Google must wonder what the French have against them. First they openly challenge its library book project then they fine them in a trademark case and now they fund the development of a new European search engine. They originally had the backing of Germany for this rather significant technological undertaking but that appears to have been withdrawn. Nevertheless the French are pushing ahead with Quero, a search engine that one of its developers described on the BBC today as being different from Google by offering ‘serendipity’ through its searches. I bet that’s not the word Google is using.
Back in January I wrote about the NASDAQ ticker for tech stocks, IXCO, and my hopes that the tech sector would have a break out year. Two months later..the breakout has yet to happen. The IXCO has retreated to 900s having broken above 1000 for a while. This is despite an economy that’s doing well, despite the major companies all reporting solid numbers and even despite RIM settling its lawsuit, thus keeping the Blackberry addicts online.
Now I spent the weekend with a VC whose optimism is addictive and whose ideas for new devices and services seems to filter into every conversation. Indeed, I woke up this morning convinced that the problem the technology industry faces is not a lack of opportunity. If only a fraction of the ideas I heard this weekend come to life the tech industry will be twice the size it is today. No, the problem is that Wall Street has not been convinced that the market really is going to get that much bigger. I firmly believe Wall Street views all the new ideas not as new markets but simply more competition for the existing one. It’s no shock therefore that the stock prices of Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, Intel, Cisco and Dell have either stayed flat or have even retreated. Indeed only Apple, Google and HP have showed any signs of life. Google’s stock has been very volatile of late, Apple seems to have stalled and HP is really only getting back to where it should have been. Not a great report card.
I don’t believe the reason for this is poor performance by the tech vendors. Indeed, out of the companies I’ve mentioned all have reported revenue and earnings growth in the last twelve months. No, the problem it would seem is, as I’ve already said, Wall Street doesn’t view the tech market as one that is going to grow, or at least not one that is going to grow fast enough. This is of course counter intuitive. We all know that there are still large parts of the world yet to be brought online. We also know that our personal consumption of technology has far from reached its limit.
Solving this will require the tech titans to promote messages of market expansion far more aggressively. It will also require Wall Street to listen which may prove to be the hard part. After all, they heard this message a few years ago only to see it turn out to be an ‘overstatement’.