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OPINION

The Big Implications of the Google, FTC Antitrust Scandal

A 160-page report that was far more complete than the FTC no doubt wanted last week was leaked to The Wall Street Journal, clearly showcasing that the FTC staff recommended action against Google for anticompetitive practices.

The FTC commissioners then decided — indicating that they treat staff reports about like executives in public companies do (been there done that) — to let Google off the hook, apparently because it made some minor changes. Because the Obama administration and Google have been especially cozy, that move gave the impression that the FTC was effectively in Google’s pocket.

This scandal — and it does count as a scandal — suggests three things: One is that we have another three-letter agency that can’t spell “document control”; two, that the FTC’s ability to argue it isn’t controlled by the Obama administration just took another solid hit; and three, that the EU now will likely step in and use this to jump on Google’s head.

This has something for everyone — a hint of cronyism, a dash of corruption, a taste of government incompetence, and just a smidgen of hypocrisy (an administration that ran on a platform of its predecessors not being transparent being even less so).

I’ll dig deeper into that and close with my product of the week: the Dell Venue 8 7000 Tablet — the halo product from Intel and Dell that I’ve been using for a few weeks.

Document Management

Considering that itran on “transparency,” it is somewhat ironic that the Obama administration’s transparency generally has resulted from folks like Bradley Manning, Eric Snowden, and now some bureaucrat (likely ex-bureaucrat) — who likely was overworked and underpaid — deciding to give The Wall Street Journal and other news services one hell of an early birthday present.

No wonder ex-Secretary Clinton had her own email server — for all she knew, her entire email repository might have been gifted to her political rivals several times a week. Granted, since it likely wasn’t secure that may have happened anyway, but seriously — whatever we are paying for information security, we are clearly paying too much, because the security we are getting is crap.

It isn’t that hard to call Varonis, the firm that specializes in problems like this, and take a meeting. I get that the government isn’t telling me the truth very often — I really don’t need to have my face constantly rubbed in that fact — and I have to wonder how often these mistakes are made with folks like foreign governments that don’t make their “gift” public, rather than a newspaper that does. Christ — what is it going to take to put some controls in place to stop this B.S. — a leak of pictures of the first family in their birthday suits?

You may think I’m joking, but given how badly the Secret Service is behaving, I don’t think even that scenario is a stretch.

The IRS, FCC, FTC – WTF?

The FCC and FTC, in theory, are at arm’s length from the political side of the administration, as is the IRS. First the IRS came under fire for acting in a partisan fashion against conservative nonprofit organizations. Then the FCC came under fire for being the agent of the administration with regard to its Net neutrality stance. Now, the FTC looks like it unusually favored a big Obama donor and political ally. It has gotten so screwed up that AT&T (too many three-letter things) actually is using the FCC against the FTC. Seriously, speaking of three letters, WTF?

Granted, this may all be smoke, but it is a lot of smoke — and collectively, it paints a picture that will make it hard for any of these organizations to survive the next election process intact, let alone get anything done now.

It isn’t hard to imagine that the conservative side will use fixing these organizations as a primary political argument for giving them more power. They don’t have to invent anything — these agencies do look to be out of control, and that means it is becoming far more difficult to get anything major done, because they are increasingly untrusted.

There is no upside to a government that appears both inept and untrustworthy.

Google’s Lesson

Google needs to read up onStandard Oil, because it stopped trying to repeat Microsoft’s mistakes some time ago and now appears to be going down the Standard Oil path.

Standard Oil was a huge scandal in the first half of the last century. Because folks came to believe they effectively controlled the government, the firm was painfully taken apart. The U.S. effectively lost control of the world oil market as a result, and that did some rather ugly things — particularly in the gas-starved ’70s, when some government idiot thought building crappy cars would fix all our woes.

You may recall that when the U.S. government failed to break up Microsoft, the EU decided to beat the company over the head with a stick until it effectively gave up much of its control over key products. The EU likes pointing out that the U.S. regulatory organization is, pick one, corrupt or incompetent, and likely will use this leak to help nail Google’s hide to the wall.

Once you get to Google or Microsoft’s size, you no longer need to play dirty. Ironically, during the Microsoft trial, we learned that none of the dirty things Microsoft did actually worked, which really added insult to injury for that firm. In Google’s favor, it did make changes and didn’t publicly call out the Attorney General or some such silliness, but the international focus on Google continues to grow.

At some point, if Google doesn’t dial it back a bit, they are going to find that governments don’t have a problem raising money from fines, and billion-dollar fines aren’t even that unusual anymore. In short, if Google doesn’t want to be Standard Oil or RCA, it needs to stop acting like it needs to be broken up.

Wrapping Up

We had great hopes for Obama, who presented himself as technically competent, but that competence unfortunately was applied only during the election and re-election process, and not as part of his administration.

It is pretty clear now he really doesn’t get technology. Maybe that goes to the heart of the problem more than anything else.

Leaders today, to be effective, have to understand technology in order to comprehend how problems are identified and fixed, and to understand how security actually works. He doesn’t get any of that, which likely explains why the government seems to be such a mess at the moment.

Hopefully, the next president will not just create a technology image, but actually understand how it works — so maybe we can at least fix some of the new problems the current administration is accidentally creating for us.

Rob Enderle's Product of the Week

The Dell Venue 8 7000 is a halo product from Intel and Dell that showcases both companies’ mobile capabilities. Granted, Intel is actually on a roll at the moment, announcing an Intel-inside watch with no less a watch powerhouse then Tag Heuer.

However, the Venue 8 7000 has three clear advantages over other tablets in its class, most notably the iPad mini. It has the Intel Real Sense depth camera, which allows you to change focus after the picture is taken and potentially measure things accurately from their pictures.

It has an OLED screen, very rare in tablets, which is brighter and better looking than LCD alternatives. Also, it is one of the thinnest tablets ever made, which showcases that Intel can make a processor that works in this class of product and works relatively well.

Dell Venue 8 7000

Dell Venue 8 7000

Like all Halo products, the technology is a bit ahead of the user experience, which means there are some slightly annoying aspects to this — like the fact it doesn’t suspend when you close a cover over its face, or it doesn’t have a flash for taking pictures in low light or at night. Granted, given the nature of the camera, it would require a rather unique kind of flash. The camera has three very separate lenses and sensors.

In use, the camera is light, with decent battery life (more than 10 hours) , a screen that makes other tablets look dull in comparison, and amazingly good front-mounted speakers (though most of us likely will use headphones). Performance is in line with other tablets when playing games like Kingdom Rush, which I’m currently hooked on. Both movies and TV — mostly Netflix and Amazon Prime — are excellent.

Overall, the Dell Venue 8 7000 has turned into one of my favorite tablets this year, and I’m a long- time Kindle fan. The Venue is a decent reader, so it is a good showcase for Dell and Intel’s capabilities, and it is my product of the week.

Rob Enderle

Rob Enderle is a TechNewsWorld columnist and the principal analyst for the Enderle Group, a consultancy that focuses on personal technology products and trends. You can connect with him on Google+.

1 Comment

  • Why do I like Rob Enderle? Because, while he is clearly a Microsoft supporter, for reasons he has disclosed, he doesn’t gush embarrassingly over even the Microsoft products that he likes – unlike a certain Apple fanboy that blogs on this site. And when he criticizes, it doesn’t sound like, "This company is the best thing since humanity discovered fire, but I have to say something negative once in a while to appear to be objective." It actually IS criticism, which is clearly based on a lot of experience and training. In short, he manages to maintain a degree of objectivity even with regard to those things he likes.

    Good job Mr. Enderle. I enjoy reading your blogs. 😉

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