseudoephedrine, a chemical that can illegally be used to make meth, must now be locked behind the counter under a provision in the new Patriot Act.

Don’t ask what meth has to do with the war on terror.  Not even the most ardent drug warriors have been able to establish an Osama-Sudafed link.

The F.D.A. opposed these restrictions for pharmacies because they’ll drive up health care costs and effectively prevent medicine from reaching huge numbers of people (Americans suffer a billion colds per year).  These costs are undeniable, but it’s unclear that there are any net benefits.

In states that previously enacted their own restrictions, the police report that meth users simply switched from making their own to buying imported drugs that were stronger — and more expensive, so meth users commit more crimes to pay for their habit.

 

For the full commentary, see:

JOHN TIERNEY.  "Potheads and Sudafed."  The New York Times (Tues., April 25, 2006):  A27

Endangered Fish Thrive on Oil Platforms

Large numbers of rockfish and other fish near the Gilda oil platform off the Ventura coast.  Source of image: http://www.lovelab.id.ucsb.edu/Check.html

 

SANTA BARBARA, Calif., March 11 – A marine biologist has found that 27 oil platforms off California’s Central Coast may be havens for bocaccio, cowcod and other fish.  

 . . .

Since the 1950’s, when heavy fishing began in the region, some species have been reduced to 6 percent of their previous numbers, Dr. Love said.  Overfishing has led to an economic disaster, leading some fisheries to close.

Dr. Love films fish around the platforms from a submarine and then counts them in his laboratory.

Among his findings are that large fish prefer crevices at the platforms’ base, and smaller ones like the middle section above their predators.

At Platform Gail, which stands in 739 feet of water nine miles off the Ventura coast, Dr. Love found what he believes to be the highest density of two species of overfished rockfish in Southern California.

Dr. Love emphasizes that his research does not draw conclusions about whether the platforms should be removed.  He says his personal view is that the rigs should stay in place, cut below the waterline so that ships can pass safely over them.

Dr. Love gets about 80 percent of his research money from the government, and the rest from the California Artificial Reef Enhancement Program, a Sacramento nonprofit group financed almost entirely by oil companies.  The group has contributed about $100,000 a year to his research since 1999, said its executive director, George Steinbach.  Dr. Love said oil industry money could not sway his research.

 

For the full story, see:

"Citing Oil Rigs as Fish Havens, Companies Resist Removal."  The New York Times  (Mon., March 13, 2006):  A18.

Missing Link Found Between Sea and Land Animals: More Evidence for Evolution

 

Model recreation of missing link animal.  Source of image:  Online version of NYT article cited below.

 

Scientists have discovered fossils of a 375-million-year-old fish, a large scaly creature not seen before, that they say is a long-sought missing link in the evolution of some fishes from water to a life walking on four limbs on land. 

In two reports today in the journal Nature, a team of scientists led by Neil H. Shubin of the University of Chicago say they have uncovered several well-preserved skeletons of the fossil fish in sediments of former streambeds in the Canadian Arctic, 600 miles from the North Pole.

The skeletons have the fins, scales and other attributes of a giant fish, four to nine feet long.  But on closer examination, the scientists found telling anatomical traits of a transitional creature, a fish that is still a fish but has changes that anticipate the emergence of land animals — and is thus a predecessor of amphibians, reptiles and dinosaurs, mammals and eventually humans.

In the fishes’ forward fins, the scientists found evidence of limbs in the making.  There are the beginnings of digits, proto-wrists, elbows and shoulders.  The fish also had a flat skull resembling a crocodile’s, a neck, ribs and other parts that were similar to four-legged land animals known as tetrapods.

Other scientists said that in addition to confirming elements of a major transition in evolution, the fossils were a powerful rebuttal to religious creationists, who have long argued that the absence of such transitional creatures are a serious weakness in Darwin’s theory.  

The discovery team called the fossils the most compelling examples yet of an animal that was at the cusp of the fish-tetrapod transition.  The fish has been named Tiktaalik roseae, at the suggestion of elders of Canada’s Nunavut Territory.  Tiktaalik (pronounced tic-TAH-lick) means ”large shallow water fish.”

”The origin of limbs,” Dr. Shubin’s team wrote, ”probably involved the elaboration and proliferation of features already present in the fins of fish such as Tiktaalik.”  

In an interview, Dr. Shubin, an evolutionary biologist, let himself go.  ”It’s a really amazing, remarkable intermediate fossil,” he said.  ”It’s like, holy cow.”  

Two other paleontologists, commenting on the find in a separate article in the journal, said that a few other transitional fish had been previously discovered from approximately the same Late Devonian time period, 385 million to 359 million years ago.  But Tiktaalik is so clearly an intermediate ”link between fishes and land vertebrates,” they said, that it ”might in time become as much an evolutionary icon as the proto-bird Archaeopteryx,” which bridged the gap between reptiles (probably dinosaurs) and today’s birds.  

The writers, Erik Ahlberg of Uppsala University in Sweden and Jennifer A. Clack of the University of Cambridge in England, are often viewed as rivals to Dr. Shubin’s team in the search for intermediate species in the evolution from fish to the first animals to colonize land.

H. Richard Lane, director of paleobiology at the National Science Foundation, said in a statement, ”These exciting discoveries are providing fossil ‘Rosetta Stones’ for a deeper understanding of this evolutionary milestone — fish to land-roaming tetrapods.”

 

For the full story, see:

JOHN NOBLE WILFORD.  "Fossil Called Missing Link From Sea to Land Animals."  The New York Times  (Thursday, April 6, 2006):  A1.

 

  Source of graphic: http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2006/04.06/09-missinglink.html

 

Expecting Nationalization, Companies Held Off Investing in Bolivia

 

Bolivian President Morales announcing the nationalization of Bolivia’s energy industry.  Source of image: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/03/world/americas/03bolivia.html

 

Bolivia’s nationalization of its energy industry, announced Monday by President Evo Morales, was a vivid illustration that the populist policies, championed most prominently by Venezuela, were spreading.

. . .

. . .  while Brazil might feel tremors from Bolivia’s decision, it is Bolivia that may be risking its potential as a major natural gas exporter.

Companies had been holding off on investments in Bolivia for some time, unnerved by growing talk of precisely the kind of step that Mr. Morales took this week.  Foreign direct investment, much of which goes to energy and mining, fell to $103 million in 2005, from $1 billion in 1999.

What is more, unlike oil, natural gas is not easily exportable, with costly liquefaction facilities, customized tankers or pipelines needed to take the fuel to markets.  Chile, a potential market for Bolivian gas, may choose instead a project to import the fuel from as far away as Africa.

Even Brazil, while now reliant on Bolivian gas, has recently discovered large offshore gas reserves of its own.  Thus the window of opportunity for Bolivia to become a leading gas exporter may be closing, even as it grows more courageous in its dealings with foreigners.

"If Brazil decides to give the cold shoulder to Bolivia," said Carlos Alberto López, an independent consultant for oil companies in La Paz, "Bolivia will be left with its gas underground."

 

For the full story, see: 

SIMON ROMERO and JUAN FORERO.  "Bolivia’s Energy Takeover:  Populism Rules in the Andes."  The New York Times  (Weds., May 3, 2006):  A8.

 

 BolivianSoldiersNationalization.jpg Bolivian soldiers after seizing natural gas facilities.  Source of image: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/03/world/americas/03bolivia.html

 

Louis Rukeyser: Optimistic, Witty, Defender of Free Markets; RIP

Louis Rukeyser. Source of image: http://www.reviewjournal.com/lvrj_home/2002/Apr-06-Sat-2002/business/18455995.html

 

Louis Rukeyser, long-time host of PBS’s Friday night "Wall Street Week," died May 2, 2006, at the age of 73.  (JAMES GRANT.  "Louis Rukeyser, Television Host, Dies at 73."  The New York Times  (Weds., May 3, 2006).)

Louis Rukeyser was a pun-loving, urbane, optimistic analyzer of Wall Street and defender of the free market.  His weekly "Wall Street Week" was the first show my daughter Jenny watched at home after we brought her home from her birth at Children’s Hospital. 

I never met him, though I remember once being on the same airplane with him.  He was the narrator for my audio book:  Frank Knight and the Chicago School.

PBS, true to form, fired Rukeyser from the show he created.  I never watched it again, and the ratings for the Rukeyser-less version tanked:  sometimes there is justice in the world.

 

FrankKnightAndTheChicagoSchool.gif Source of image: http://www.audioclassics.net/html/econ_files/knight.cfm