It's funny to think that not much more than five years ago, Google was just a search engine. Yes, the most popular one, but still. Today, the company seems to be hell-bent on getting fingers in just about every pie going, even if it has to grow new hands to do it.
Its foray into mobile OS building has been particularly successful of course, but a couple of stories about Android have surfaced today that suggest Google's big-time status may be starting to affect it just a little bit.
Microsoft has had a lot of success over the years, and plenty of great software. But I think it's fair to say that when Microsoft accuses another company of anti-trust violations, it's worth paying attention.
Now there's probably a reasonable case here for a bit of pot and kettle imagery over Microsoft's allegation that Google is engaging in anti-trust practice over how it handles search in YouTube. But what it does do is create the clear picture that when it comes to the web, Google is the big fish and Microsoft is the minnow feeding off the scraps. Feeding well, yes, but nonetheless the weaker party.
That Big Kid status once belonged to Microsoft, of course, and Bill Gates will no doubt be the first to tell you that being the Big Kid also makes you the biggest target, and requires you to act differently.
Put it this way: many developers come up with their own video players that are only available on a single platform. No problem. But if your video player is one everyone wants and you restrict your efforts still to a single platform, suddenly all other platforms will be up in arms.
Google's having the same problem when it comes to Android fragmentation. A huge range of electronics companies, some in the same heavyweight league as Google itself, are using Android, and at present each of them is responsible for updating their own devices. With a good few versions of the OS currently going, the result is frankly a mess of different versions and different interfaces.
How does Google keep the whole thing from falling apart as more and more OEMs hitch up to give Android yet another twist? By doing exactly what it's doing now – tightening up just what you can do to the supposedly open-source OS, and requiring manufacturers to agree to some kind of update agreement to help control fragmentation.
Given what Android is supposed to stand for, is that a move we should be happy about? Of course not. But it's not even the slightest bit surprising given how big Google has become. Anyone who thinks otherwise needs to have a look at Google's bottom line. That's probably what's motivating Microsoft, after all.