There is a lot discussion the moment about Quaero, sometimes called eurogoogle…… Nicholas Carr’s blog provides a good launch point Many condemn this “government intervention into the free-market.” and to contrast “old Europe” with “American entrepreneurship” For instance in the International Herald Tribune
The US software industry owes much more to the US government that many care to mention. It is easy to forget that the software programmer profession developed to service the
US government’s desire-need for defence system programmers. (the sage air-defense project) It is well known that the Internet grew out of US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency projects. Lawrence Lessig and many others argue that the internet’s basic open design principles wouldn’t have been built otherwise. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency can hardly be described as two guys in a garage or even a free-market institution.
To quote from its web site. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) was established in 1958 as the first U.S. response to the Soviet launching of Sputnik. Since that time DARPA’s mission has been to assure that the U.S. maintains a lead in applying state-of-the-art technology for military capabilities and to prevent technological surprise from her adversaries.” Adam Smith’s invisible hand indeed.
A leading computer industry historian, Martin Campbell-Kelly noted
”The likely prime reason for U.S. software supremacy is a paradoxical one –government support for the industry. The paradox arises from the fact that, although the United States is non-interventionist in principle, in practice it promoted the early industry massively by creating a market for computers and software through programs such as the SAGE project, the Department of Defense’s ADP program, and the NASA program, to mention only the largest..” check out his book Martin Campbell-Kelly, From Airline Reservations to Sonic the Hedgehog: A History of the Software Industry, MIT Press, Cambridge Mass., 2003.
If the goal of the new search engine is to safeguard “European cultural heritage” then a billion € seems cheap.
But building long term technology leadership requires a long term investment in basic and applied research, not just speeches from embattled politicians. The Americans keep telling us (europeans??) we need to learn to be entrepreneurs, but I think we could do with some lessons in Government spending first. Less cows more code.