Google's Frenemy Strategy Part II: Uber

I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.
— Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs made that remark in reference to Google launching the Android operating system while Eric Schmidt, Google's CEO at the time, was sitting on Apple board. Needless to say, Eric was removed from Apple board and iOS and Android have been battling for mobile supremacy ever since.

Google launched Android to ensure its search supremacy in the mobile space since Google doesn't actually make money directly from Android, giving it away for free. Given that other mobile operating system (Blackberry, Symbia, etc) may have ended using a different default search engine on their mobile devices, Google wanted Android to ensure that it wasn't beholden to anyone - even Apple. It's safe to say that the mobile space would be very different if Google did not market Android. And while it seems that Android is winning because of its larger market share, Apple continues to profit handsomely from its fat margins and brand loyalty. 

This tidbit of history is important because Google is once again executing its frenemy strategy. This time, it's with Uber. 

Just as Eric Schmidt sat on the board of Apple while developing a competing product, David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer and senior vice president of corporate development, sat on the board of Uber since 2013. News are surfacing that Drummond has informed Uber's board that Google is possibility going to offer its own own ride-hailing service very soon. Furthermore, some Uber executives have seen actual screenshots of this so-called app that is currently being beta-tested by Google employees.

Google's own ride-hailing service, let's call it "Google Taxi" for now, is a product that makes a lot of sense for Google. Google Maps dominates the map service space and Uber drivers are already using Google Maps when they're driving. Google owns Waze, the social driving network, where people share their traffic condition with others. And lastly, Google is the visible leader in the autonomous vehicle space. Combining Google Maps with Waze and self-driving cars and Google Taxi sounds like it would be an amazing service.

Furthermore, just as Google waited to see the success of Apple's iOS, Google has been waiting for Uber to settle the difficult legislation and court cases so that when it launches Google Taxi, all the legal headaches are pretty much settled. 

While I am looking forward to Google Taxi and believe that, like Android, it will probably dominate its market in terms of market share, it is troubling to know that a company that expounds the virtue of "don't be evil" continues with its frenemy strategy - sending its executives to sit on the boards of potential competitors as "friends" and then launching a competitive service/product when the market is big and ready. 

Even if you like Google and their services, just be careful if they approach you as a "friend". After all, who knows when they would stab you in the back?

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me