If so, then holy fucking shit. Seriously.
A while back, I mentioned that Google was now in the business of giving multimodal travel directions: MBTA, say, to mass-transit system to mass-transit system to Amtrak. I mentioned that it would only be a matter of time before they’d connect up to airlines, etc.
What I didn’t mention there, but have always believed, is that the airline piece is something that only ITA could handle. They’ve been working on the problem of finding the cheapest flight between two cities for their entire history; if Google wanted to add airlines to its route-finding software, it would either have to reinvent what ITA did, or acquire ITA. Given that it took ITA the better part of a decade, and a team of the smartest people you could find, to solve this problem, it’s always been obvious that Google would acquire ITA rather than build this technology itself. If Google is planning to add air travel to its route-finding software, it follows that they’d have to acquire ITA.
ITA is sitting on the best kind of monopoly you can hope for: they’ve solved a problem that no one else can solve. They deserve any success that comes their way. And they can name their price if Google comes knocking. If Google decides not to buy, but they want to add air travel to their software, they’ll have to spend at least five years trying to do it. They’ll probably have to poach large numbers of ITA employees. They’ll need to hire people away from the airlines themselves. I’m no business strategist, but it certainly seems like ITA has them over a barrel here.
I, for one, bow deeply in the direction of ITA’s headquarters on Portland Street in Cambridge. If this works out the way it’s looking, then congratu-fucking-lations to you folks.
I’m still kind of in shock, even though this all makes perfect sense.