Google buys Zagat
The news that Google is in the process of buying up Zagat has brought a fresh wave of speculation over whether it can stay neutral now it officially owns content.
Zagat’s main business has been in restaurant guides for cities all over the world both printed and on the web. Now that Google owns it, how will it deal with the potential conflict and resist the urge to improve the site’s ranking in search results?
Even if it does nothing, the move may still raise suspicion and in fact the online booking service Open Table saw a drop in share prices after the news was announced. Clearly someone is feeling antsy.
This isn’t a new situation for Google, many of its purchases have raised a few eyebrows but for the most part it has stuck to acquiring tools which pull content from elsewhere and has never before got into the content management business.
That aside, what is really interesting about the acquisition is that while Zagat has an online presence, it’s main focus and success has been in print. The Zagat guides are a must have for many travelers and their appeal is that they contain ratings and reviews from people who have actually visited the establishments. Zagat claims they were pioneers in ‘user-generated’ content and their guides were to foodies what Trip Advisor is to holiday makers.
However, the brand has struggled online which is surprising given the success you would assume a service like this would have, but it appears the fact that these guides are a printed document you can carry with you is the main appeal. Even though the very nature of print means that the information contained within could become out of date very quickly.
It’s unclear what Google believes it will gain from the purchase and possibly it could turn around Zagat’s online offering. It’s intriguing to see where this one will go.
And for pure cheese factor, check out Zagat’s homepage where it literally gushes about how wonderful Google is, giving it top marks in all four of its usual categories. Hmm.
Cloud computing takes a hit
Microsoft was left a little red faced this week after an issue with its DNS left millions of users with no access to it’s online services.
Among the systems affected were Hotmail, Skydrive and Office 365, Microsoft’s alternative to Google’s online applications.
It’s not clear exactly what caused the problem but it’s not the first time the system has collapsed and left user’s without access.
On the flip side, Google has not escaped unscathed this week as it reported issues with its Google Docs on Wednesday. Although at least its user’s weren’t paying for the privilege.
It seems that most systems have experienced some downtime at one point or another and perhaps this is an indication that our software is moving faster than our hardware. If companies are going to compete in this market, they have to invest in the supporting systems which allow them to work. Selling people cloud computing services that fail regularly is not going to cut it and with the race to be the first to launch it appears that quality may be suffering as a result.
Waterstones challenge Kindle
Waterstones has announced it will be launching its own e-reader, apparently inspired by the success Barnes and Noble’s Nook device.
Waterstone’s Managing Director, James Daunt announced the company’s plans on Radios 4’s You and Yours show. Dunt has been brought in to boost the company following it being bought from HMV earlier this year. Waterstones has been reporting continuing declining sales linked mainly to the rise in the number of people buying and reading e-books.
While the move is a logical one for the retailer, it has its work cut out for it trying to knock the Kindle off its top spot. Waterstones isn’t the only one trying to compete in this market, many of the larger electronics companies are releasing e-readers which come with more features. However the success of the Kindle seems to be down to its simplicity, only books all the time has been a winner with customers.
Then again, Barnes and Noble created a winning product because they mixed great technology with the traditional bookstore experience. Owners can read books for free for up to an hour in any of their stores which gave it a clever link from the device to its stores. It gives users the best of both worlds, the benefits of the technology with the atmosphere of the traditional bookstore coffee house.