The “Frictionless” Business Model Meets Friction for Partners Google and Uber

Google’s Larry Page and Uber’s Travis Kalanik compete with one another, despite being partners.

As social media platforms race to invent new business models, it was a no-brainer when Google, the giant search engine platform, poured $250 million in 2013 into Uber, the aggressive and phenomenally successful ride sharing service. All seemed part of social media synergy in capital letters.

What did raise eyebrows was Uber’s initiative to begin developing maps, self-driving cars, and an advertising partnership with Facebook. And for its part, Google is also developing a ride-sharing service.

Why? It’s all part of taking out the friction of middlemen by the tap or swipe of a finger on a smartphone and the sky’s the limit in what Michael Saylor in “The Mobile Wave” calls dematerializing the world through software.  Even if both are in the same business.

Except that everyone doesn’t always dance with “who brung you.”

Uber is also looking at starting a delivery of anything to anywhere, thinking bigger than just a ride-sharing company, but indeed a logistics platform. Google has launched Google Shopping Express, same-day delivery directly to your doorstep. are you listening?  Call in the drones.

So is this business incest? Ingratitude? A form of dynamic competitiveness? It’s all three and more, no doubt, and certainly not new–an example of “coopetition,” according to Jonathan Zitrain, law professor and co-founder of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard.

Lots of giants have “coopetive” relationsips, but the new world order or mobile wave sweeps all business models aside for efficient, fast, frictionless transactions, except for the friction such growth may cause its parents, in this particular case Google and Uber who want their children to work and play well with others.

Saylor, for one, says it’s not a matter of Google vs. Facebook or Apple vs. Microsoft, they’re all going to win in the 5th revolution called mobile computing. That doesn’t always remove the bumps in the road in getting to the finish line.

Look for more of the same.

Here’s Mike Issac’s full story in today’s NY Times:

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