The Old Paradigm: Rely on quasi-monopoly and second-rate legacy products to squeeze users starved of choice for every last penny (*cough* Microsoft, *cough* *cough*).
The New Paradigm: Put end-users first and profits will follow. (Google).
Much can be said about the corporate cultures (particularly Google’s) which have in part enabled this brand of user-centric thinking, but that is a topic for another discussion.
Time and time again Google has put the best interests of their users AHEAD of their own share-holders and short-term bottom line. This isn’t to say that they are profit agnostic in the slightest, they happen to make very healthy profits, rather they believe that doing right by their customers will earn them more loyalty (read: money) in the long run.
To phrase it another way: Google is not successful in-spite of putting users interests first, to the contrary, they are successful BECAUSE they put users’ interests first.
Ok, so what are some examples of this seemingly “altruistic” behavior?
Example 1 (2007): Google get’s serious about ad quality by implementing a “quality score” for all of it’s search ads.
Example 2 (2010): Google’s recent entrance into the mobile phone market, providing more openness and choice in a stagnant and typically user-unfriendly industry.
What remains to be seen is how long this type of user-centric behavior can last. The danger is that with time, pressure to increase profit will lead to cost-cutting measures that affect their products, but in the mean-time it seems like Google and it’s management are still eating the “don’t be evil” dogfood.