25 June 2011

FTC FINALLY Opens Up Broad Review of Google’s Market Dominance.

As I have pointed out over many a blog, In my view Google as a company of one. It cannot be judged by any precedent. Because frankly there is none. FTC to Serve Google With Subpoenas

No other company in the history of technology has held as much power and sway as the now sits in the hands of Larry Sergey and Eric. Google’s protestations to the contrary – they are now clearly a company that transcends the ability of any single government’s ability to control them via conventional regulatory means. The law – arcane and archaic as it maybe does have one or two tricks up its sleeve. Based on its limited controls – the US Law allows the various instruments of the US government’s executive branch to determine anti trust behavior. It is here that the Department of Commerce in conjunction with the Dept of Justice has come with the conundrum of what to do about Google.

While I believe that there are few if any Google employees who are outright evil. The ability to exert that power is just too strong. Google is doing bad things. This will come out in the investigation. But as regular readers know I am a strong believer in Newton’s Second Law. I firmly believe that Google is doing bad things through its lack of effective oversight of its employees who are in many cases determined to crush the opposition to anything that will get in the way of the Googleplex Borg. It is not – thus – that the people are doing bad things- but rather that they can manipulate a marketplace by either their direct actions or their withholding of certain facilities or even just by trying to do one thing – Google will (and yes sometimes inadvertently) effect a change in the marketplace that benefits the company. My opinion was that there was little that the US Government could do to prevent the Google acquisition of ITA Software. This proved to be right. BUT Google has stepped beyond the role of a conventional marketplayer.

Google knows this and its people know this. But Google has not yet put in place those controls to prevent damage to the marketplace. Google therefore has therefore been allowed to “get away” with things in the past. In my view this has only emboldened the Google Acolytes to behave even more without constraint. Should the Government have stepped in before? Yes. But they chose either through lack of direct evidence or through negligence or even because they lacked the resources to engage the giant. No matter – the decision has been made to go after them.

Am I right or wrong? On the one hand Google’s resources may indeed be greater than that of the Government’s ability to pursue this case. Thus there is no sure thing that the US Authorities will prevail. On the other hand successive US and International Authorities have failed to place any controls on the tech giant. As it evolves into a product based company from being a pure search utility – it has blown through many control gates.

In travel their power is not absolute. However do they have the ability that they can and will use? In my opinion yes. The lackluster appearance of Google Places for Hotels and the mediocre Google flight product may be a harbinger of a somewhat less than stellar product that will come from Troogle. But make no mistake – these are first generation products and Google will do better. So before these products start to appear to dominate the market, we need better controls. Well sadly it is too late for that. We will get products from Google’s cash pile that will kill certain players in the market. Some of these players probably will deserve to die. But others will be harmed irreparably. There will be “Mapquests” in travel. Indeed let’s be clear here – in travel’s case - there will be some “victimless” crimes. But there will be victims and that awesome power has yet to be revealed.

But by any measure the company is a monopoly and therefore its power must be curtailed. However that is achieved will determine much of what we can and cannot do in the coming years particularly in innovation will shape not just the Travel Industry alone.

I urge you if you are a new or occasional Reader to type the word “Google” into the search box and read some of the posts I have written before. Wander through the Professor’s prognostications. This represents my opinion. Let’s hope that both common sense and the what is “right” rather than what one company can do with its power prevail.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion. This is mine. Please feel free to write to me and tell me how you feel about this.


Delta steps into the Dog Poo CORRECTION SEE UPDATE


Skyteam has come from a late last place to a good second with Star retaining its global dominance in airline alliances.

However along the way – as the key players have been snapped up and now more than 70% of all global airline traffic can be booked on one of the big 3 alliances – there was bound to be a cultural problem or two.

And sure enough there is. As the Huffington post is reporting – Delta passengers on the code share flight with SV-Saudi Arabian Airlines (also known as Saudia) must comply with Saudia’s rules. This includes..

1. No Jews or Israelis
2. No Outward displays of religious affiliation other than that of Islam
3. Women must be accompanied by their husbands or a close male family relative
4. No transportation of religious artifacts of the Christian or Jewish or indeed any non-Islamic faith.
5. Oh yes and don’t expect any Martinis on the flight.

When I checked the story to start with I could not find any DL Code shares out there with SV. Now I understand that Delta has issued a statement that indicates that they will not code share but will of course (as they do today) still interline.

This is of course well within the right of Saudia to insist on this policy which has existed for many years. Further entry into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is governed by the same level of restriction through its strict Visa program.

EVERY country has the right of self determination, however – Code Shares across boundaries somewhat messes up the global order. OK for conventional arrangements but not for situations like this. So what is Delta to do? Hmmm – someone in International planning is probably sweating bricks right now. Cultural sensitivity is always hard. So the simple answer is that you hope and pray that the controversy blows over. Fat chance. You can cancel the agreement and then Delta becomes the symbol of American Jewry to all Islamists. OR Delta takes a pragmatic approach that is all inclusive. IE That on DL served flights the rule applies and non DL operated flights those rules apply. If then those who arrive in KSA with these bad things – then they have to accept the consequence. BUT DL must now accept that it has to operate some of these flights rather than allowing SV to operate all DL coded flights to KSA.


Good luck…



This makes most of the point of my story different in the narrative. However my point is writing the story in the first place is that these restrictions will occur no matter what happens. There are different policies some of which are governed by national requirements, some are operational requirements. As a frequent flyer I am exposed to these issues ALL the time. It is an occupational hazard of code sharing. I have pointed out in the past that the so-called seamless experience between carriers is a myth.

As the practice of code-shares proliferates then you will find more of these types of situations emerging. And that was the point of this story. Thanks for reading!!!!

What Cloud Computing Means To Open Airline Distribution

This is a modification of a response to a discussion going on in the Beat.

I have just returned from 2 days of the SITA IT Summit. I believe that it has finally dawned on the airlines that they need to do something about the control of their content. And voila... along comes the very essence of the tools to do this. Apps and the Cloud. What has been missing is a viable product and content delivery mechanism that enables the airlines to easily connect and the users also. The structured nature of the industry is artificially constrained by older and now increasingly irrelevant mechanisms. The reality of today's world is that NO ONE has any right to impose ANY STRUCTURES on any user community. I am not preaching anarchy, just acknowledging what the consumers are expecting of us in the industry to deliver.

The open web has enabled us to enjoy almost unlimited access to content. However that content has been constrained by the structures of those who believed that they are the gatekeepers. And they still believe that they can control that and impose the relevant taxes for the privilege. Cloud Computing, Open Systems and low cost app development with rapid deployment and mass consumer adoption all conspire to blow away these archaic legacy structures.

What has been missing is the delivery mechanism. Clearly Cloud Computing does that - but the airlines need a common delivery infrastructure to do so. One that enables the distribution of product and content in any way shape or form. SITA is stepping up to that plate with an Airline Community Cloud. This is but one of many potential options - but for the first time we will have such an Open Delivery platform that can enable true freedom of distribution.

Then next generation companies such as LUTE Technologies who provide aggregated and common services can compete fairly with the legacy players such as the GDSs.

LUTE does not impose rules and restrictions on either side. We provide splintered or common content. We enable unique bilateral dialogues without restriction. All via the Cloud. The owner of the content decides what he wants to sell. The consumer decides what he will use. This is a balanced and logical way to do things.

So rather than moaning about how the lack of ubiquity (aka the lowest common denominator of content) which is the gripe from the intermediary community - they should now embrace the fact that they can TRULY differentiate their services and provide value both up and down stream. Most importantly they can provide really valuable services to the community that they are (and hope to continue to) service.

Idealistic? Unreasonable? Unachievable? Hardly. This is real folks. The incoming Gen Y and Millenials who are replacing the Baby Boomers EXPECT - actually - DEMAND this level of service. if we don't do it now - then someone smarter and faster will.

So stop whining and embrace the real world. Now can we stop debating whose control is better? Let’s devote our energies to servicing the customer. GDSs need to either embrace or go away. But I don’t worry about that any more – the Technorati have spoken. Now the airlines realize that in 3 year’s time, 58% of their distribution will come from non-GDS channels. Actually I think that number is way too low. Open Clouds with deployment of new functionality in minutes rather than years will crush the structured legacy models.