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Google "glue"? Will Google adhere to you?

Google's approach to products and services is different from a company like Microsoft. Google introduces, almost tentatively, something new. Then if users respond, Google will let the users pull Google forward. Microsoft is a push marketer. The company sets a goal, marshals forces and releases a product. The contrast between Microsoft push and Google pull could not be clearer.

Google is also different from Web startups. Web startups rely on viral techniques. The idea is to catch the attention of a few influential thought leaders, leverage Web log publicity and tap into social networks. Such a Web 2.0 approach is reasonably effective, less time-consuming and less expensive that hiring and costly than traditional marketing practices. Google, in contrast, has its own high-traffic Web logs, legions of Google watchers and the ability to generate headlines using beta tests.

But as disruptive as those Google behaviors are to competitors, the company has been creating an even more potent method for generating products and services. I call that method "Google glue," and I want to make clear that I have not spoken to Google about this notion, nor is it likely that most Google employees are aware of what the company is putting in place.

You know that Google has application programming interfaces (APIs). Developers can use those software connectors to interact with Google's infrastructure. You can see one of the APIs in action. Navigate to copyscape.com. That service, as well as Google Alerts, uses Google APIs to provide two useful services. Copyscape.com makes it easy to identify some copyright infringement. Google Alerts put links to new content processed by Google on topics you specify. Both services use Google APIs.

According to Jim Orris, director of Adhere Solutions, a company that provides Google integration services, "I am amazed at how many commercial enterprises do not investigate leveraging the Google platform to enhance their business. We have saved several firms as much as $200,000 by using Google instead of traditional enterprise solutions."

You can navigate to Google's "code" page, located at http://code.google.com. If you spend some time exploring that treasure trove, you will find more than 200 functions, mini applets and links to instructional videos. Google has gathered together developer tools, open source programs such as a Google version of MySQL, and information about "project hosting." You can also find information about Google's Summer of Code, a thinly veiled effort to identify the most promising programmers, mathematicians and computer scientists in the world.

Shift gears and navigate to Google "ig" which stands for "individualized Google" or "iGoogle." This is a Web personalization service. You will have to register, in effect identifying yourself to Google. Once you have signed up, you can customize a Google "portal page" to your liking. After a bit of clicking, you will see a link to Google Gadgets at google.com/ig/directory. Those are applets that you can use to customize your Google portal page. Among the Gadgets available to you are Gmail, a To Do list gadget and more than 1,000 others, including a daily dose of Dilbert, NASCAR news or a silly golf game.

Let's recap. There are APIs to access the search, advertising and other "core" functions of Google. There are developer tools and information to help aspiring programmers create applications for Google. There are Gadgets that require no programming experience, so any Google user can jazz up an individualized Google. Taken as a whole, Google has a unique application development system in place.

You can see a similar technique at work at Amazon or at Salesforce.com. What Google's doing is not unique. Based on my analyses of those three types of code-centric activities, Google is mixing and blending what most software companies keep separate.

For example, a young programmer with an idea can sign up as a Google developer, get a user ID and get permission to create an application that uses a Google core function such as search. There's no charge and not much Google oversight. If the young programmer creates a service that exceeds his daily limit of 1,000 queries sent to Google, Google may or may not interact with the young programmer. It doesn't take much thought to realize that a young programmer who creates a high traffic service is probably going to get a question about coming to work at Google.

What if you are a commercial enterprise, developing an application that taps into Google? Google has a mechanism for professionals to "surf on Google." Based on the information available to me, a commercial company signs up as a developer indicating that the software will be a  commercial venture. Google will follow up, and you will enter into a discussion with Google about what you want to do. One path is for you to become a  Google "partner"; another is to negotiate a deal. Once again the angle is to generate an upside for the partner and obviously for Google.

Now let’s compare and contrast those approaches. Industry pundits have converged on the opinion that Google and Microsoft will compete with increasing intensity in the months and years ahead. Microsoft sells its programming tool, VisualStudio, and it gives away a version of VisualStudio with some features disabled. Google lets developers use open source tools or various languages such as C++. So does Microsoft. Microsoft certifies partners. But Google lets partners find an idea. Google may or may not enter into a relationship with financial consideration.




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