Let’s get straight to the point, everyone knows that Google’s “Don’t be evil” motto is informal. How you read the word is entirely subjective. Personally, I think that most of the time, it’s not up to the company to decide how good, evil or chaotic neutral it is… it depends a heck of a lot more on consumers and the public in general.
Nevertheless, I’m surprised to find out one of those (rare?) Google evil moments in this Cringely post entitled The Next Microsoft:
They should be since Google took a long look at investing in or acquiring free411 under a nondisclosure agreement between the two companies, only to abruptly break off discussions and start its own competing service. Is this beginning to sound familiar? This strategy of getting start-ups to explain their business models and share their technologies was practically invented by Microsoft, which would then break off talks, start a competing product or service and use pressure on industry partners to put the smaller company out of business.
That particular extract was Cringely’s take on how Google handled the collapsed talk they had with Free411, an ad-supported phone directory lookup service. You should really check out the write-up to get the full story.
Anyway, I’m not based in the USA, which is probably why I haven’t heard of this Free411 saga. However, I still find such business tactics to be unethical. Basically, it’s practically ripping off an organisation’s business idea through a systematic approach; Dazzle them and grab their business plan.
Does this make me more wary of Google’s business dealing? You bet. Will this make me stop using their products and services? Not in the short to medium term… but of course, I will always be on the lookout for better deals.