When Larry Page opted to spend $12.5bn of Google’s money on some mobile handsets, patents and set-top boxes, he described his thinking thus:

“Together, we will create amazing user experiences that supercharge the entire Android ecosystem for the benefit of consumers, partners and developers. I look forward to welcoming Motorolans to our family of Googlers.”

These 32 words were last week repeated uncritically in newspapers all over the world, but no one seems to have stopped to wonder: what on earth was he on about?

On Twitter a few people squirmed at Motorolans and Googlers. “Is this some dreadful 1950s sci-fi B movie?” someone tweeted. Otherwise Mr Page’s statement slipped down easily enough. At first sight, it appears to be more or less in English, with no leveraging or scaling or reaching out. However, on closer study it turns out to be devoid of any meaning: I have been trying to translate it into simpler language, but can’t find anything to grab hold of.

The reason it slips down so easily is that if you ignore words like “the” and “we”, the cliché content is close to 100 per cent. Indeed he has jammed so many into such a tight space that it is worth doing a little unpacking, word by word, to see if some meaning can be found after all.

Together. This gets the message off to just the right stirring, inclusive, democratic start. All takeovers have to been seen in terms of togetherness, even when, like the acquisition of Motorola Mobility, they are defensive and more about patents than people.

Create. This is the verb of the moment, preferred always to “make”, “produce” or “sell”, because it is so much more, well, creative.

Amazing. Nothing could be less amazing than to find this adjective used here. The only amazing thing is how inappropriate it is. To amaze means “to fill with great surprise or sudden wonder”, but when I go out to buy a mobile phone, sudden wonder and great surprise are not top of my shopping list.

User experiences. I’m taking these two words as a pair, and a wretched pair at that. What is a user experience exactly? Are you having a user experience as you read this column? If so, I hope it’s amazing.

Supercharge. It seems that no modern leader, or at least no modern male one, can resist the idea of sticking extra voltage into whatever he’s talking about, even if the thing itself wasn’t built for it. David Cameron last week said that he wanted to put “rocket boosters” under the welfare system, which sounds like a poor scheme to me.

But the Ecosystem is even less suited to receiving additional power, as the point about ecosystems is that they generally like to be left alone. It is anyway a tired and not especially useful metaphor which, like DNA, is supposed to glance at something elemental and natural, whereas mobile phone software is surely as unnatural as it comes.

Entire. One can’t ever have too much emphasis in a statement of this sort. Never mind that it’s a nonsense in this case, as an ecosystem is by definition entire as it doesn’t come in halves.

Benefit. There is nothing wrong with this word, though one queries the use here. The point of the deal surely isn’t to benefit consumers, etc, surely it is to make money and beat patent with patent.

Partners. This is a weasel noun which pretends that the companies Google does business with have the same interests as its own. In fact the “partners” to whom Google currently supplies its Android “ecosystem” are surely feeling pretty scared about a deal in which Google now owns one of their competitors.

Family. If Google is a family, is Larry Page the father? In that case he’s gone a bit over the top in having 29,000 kids of his own at Google and now adopting a further 19,000. That’s even more than Angelina Jolie. The point about families is you can’t choose them, you share towels and toothbrushes, you look like them, you love them and hate them and are pretty much obliged to have Christmas dinner with them – none of which applies to Googlers or Motorolans. The family metaphor is sound on one thing: when another family is acquired by marriage the step children are guaranteed to hate each other.

Thinking about these clapped out business clichés, I’ve had a sudden revelation. You can put them in a different order and the meaning is the same. Consider this:

Consumers, partners and developers will together supercharge the entire user experiences to create amazing benefit for the Android family of ecosystems. I defy anyone to say this isn’t just as good as the original. In fact, I think I rather prefer it.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2011. You may share using our article tools.
Please don’t cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.

Post your own comment


  1. Report
    Hyperventilation |
    August 23 2:48pm |

    Amazing user experiences now come as standard.
    We want more than that…

  2. Report
    Kate Andrews |
    August 22 8:44pm |

    apt burst of schmiel(like schpeel but schmiel) into zeitgeist. . .

  3. Report
    comment |
    August 22 5:20pm |

    you can perfectly well talk about “part of” an ecosystem dying out, so the bit about “entire” being perfectly pointless in association with “ecosystem” comes across as shrill and lacking in logic.

  4. Report
    SDV |
    August 22 5:09pm |

    Lucy, I agree. I’m thinking of starting a movement to encourage people to stick to the Anglo-Frisian or Old Saxon dialects of English and stop using any sort of Norman-French vocabulary. My ancestors fought very hard against “The Great Vowel Shift” andI feel very deeply about Modern English.

  5. Report
    J Edney |
    August 22 4:38pm |

    I missed ‘rocket boosters’. Great visual.

  6. Report
    August 22 3:59pm |

    Pretty vague stuff alright. However, Page is the genius (along with Brin) who gave us Google. Surely, as business scholars/practitioners, we should judge him on how he manages the acquisition to drive shareholder value and any fixation on obligatory statements to the media is facile.
    Eddie O’ Driscoll,

  7. Report
    david |
    August 22 3:59pm |

    iPhone user perchance? A least Page is punch-drunk, unlike Jobs who is cult-drugged.

  8. Report
    Salman Ahmed |
    August 22 3:30pm |

    Lucy, you are “supercharged” here. Excellent piece.

  9. Report
    Richard Barber |
    August 22 2:42pm |

    I’m afraid this kind of nonsense from Page shows that Google has begun to believe in its own hype. Its only downhill from there. I wonder in the future if the eventual demise of Google will be traced to the purchase of Motorola mobile. Some of the comments in response to this article resemble those of religious zealots. Google is a business, no more or less. Its tough to stay ahead for ever in technology. There will be other ‘game changers’ that rise in the future.

  10. Report
    Retired |
    August 22 1:44pm |

    Totally agree with Lucy on this one. Page’s language invites ridicule. Not sure where this sort of stuff came from. Maybe management gurus in the 1970s dressing up straightforward stuff into awesome (there’s a term) language to make it sound more exciting. Makes me want to be sick.

  11. Report
    bogman |
    August 22 12:04pm |

    I agree its a bit meaningless. However, Page is one of the few CEO’s who has literally built something world-changing from scratch. You have to read ‘In the Plex’ to remember just how bad search engines were before Google. So, compared to some meaningless drivel from a CEO who has created nothing meaningful in his lifetime, I think we can forgive Mr Page the odd utterance like this?

  12. Report
    NotaGooguy |
    August 22 12:04pm |

    Seems like someone’s having a 404 error on their sense of humour 🙂 (I think their Googles are showing).

  13. Report
    CosmoP |
    August 22 11:27am |

    Looks like really everyone feels like saying something about Google’s acquisition.
    It would make much a less noisy world if some of them spent their time sipping a coffee instead.

  14. Report
    Anon83 |
    August 22 10:47am |

    Lucy, I think its quite obvious what Larry is really saying – “We like the look of Apple, and the fact they control the hardware, software and 3rd party app developers with an iron grip and are one of the most profitable companies in the world – now we are buying Motorola so we can have a go at what they do so well”.

    Fine by me, anything to keep Apple on its toes and churning out great phones. As soon as Google does it better, I will personally switch. Hooray for competitive markets.

  15. Report
    steve |
    August 22 10:47am |

    What a stupid article. Any sentence can be reordered a bit to mean the same thing. Lucy Kellaway is clearly a moron

  16. Report
    michael.brown |
    August 22 10:17am |

    This is a ridiculous article. The two sentences are perfectly understandable and had the added advantage over this article of being much shorter and saying more.

  17. Report
    R Nevile |
    August 22 9:39am |

    Congratulations on your sudden revelation, but I think that Michael Frayn had a similar revelation in a novel some 30 to 40 years ago when he introduced the concept of Unit Headline Language. Google are perpetuating a long history of garbage production in press releases.

  18. Report
    Lynd 2 |
    August 22 9:37am |

    Wonderful stuff but I think I enjoyed the defensive comments of the IT posters as much as your article. “Android Universe”indeed! Sounds more like an episode from Star Trek.

  19. Report
    Engineer |
    August 22 9:36am |

    Great article Lucy but you should have looked up what a supercharger is. It is a device to force extra air into a combustion engine. I think it is entirely appropriate for Mr Page to say that he is forcing a great quantity of hot air into Google. Don’t you?

  20. Report
    Casandra_UK |
    August 22 9:29am |


    Thank you for an experience if not amazing, certainly stimulating, amusing, insightful etc..

    I think I share your issue with “User Experience” particularly as I rememember in my early years cut up squares of newspaper being used in the smallest room – can’t say in the house ’cause it was outside. And certainly not “pink”!!

  21. Report
    Ratanui |
    August 22 8:48am |

    Interestingly, two contributors have felt it necessary to defend Page’s nonsense. Apparently we have to acquire a new lexicon (to which the initiated are already privy) to comprehend the kind of self regarding prose that pollutes so much contemporary communication. Come on! Thanks, Lucy, for your analysis and providing a version which is as equally as devoid of meaning as the original. Which surely is the point.

  22. Report
    future |
    August 22 8:43am |


  23. Report
    captain |
    August 22 8:43am |

    A key leadership skill is to be able to talk without saying anything – vague but positive and optimistic. Good for him he’s got away with it – until now of course.

  24. Report
    Vintage |
    August 22 8:34am |

    Brilliant Lucy. The interesting conclusion one draws from some of the comments is that the commentators see nothing wrong with the statement because they also use similar drivel to exoress themselves. “Apple propelled touch-screen interface”; oh dear.

  25. Report
    Buckie Lugger |
    August 22 8:24am |

    I work in IT.

    It is a mass of clichés and technical terms, and I agree with Lucy’s assessment.

  26. Report
    Google it on Bing |
    August 22 6:27am |

    Nothing wrong with the statement, makes perfect sense; yours makes far less sense.

    They bought Motorola for the patents it holds, and those have a lot to do with… User Experience.

    This is a very common term in tech/web speak, it’s not particularly specific to management. In fact often it’s something that is over looked, to the chagrin of many designers.

  27. Report
    imbenking |
    August 22 12:56am |

    I actually think this is an ok statement, especially when you look at the context. There are lawsuits flying around everywhere regarding Android at the moment, and phone manufacturers have been slow to issue the Android updates to the customers and clutter up the phones with their own apps etc.

    Google is subtly saying “We will show you how its done”.

  28. Report
    Cg |
    August 21 11:06pm |

    pretty intelligible statement; management speak should be obfuscating to the extent that it masks or even more implies the opposite of what it is meant to imply to be truly memorable. Lucy normally does far better in unearthing these gems – many are to be found in India and China.

  29. Report
    NotaGOOGguy |
    August 21 10:07pm |

    Pretty obvious who the IT industry posters are here – the ones who can no longer differentiate mangled language from the real thing. Perhaps they could develop a peer enhanced language use rehabilitation app. Mmm …. maybe on reflection.

  30. Report
    Skif Pankov |
    August 21 7:02pm |

    Lucy, learn your IT; when Page is talking about “user experiences”, he’s talking about how users are interacting with the phone: what is going to come after Apple-propelled touch-screen interface? can they make better menus, apps, ways of working with your emails/contacts/data? so on, so forth – called User Interface (UI)

    When he’s talking about “Android universe”, he’s talking about all phones which run android, all apps made for android and – most imporantly – all apps which can be made for android under new UI. Both things are likely given this take-over

    Unlike most other companies, what they are saying actually makes sense (or at least made sense this time) – it’s a question of knowing 2-3 terms…

  31. Report
    Nobody |
    August 21 5:41pm |

    A lot of statements by companies are nonsense, and Lucy usually does a good job of finding them. But I don’t think this is a particularly good example. It’s fairly easy to pick apart any sentence word by word, but resorting to that only highlights that when the words are all together they really don’t look so bad.

    Perhaps there’s just nothing out there this week; perhaps Lucy doesn’t have as good Internet access on her worliday as she does in the office; or perhaps I’m just getting bored of reading different iterations of this article.

  32. Report
    0707tim |
    August 21 5:21pm |

    I say it’s isn’t as good as the original. There!

  33. Report
    Alan Burkitt-Gray |
    August 21 4:57pm |

    Well said. I have to read nonsense like this daily

via ft.com

I missed this statement last week:


Pin It on Pinterest

Share This