By STEVE LOHR
The New York Times
November 6, 2005
Wal-Mart, the nation's largest retailer, strikes fear into the hearts
of its competitors and suppliers. Makers of goods from diapers to
DVD's must cater to its whims. But there is one company that even
Wal-Mart eyes warily these days: Google, a seven-year-old business in
a seemingly distant industry.
"We watch Google very closely at Wal-Mart," said Jim Breyer, a member
of Wal-Mart's board.
In Google, Wal-Mart sees both a technology pioneer and the seed of a
threat, said Mr. Breyer, who is also a partner in a venture capital
firm. The worry is that by making information available everywhere,
Google might soon be able to tell Wal-Mart shoppers if better bargains
are available nearby.
Wal-Mart is scarcely alone in its concern. As Google increasingly
becomes the starting point for finding information and buying products
and services, companies that even a year ago did not see themselves as
competing with Google are beginning to view the company with some
angst - mixed with admiration.
Google's recent moves have stirred concern in industries from book
publishing to telecommunications. Businesses already feeling the
Google effect include advertising, software and the news media. Apart
from retailing, Google's disruptive presence may soon be felt in real
estate and auto sales.
Google, the reigning giant of Web search, could extend its economic
reach in the next few years as more people get high-speed Internet
service and cellphones become full-fledged search tools, according to
analysts. And ever-smarter software, they say, will cull and organize
larger and larger digital storehouses of news, images, real estate
listings and traffic reports, delivering results that are more like
the advice of a trusted human expert.