Monthly Archives: September 2007

Another foolish effort to challenge Google

From today’s Financial Times:

Tokyo, alarmed by the global dominance of Google and other foreign internet services, is spearheading a project to try to seize the lead in new search technologies for electronic devices.

The push has been sparked by concerns in Japan that the country’s pre-eminence in consumer electronics has faded and value in the technology industry is moving away from hardware…

Tokyo hopes to use Japan’s strength in developing devices, such as mobile phones and car navigation systems, to create proprietary search and information retrieval functions. But some question whether a state-led project is capable of overhauling Google.

The Japanese project is comprised of 10 partnerships, each tasked with a specific next-generation search function. For example, the government has matched NTT Data with Toyota InfoTechnology Center and Toyota Mapmaster to create an interactive, personalised car navigation system. Other partnerships involve NEC, Hitachi and Sony Computer Science Laboratories. The ministry of trade has allocated Y14bn-Y15bn (€89m-€95m) to the project.

This will be as successful as the French-German effort announced a couple of years ago (when did you last hear about that?). It is highly likely that successful challengers to Google will emerge over time; that’s an inevitability of the technology industry. And all of us users of technology need vigorous challenges to powerful incumbents like Google. But it’s not going to come from a government-financed effort that tries to lever together diverse players. It’s going to emerge from someplace no one expects from people you’ve never heard of.

And the Japanese funding is pitiful. In the latest quarter, Google spent over $500 million on r&d. Do you think they’re not focused on continuing to improve search?