Reminiscing about the past and looking towards the future.
The funny thing about Google, at least for me, is that my interactions with them generally tend to be significant. The last time I dealt with anyone at Google was about a year ago. I spoke to a man who was head of marketing at Google Middle East about a project they had launched – it was a phone interview arranged through their then PR agency Hill and Knowlton and I remember it being the most boring interview I had ever conducted. It seemed almost silly for someone like Google – it was basically a little website they had developed which told people how to use the Internet. It was pretty rudimentary – a ten year old would have seen it and got bored. That of course, was beside the point, it was aimed at people who weren’t accustomed to PCs and the Internet in general, plus it was in Arabic.
I thought it would be insulting to tell the man at Google that he was wasting my time, so I threw at him some quick questions, all of which he passionately replied to. I didn’t bother publishing the article because I thought it was the most uninteresting thing either Google or anyone else had done. We’re a bit spoilt like that at Tbreak – we’re not ones for basic Internet lessons, we’d rather be spending our time covering the cutting edge of technology, like cars that park themselves or graphic cards that are a mighty 5% faster than its predecessor.
The man who spoke so passionately about what I thought was one of Google’s less impressive projects was Wael Ghonim. In the months that followed, Wael would turn out to be one of the greatest heroes of the Egyptian revolution and one of Time Magazine’s most influential men of 2011.
I’ve kicked myself a few times for not publishing that article. So, when Google invited me to meet them over lunch, I was excited. Plus, it was an opportunity to meet some of UAE’s most prominent bloggers. The list included Paz Marketing’s Joe Akkawi, Omar Abu Omar from Cobone, Emirati blogger Sultan Al Qassemi, Gradberry’s Iba Masood, Clique Media’s Bhavishya Kanjhan, MEED’s Triska Hamid and Samer from Jazarah.net.
A few months ago, I wrote about how Google was turning into the next Microsoft. In many ways, I still believe it is. However, the thing about Google is that its technology empowers people to do extraordinary things. Whether it’s the free Google Docs, which empower people like the folks at Tbreak to collaborate on projects or more significantly like conducting interviews of political candidates in Egypt, so people can form informed opinions for themselves. A seminar which preceded lunch covered what Google was doing in the Middle East.
Over lunch, I talked to Ari Kesisoglu, MD of Google MENA, about how we use Google products in our daily work lives and how much it has helped us as a business. I did, however, complain about how we provide YouTube with all the latest technology interviews and product reviews and it was about time content producers received revenue for their efforts, just like people in the US do. “We’ll have some news about that soon,” he said with a smirk.
It’s refreshing to see how much interest Google is showing in this region and even more so that they’re listening to the digital media. They took the time to talk to all the bloggers, replying to every query thrown their way. Maybe they’re not turning into Microsoft after all.