The Google Decade

It seems to happen in the industry with relative frequency, there always seems to be one. A Juggernaut  a company that does everything right and even when it does something wrong it is looked upon kindly.  Sometimes it happens in bursts of  two to three years and for a few it happens over the course of a decade.  In the past it has been Microsoft and then Apple.  It can almost be defined by decades.  In the nineties it was all about Microsoft and the rise of Windows and Office.  In the first decade of the new century we were introduced to the consumerization of technology and the rebirth and rise of Apple.  We had “i” everything – iPod, iPad and iPhone,  As we are early on into the second decade it seems a company that is starting to look like it will make it there decade is Google.  When I look at their product portfolio, their partnerships, mission statement all seems to be falling into place.  They are in the “zone”.  They get positive press even when they are not doing anything.

Though search is still their core business they have started to surround search with a lot of other technologies that have the ability to integrate and leverage the Google search engine.  This in the end leads to more Google revenues.  I have written several blogs on Google.  Some good, some critical.  Everything that Google does ties back to this core business, which allows them to do unique things in terms of playing and and altering traditional business models.  However as I have written Search was one of those things that changed the playing field. As industry legend Ray Ozzie pointed out while at Microsoft, it was an indirect business model.  Google used its massive cash flow from search advertising to fund other software ventures   Over time this has led to increased success for the Google Search engine while funding other successful business ventures.

Google Docs has become a significant threat to the only Office productivity suite we have known for the last twenty years,Microsoft Office.  When we are discussing Google Docs competing with MS Office we are talking about the cloud space.  The desktop for now is safe and sound still the domain of Microsoft Office.  However the PC landscape is changing quickly and so are the applications that used to solely be focused as Windows Apps.  Google Docs is in a good place as any market share they take is purely greenfield, they do not have the challenges that Microsoft faces in this space.  Microsoft has to defend 90% market share.  Any drop effects the bottom line. This is an area where innovation is simplification.  Among new users we are seeing increased familiarity and adoption of Google Docs.  Google has used its huge search revenues to fund this are and they do not really have anything to lose, except money, which they have a lot of.  they seem to be gaining inroads in education and start ups.  They are generating awareness.  They also changed the playing field from a package driven model to a software as a service model.  “When facing superior forces change the playing field”, Sun Tzu.

gMail really took off, as the other predominate free internet email service had kind of stagnated, namely Hotmail.  It was not until 2012 that Microsoft finally updated the interface for Hotmail and replaced with Outlook.  In the meantime gMail has become the default email service people sign up for when they create their first email account.  Once you have signed up for a personal email account it is pretty hard to switch.  I have a gMail account and I like gMail, but for me to move everything over is a pain and not from a technical perspective, but from a social perspective.  I don’t want to have to notify and remind everyone, “hey Hotmail is no longer my  preferred email service please use my gMail account, blah, blah, blah..”  We used to refer to email as a “sticky” service and that has proven true.  Which is why gMail has proven so successful and been a method for Google to get users to leverage other Google services.  Once you go in decline in technology it is hard to recover.

Android has becomes the globes dominant mobile OS.  Thanks in large part to the folks over in Korea; Samsung    One report I read stated  that in 2013 800 million Android devices will ship world wide.  The benefit is that there are 800 million devices where Google will be the default search engine.   It is essentially like printing money.  If Google makes $1 per month in search per device that equates to $9.6 billion in revenue,  Not to mention the apps that are downloaded to each devices from the app store.  Those that are not free but purchased Google gets their cut.  Google was smart to use Open Source and make the Android platform free.  It makes adoption easier when you don’t have to pay.  It is another example of Google using indirect business methods to generate revenue for other business ventures.

Chrome is changing the way we think of a browser.  Besides increasing browser market share, they now have hardware devices shipping with the Chrome OS.  For those not happy with Windows or a Mac there is yet another choice.  But where I think Chrome hits the mark is it seems to be an idea whose time has come.  The world is connected so the question is how much local hard drive space do I need anymore?  Will it take off?  I have played with a Chrome Book and it is light weight and has a very simple user interface.  Can I see it being my primary device?  For me probably not yet but it is not hard to fathom this is the way the world is headed.  In the meantime Chrome continues to increase in browser share.

When Google swayed Microsoft GM Vic Gudotra, to leave the comfy confines of Microsoft they landed a rock star persona.  I remember Vic, smart and a showman on stage.  He was in Microsoft’s Developer and Platform Evangelism group.  He knew the developer community.  Since Vic joined left Microsoft, Google  has done a phenomenal job courting the developer.  One of the hottest developer conferences to attend right now is Google I/O (just held this past week).  This year it was sold out in under one hour.  Google is an internet company and since the last statistics I saw 75% of development targets internet services, it makes sense that Google is very successful in this arena.  If you have a string developer community you have a group creating value for your products, thus making them even more attractive.  Google may be the king of the developer community right now with everyone else playing catch up.

Will these things be executed upon to success? One thing Google has done well is reach for the stars in some of their initiatives that stretch boundaries,   Google Glass was one that was introduced that seemed rather strange and awkward when it was first introduced.  But over the past year it has garnered a tremendous amount of favorable press as more about the technology is understood.  the work being done on robotic vehicles has a chance to really change and reshape our society.  The opportunity and the benefits are tremendous. As I wrote recently in “The End of the DUI“, thousands of lives can be spared.  We can lead more enjoyable and productive lifestyles.  It seems right now with existing bets and  the “far off” bets Google seems dialed in right now.  Playing the future, predicting it.

It is still early in the decade we have time and things can change quickly as is always evident.  My blog title is probably just a bit presumptuous.  But there are so many things that Google seems to doing rights that this moment and through it all they are generating a tremendous amount of cash reserves.  Somethings I did not even touch on such as Google Maps. Apple and Microsoft have tried to compete here, but Google Maps has become such a staple of day to day life it is used by people without much thought.  The Google Nexus tablet has proven very popular.  Google is at one of those moments in time where everything seems to be pointing their way.  Will it change?  Yes it will.  Momentum shifts quickly in this industry.  However when you are in the zone, it is a great and exciting place to be.

Good Night and Good Luck

Hans Henrik Hoffmann May 17, 2013

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3 thoughts on “The Google Decade

  1. food for thought Hans – I await the decade when the semantic web finally shapes up into reality. mobile smartphone apps certainly took us one step closer.

    A more contextual web-based computing endpoints that deliver value closest and constantly for the user. And now with Glass and Car and Watch, you finally see an organic emergence of Microsoft’s Hailstorm vision, albeit Restfully web- and standards-based.

    Will it be Facebook with its social graph that best mimics and implements this semantic contextual anywhere web, or will it stand with Google first? Time will tell. But a smarter, more contextual agent-proxy driven experience long-ago promised I feel is at our fingertips.

    1. I am thinking about a blog around BigData, it’s an area companies like Google, FB, Twitter I think have big advantages – but this industry changes quickly. That being said with each passing second technology change is happening quicker. Moore’s Law is dead and will be replace by something that is Moore’s law with an exponent. How is life?

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