Late night internet shopping is often a bad idea, but it unlikely that you will ever reach the same sort of scale as Google who last night spent a massive $700m (£460m) on the acquisition of ITA Software which as I’m sure you all know is a specialist aggregator of airline flight information.
In a move that was audaciously (and unsurprisingly) described as “pro-competitive” and “pro-consumer” Google aim to make it easier for users to find and search for information on flight times which means that presumably before long Google could be your first stop when looking for flights.
Funnily enough the claims of “pro-competitive” have done very little to ease the ringing of alarm bells among online booking agencies who will see this as a direct attempt by Google to muscle their way into the already crowded market, and will fear that that they will begin to start competing by starting to directly sell tickets.
This has been quickly denied by Google who said that they have “no plans to start selling tickets too customers” and rather that “[The ITA] technology opens exciting possibilities for us to create new ways for users to more easily find flight information online, and we’re looking forward to welcoming them to Google.”
This didn’t stop an apparent attempt by Kayak and Expedia to make an offer to stop this going ahead (that was thwarted by ‘exclusive negotiations’ and probably Google’s larger cheque book), and Kayaks chief marketing executive Robert Birge made his opinion clear when he said: “They have dominance on the general search side, When you couple that with ITA’s airline relationships there is reason to be concerned.”
Despite the buzz of news surrounding this, it is unlikely that you will know (or have even heard of) ITA due to the background nature of its work. In essence it provides key data such as prices, availability and flight times to the travel industry, and works in the gap between the airlines and travel agencies that directly deal with customers.
So could we be seeing some kind of ‘Google Travel’ in the future? Unfortunately (as I imagine it would be very good) I doubt it, at least in the short term, as Google will be quite happy to sit back on the additional traffic that they will inevitably get from this information which will come as a relief to many of the companies that have probably spent the last week coming up with anti-Google contingency plans.
Of course the concerns that they have are very valid: Google is becoming (or rather has become) and you get the feeling that whatever market Google decided to put their hand to they would be able to sail straight in based on their brand alone.
Is this a worrying concept? Well in my opinion this is something we will possibly never know the answer to: one the one hand it is brilliant being able to get all your information from one company, and Google does have a very ‘friendly’ image and has a habit of doing everything that it wants to very well and as we’ve heard recently, they may be planning to go up against Facebook with their own ‘Google Me’ social network.
However it is very worrying that they can spend £460m on a company and it still manages to be one of their smaller purchases (DoubleClick and YouTube were bought for $3.1bn and $1.65bn respectively), and we could be in danger of having an internet that is dominated by Google.
Whilst this is all very theoretical, it is a topic that this purchase has done a good job of reigniting and I imagine it will continue to rumble on for some time to come…
Via — Guardian