Competition makes for interesting alliances. The latest coming to light is one including Microsoft, Yahoo, and Amazon, who are among others targeting the settlement between Google and some forces in the publishing industry over scanning books for online searching and display.
First, a disclosure: I'm a book author who has opted out of the settlement, which was the result of a class action suit brought by some big publishers and the Authors Guild, a professional organization for those who write books. Over time, criticism has built among a fairly diverse crowd including non-profits, academics, lawyers, librarians, and writers. The result has been that the Department of Justice has been paying closer attention to the deal.
For companies like Microsoft, Yahoo, and Amazon that fear Google's growing strength and reach, all this has become like rain to a Dust Bowl farmer. Extensive settlement opposition promises a number of potential benefits to them:
- Google management gets distracted to some degree by the issue, no matter how much executives at the company might claim that they are unaffected by it. That means some degree of strategic advantage to competitors.
- Google will spend money defending the deal. Not a huge amount compared to its income, but it's the financial equivalent of distraction.
- The company's plans could get derailed, which would be a psychological win for the competitors and a practical one as well, particularly for Amazon.
- The publicity and criticism help undermine Google's "don't be evil" positioning and, as a result, its brand.
Image via stock.xchng user lusi, site standard license.