Google or GOOG ( I love stock quote symbols) as I like to call them is only eleven years old (compared to Microsoft – 35 years , Apple – 29, Yahoo – 14) and yet they are one of the poster boys of the Web 2.0 era.
However Google it seems (arguably) is and has been (and some say will be) only good at search advertising. Make no mistake search advertising is a huge industry (Google announced its 2009 Q3 earnings recently) and Google owns the industry. According to Comscore figures in September, Google has 64% of the US Search market and with its Adsense products they have pretty much ensured it will always be a big player in search advertising.
Outside of search Google has a lot of products in almost any noteworthy category, the more popular ones being Google Maps, Gmail (third in email), Blogger, Google Chrome (seven percent (7%) market share) and Google Docs, most of which have not dominated their respective categories.
Looking at the trends above it seems the only thing Google is good at is search or better put they are an advertising company, period! If there is anything like a GOOG ‘Fanboy’ (I will remain unbiased though) as there are Apple and Microsoft fans, then I am most certainly a GOOG fanboy!! It therefore bothers me that outside of Search all evidence points to the fact that they are just ‘playing around’.
Are they? I believe not, I think they are being very, very clever. In fact the word that comes to mind is insidious (or Smile, Wave and then BOOM!!) but it has negative connotations so I will compromise and use ‘stealth’.
Lets pause and see how Google works. Search advertising works on the ‘economy of intent’ and this quote from a Washigton Post article by Edo Sega sums it perfectly.
The intent of users to purchase a product or service when they use Google’s search is what drives its money presses. The context of the users’ actions and interests map to an intention which advertisers are eager to pay for. The ability to automate the placement of advertising next to relevant content and map consumer queries to useful advertising stands at the heart of Google’s success
The more people that use the web, the more ‘intentions’ against which Google can put ads. So what makes people use the web more.
Better, Faster Browsers: Google Chrome. What does GOOG tout about Chrome, the speed. How does Microsoft and Firefox react? By making their browsers faster.
Browser and Cloud Applications: Google Apps and Google Chrome OS, which aims to make the bowser its centerpiece. How does Microsoft (the market leader in productivity software) react? Office 2010 will have cloud based versions. Granted Microsoft will sell the ads for Office Online but it means the market for cloud based apps will increase and GOOG will get a share on monetization those apps through ads.
Google it seems is using its Research and Development to fuel innovation in technologies that allows content to be reached faster, easier and more conveniently. Google probably doesn’t want (or need) to win the browser, email and online collaboration war, it just wants to force all the other vendors to become innovative in ways that make reaching content faster and better for consumers. Then it will do what it does best, “stick an ad next to the content”
If you think GOOG just plain sucks at everything but search and it isn’t some grand plan, say so now or forever hold your peace!